Teachers debate introducing ‘gender-neutral’ toilets and changing rooms in schools

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  • Teachers are to debate whether schools should introduce gender-neutral changing rooms, toilets and uniforms as part of a motion by the ATL.

    Today, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers teaching union will debate the idea that was first proposed by Julia Neal – who chairs the Equality and Diversity committee.

    Julia told the Evening Standard newspaper; ‘It’s about senior management teams and governing bodies understanding that there are a lot of facilities in schools that are separated – changing rooms, toilets and uniforms are very gender specific.’

    The planned proposals would not see the eradication of male and female toilets and changing rooms but the addition of a third ‘neutral’ option.

    History teacher Julia said; ‘If there is gender fluidity they need to understand the importance of gender-neutral facilities.’

    Not only do schools need to make practical changes, but Julia admits that teachers and school officials have to make changes to their language too.

    They ‘need to understand how pupils want to be referred to, as he or she’ in the classroom as the ‘terms which are used for gender identity are quite complicated’.

    At the moment Julia admits that ‘teachers are not confident’ in this delicate area and they need guidance and assistance in how to deal with transgender pupils.

    In the UK it is estimated that 1% of the population are gender nonconforming to some degree – approximately 21 in every 100,000 people – based on research by the Gender Identity and Education Society.

    Julia added; ‘My own view is that it doesn’t matter if it’s just one student who isn’t served by the lack of understanding, that is one student’s life that is very difficult.’

    In January 2016 Brighton College independent school was the first to introduce a neutral uniform for both boys and girls – allowing either gender to wear skirts or trousers.

    Headteacher Richard Cairns told The Guardian; ‘It ties in with my strong personal belief that youngsters should be respected for who they are. If some boys and girls are happier identifying with a different gender from that in which they were born, then my job is to make sure that we accommodate that.’