Supporting Transgender and Gender Diverse Children in Education
Even a cursory scan of our Twitter feeds and web pages will make it clear that as a School of Education, inclusion is one of our main priorities: we launched the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools; we appointed the first Professor of Race and Education; we’re doing cutting edge research on special educational needs and LGBTQ+ as well as developing new streams around refugee education and organisational whiteness.
As Dean, I talk endlessly about this work, to all kinds of audiences in all kinds of places. What is interesting is the continuum of reactions I receive. Everyone speaks supportively of the work around special educational needs. Our work on race gets anything from a muted nod to passionate championing, as does our work on the ‘LGB’ part of LGBT. The ‘T’, however, is the work that attracts the most vocal reactions. Whether inside academia or out in schools, whether in-work or out of work, I’ve been surprised by the views expressed concerning trans issues. Surprised and often disappointed. Liberal credentials are no measure of inclusion when it comes to transitioning.
Online is no better where it often seems to be open season on trans people: I’ve seen Twitter threads showing anti-trans ‘activists’ attending trans events and heckling delegates; there were the now infamous phallic stickers with ‘women don’t have penises’ written on them posted across London; then there are the vindictive diatribes directed to trans people, abuse that many turn a blind eye to in a way they never would with other excluded groups.
This is the climate that faces trans young people in schools. This is the climate that faces the teachers trying to support these young people. A climate charged with discrimination and misunderstanding, a climate of vague policy and half-intentions, a climate where loudly voiced opinions and fear of a backlash heighten the sense of reputational risk and threaten to overshadow the young people who need support.
And so, this Friday will see our first Centre for LGBTQ+ Inclusion event entitled ‘Supporting Transgender and Gender Diverse Children in Education’. Our aim is to put young people firmly at the centre of this knowledge exchange, to bring together teachers, senior school leaders, charities and parents of trans children to create new ways of supporting young people and new ways of creating truly inclusive environments.
The debates will continue; the tirades will persist; the voices that seek to deny and exclude will probably never be silenced. But those voices serve as a reminder of why this work is so important and why we need to focus on the young people embroiled in this climate and how we can do better for them.
For more details on our conference, click here.
Professor Damien Page is Dean of The Carnegie School of Education. He began his career as a lecturer of English in further education and he was also a manager in a number of subject areas including humanities, finance and construction.