Supporting transgender young people in schools: guidance for Scottish schools(1) provides detail, justification and “steps for good practice” on an issue that affects a tiny minority of Scotland’s school children. There has been much said and written about the document which, along with two supporting provides 111 pages which must be read and understood by our teachers.
There is nothing wrong with offering age appropriate support to school children who are dealing with difficult personal issues, including those around gender and sexuality. While reading how the Scottish government has spent huge resources and time on trans issues I wondered what else they might look at next.
In 2017 there were 183 referrals to the Young People’s Gender Service Glasgow.
There are around 700,000 school pupils at 2,004 primary schools and 358 secondary schools in Scotland. If we assumed that the 40 referrals is a reasonable estimate of how many young people were seriously unsure about their gender that would equal a 1 in 12 chance of an individual school having a pupil affected by this.
So how does gender identity compare to the numbers who experience other difficult issues in childhood?
Around one in four children in Scotland live in poverty.(2) That equates to 175,000 school children, an average of 25% of every class in every school.
1,339 Scots lost their lives to addiction last year. Averaged across all areas that would equate to around half of all schools having a child affected by the death of a parent or other family member due to drug addiction. Of course, they numbers aren’t averaged. Addicts in parts of the country worst affected by poverty are 18 times more likely to die than those from the wealthiest areas.
There are an estimated 29,000 young carers in Scotland – 4% of the under 16 population.(3) That equates to around 12 per school though, again, schools in poorer areas are likely to have a higher concentration.
The police recorded 60,641 incidents of domestic abuse in 2018-19, an increase of 2% compared to the previous year. (4) Data isn’t available on how many of these were repeat offences involving the same families but at worst this equates to around 25 families per school being directly affected.
Research indicates that 10% of children and young people (aged five to 16) have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem. (5) That equates to around 3 kids in every class in every school.
I’m sure that campaigners will claim that far more than one child in every 12 schools believes themselves to be trans but they do that by conflating issues. Very many children go through periods of uncertainty about gender and sexuality, usually during puberty or before. If our schools don’t already have support for that then why not? And why are they now to focus on one small, specific group?
Many who feel they may be trans as kids/young adults will grow through that and find their true sexuality with time. Most simply don’t have the language or experience to understand what their feelings are telling them.
We are fortunate to live in a society where for the most part someone’s sexuality or gender identity is regarded as their own business and they are left to get on with their lives. Yes, there is prejudice, just as there is about race, religion, nationality, disability and more.
By all means support as many kids through as many issues as possible, but to prioritise and promote kids who may have trans feelings, to focus so much time and attention on them, when there are other massive issues affecting large proportions of our children is irresponsible and unacceptable.