Teachers at leading boarding schools have been told to address transgender children using the pronoun “zie” to avoid falling foul of the Equalities Act. The advice comes in official guidance aimed at “queering the education system”.
Internationally renowned schools including Eton and Westminster have been told that they should display an “equality pledge” at reception for visitors to read and sign, while teachers are to be taught new vocabulary to familiarise them with transgender issues, including using “zie” instead of “he” or “she”.
The guidance comes from the Boarding School’s Association, following a growing trend of school age children being treated for trans-genderism. Brighton College, which enjoys an excellent reputation as an educator, recently revealed a new gender-neutral uniform policy in which boys are allowed to wear skirts, and girlss can wear trousers, after one pupil came out as transgender. Around 80 state schools also have a gender-neutral uniform policy in place.
Meanwhile, single sex schools have been told to stop using terms such as “ladies” and “girls,” and replace them with “pupils” and “students.”
Elly Barnes, founder of charity Educate and Celebrate and author of the new guidelines, told the Telegraph that the guildelines merely underscore schools’ obligations as set out in the Equalities Act.
Ms Barnes, who recently received of an MBE for her work, said: “Schools need to make sure that all students are treated equally and fairly according to the Equality Act.
“We need to educate adults to speak a common language because we grew up in a generation with no prior experience about the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities].”
As more trans pupils “come out” in boarding schools, it becomes an imperative to “break the binary,” she said.
On the use of gender neutral pronouns, she added: “It’s a new language that’s absolutely needed in schools. We have, of course, restrictions within the English language but the more we use these pronouns the more they become part of the language.
“If you’re new to the ‘trans’ community, this is very new language.”
Alex Thompson, deputy chief executive of the Boarding Schools’ Association, said the guidelines were designed to educate those who were “in the dark” about transgender issues.
“Teachers, heads and deputy heads were asking questions about these issues and they felt they were in the dark on what was politically correct and had fears of causing offence as young people largely between the ages of 13 and 18 were questioning their gender identity,” he said.
“There was a strong understanding when it more obvious and direct when someone came out as gay but not in the area where young people were asking ‘who am I?’ to a member of staff and these were questions they had not been asked before.”
Previous safeguarding issues such as bullying and e-safety were “several miles under the bridge”, he said, but added that pupils’ questioning of their own gender identity had increasingly become “more difficult to ignore” and is “more immediate”.
Mr Thompson added: “It’s amazing how complicated the whole thing is in a community where the norms are the ones we have accepted for years.
“It’s tricky for individuals that are having difficulty accepting there is something beyond the binary system of gender we take for granted.
“Adults for the first time are meeting a pupil who says ‘My name is Bill but I wear a dress. One day I could be male, or female or right in the middle.’”