Children will be allowed to change their gender identity at school as long as their parents are told, under guidance to be unveiled in weeks.
The Telegraph understands that ministers have ruled out a ban on “social transitioning” – where pupils adopt the name, pronoun or uniform of the opposite sex – after deciding it would not be legally possible to bring one in.
However, the guidance for head teachers, which is due out in weeks after a long delay, will make it clear that sports teams, changing rooms and lavatories must be single-sex, meaning a boy who opts to identify as a girl will not be able to enter the girls’ bathrooms or play in a girls’ team.
One Whitehall source said: “The guidance has been toughened recently … effectively, it means there is a presumption against social transitioning.
“It will also say parents should be informed. It’s wrong that such decisions appear to have been taken without parents being involved,” the source added.
Hard to define
Another source said the Government had accepted that it cannot ban social transitioning outright, especially with non-statutory guidance.
Social transitioning has proved hard to define and ministers have decided that while boys who identify as female will be banned from playing girls’ rugby; a girl who identifies as a boy will not be banned from wearing trousers, for example.
The guidance, which has been repeatedly delayed, will tell schools that children cannot change sex – only their gender identity – and must correctly apply the Equality Act and the Gender Recognition Act.
They must also abide by the rules of “Gillick competence”, which state whether a child is old enough to consent to medical treatment.
Maya Forstater, executive director of the Sex Matters campaign group, said: “It is a relief that the long-awaited guidance is coming out and that it will rule out most aspects of social transition clearly.”
But she warned that the guidance will be confusing for schools, because it is not clear what is now meant by social transitioning. “It is time for common sense guidance,” she said.
“The Government should make clear to head teachers that every child is born male or female, and that this does not change however they feel or act and whatever clothes they wear or words they use about themselves.
“Schools cannot meaningfully accommodate ‘social transition’ which means pretending that a boy is a girl or a girl is a boy, including by calling them ‘he’ or ‘she’ or applying different rules than to other girls or boys. It is not safe or fair on any of the children,” she said.
“This does not mean that schools have to ban children from changing their hairstyle or nickname. But they do have to ban boys from using the girls’ showers, changing rooms and toilets and vice versa, which means schools need to use clear language about each and every child and not be confused into thinking that some children have changed sex.”
A government spokesman said: “Given the complexity of the issue, we’re taking the time to make sure the guidance that we provide is clear. That work is ongoing.
“Any degree of social transition could have significant consequences for a child, so it’s vital the right safeguards are in place.
“The Government has been consistently clear about the importance of biological sex, and the guidance will reflect that.”
Nick Fletcher, a Tory MP on the Commons education select committee, said the guidance should go further.
“Affirming a child as the sex or gender they are not, participates in a harmful delusion,” he said. “It abnegates our adult safeguarding responsibility.
“Schools’ guidance on this issue needs to make robustly clear that children cannot be affirmed as the sex they are not by adults in a school environment – and all children should be communicated with truthfully on this subject.
“A safeguarding-first approach needs to be taken to the resolution of this complex issue and, if this requires changes to other pieces of legislation, then that needs to happen. We must protect our children.”