Rosie Duffield: Schools are failing in their duty to protect gender-distressed children

Posted: 31st March 2023

It is universally accepted that safeguarding is fundamental to a responsible society. These principles are well-established, enshrined in law, and applicable to all organisations and functions relating to children. There is never a good reason why safeguarding should be compromised, especially within school, where children spend the majority of their time outside of the home environment.

Policy Exchange’s vital report today has demonstrated that there is a mass breaching of safeguarding principles when it comes to the issue of gender-distressed children and their peers.

The rising number of children reporting gender distress, and the treatment of those children within clinical settings, is rightly being given the attention it deserves. In an NHS-commissioned independent review, Dr Hilary Cass found the Tavistock clinic to be adopting an “unquestioning, affirmative approach” without exploring other factors causing these children’s distress.

Affirmation as a one-size-fits-all solution has been discredited.

Thankfully, the clinic is being shut down. However, Policy Exchange has revealed something even more concerning: the same approach is being facilitated in schools, which breaks every safeguarding rule in the book.

With only 28 per cent of secondary schools reliably informing parents when their child experiences gender distress, and four in ten secondary schools operating policies of self-ID, schools are facilitating active interventions on site, with the fundamental impossibility of knowing whether this is in a child’s best interest.

Schools have no authority to decide whether social transition is the right outcome for a gender-distressed child. Safeguarding principles are there to protect both children and staff: they protect teachers from being ill-equipped to deal with issues that require external specialisms, and ensure children receive appropriate service provision as soon as possible.

It is not only gender-distressed children who suffer as a result of these safeguarding blind spots but their peers, too. Adolescence is a vulnerable time for both sexes. Policy Exchange’s research reveals that at least 28 per cent of secondary schools are not maintaining single-sex toilets. Girls are being forced to give up their right to privacy, dignity and safety. A staggering 60 per cent of secondary schools are allowing children to compete in opposite sex sports — not only an issue of safety, but fairness too. Especially when female participation in sport drops off in adolescence.

Gender identity beliefs are contested and based on unscientific notions, yet this report shows they are being taught in RSHE (relationships, sex and health education) classes as though they are facts.

Times readers will be all too familiar with reports of this in schools across the country. Schools seem unaware of their obligations to be politically impartial, when 25 per cent are teaching that some people or children “may be born in the wrong body”. Encouraging children to believe that their transient ideas about themselves are more determinative of their identity than their chromosomal DNA is not just misleading, but dangerous too.

This vital report demonstrates there to be a fundamental incompatibility between affirmative practice and the safeguarding principles schools are required to uphold. It is time for the government to clamp down on the systemic failure of the school system to protect children from this reckless experiment.

Source:Rosie Duffield: Schools are failing in their duty to protect gender-distressed children (

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