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Latest 08 October 2021

Foster child denied place at local school because he is trans

We’ve been contacted by a foster parent with a shocking story. 

Gemma* reached out to us after her foster child, Elliot*, was denied a place at the local school because he is transgender. The school is just five minutes from where Gemma’s family lives, with places available in his year group. 

Right now, the only way for Elliot, 13, to get an education involves travelling for more than three hours each day on public transport to and from his old school. 

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Elliot began living with Gemma and her family in June this year, leaving the home he shared with his frail, elderly grandfather to lower the risk of him coming into contact with Covid. He was in a terrible situation, having lost his paternal grandfather to Covid six months before, and with no one else in his family to turn to. 

When he moved in, Gemma reached out to her local secondary school to request a place for Elliot, only to be told by the school’s safeguarding lead they wouldn’t allocate a place for him because a vulnerable pupil at the school knew he is trans and may “out” him. 

The school also told Gemma they would only speak to Elliot’s social worker going forward – even though he currently doesn’t have one. 

One of the school governors even told Gemma that Elliot ‘should be educated privately until he can have a sex change’. Under law, transgender children cannot access irreversible interventions like surgery. Gender affirming surgery is only available to adults in the UK – and usually, after waiting several years for it. 

Gemma is understandably horrified by this turn of events – and so are we.  

Gemma said: “Elliot’s previous high school is a three-hour round trip from where he now lives with me. The local school is undersubscribed, five minutes from home, with the good music and drama provision that is so important to him. 

“Through no fault of his own, Elliot, a transgender lad, had a disadvantaged childhood. He is academically gifted, very articulate, and is a kind, loyal and considerate friend. He would be an asset to any school community.

“I find the cruelty of this situation shocking. Education professionals will certainly be aware of the emotional impact of their conduct on a young person with Elliot’s background and characteristics. They should certainly know the levels of mental health issues, self-harm, suicide attempts amongst young trans people. But they nonetheless chose to do this.”

We are working with Gemma to uphold her foster child’s rights. We are hugely grateful to Angela Jackman QC of Irwin Mitchell for her work to date without charge.

Transgender people face discrimination in all walks of life. Schooling is no exception. We have no doubt that the school’s decision to deny Elliot a place because he is trans is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010. And, if necessary, we will not hesitate to litigate.

*names have been changed. 

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