Official government guidance on provision for transgender students will be expanded to include further education colleges, the education secretary has said.
The Department for Education has been working on the guidance for schools over the past year amid calls for clarity on how leaders should respond to “complex and sensitive” transgender matters.
Gillian Keegan has now written to Robin Walker, chair of the education select committee, to confirm that draft guidance will be released and consulted on “later in the spring”.
She added that the department recently expanded the scope of the guidance to include further education colleges, “as we know that colleges also need clarity and support in relation to their students who are under 18 years old”.
“I appreciate the demand for this guidance is significant, however, this is such a complex and sensitive area, I am sure you will understand that it is incredibly important that we take the time to get the guidance right,” Keegan wrote.
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman told the commons education committee in November that there was an “urgent” need for government guidance to help education providers navigate a “minefield” of “deeply contested issues” given the “evolution in the interpretation” of the protected characteristics in equality law.
Keegan said in December that the DfE needs to be clear that the new transgender guidance is “based on safeguarding and evidence and not an attempt to balance contested views amongst children who are not old enough to entertain those ideas”.
College leaders have welcomed the decision to extend the guidance, with many of them unsure how best to accommodate transgender and non-binary students in areas such as sport, toilet facilities, and overnight trips.
A spokesperson for the Sixth Form Colleges Association said: “Individual institutions have had to navigate this complex and sensitive issue without a clear steer from government, often receiving conflicting advice from legal and other sources.”
The SFCA called for the guidance to address 16 to 18s as a distinct group because they are “subject to the same safeguarding considerations as under-16s but not the same medical considerations”.
A spokesperson for the Association of Colleges said: “Colleges are often the first place that people can truly start to work out who they are, and to express themselves freely. We are proud of that and have been working with officials which we hope will result in constructive guidance.
“Colleges across England do brilliant work supporting students of all ages, and we will be pushing DfE to make sure that any new guidance allows this to continue. It is also important to remember that schools and colleges are very different and cover very different age cohort, any guidance should take that into consideration and not attempt a one-size-fits-all approach.”