In Depth

Primary school defends plan to hold 'transgender day'

Headteacher says event has had a 'positive response' but parents threaten to take their children out of classes

A primary school in East Sussex has stood by its decision to teach its pupils about gender despite objections from several parents. 

Emma Maltby, the headteacher at St Mary the Virgin Primary School in Hartfield, said the discussions would be aimed at raising awareness about transgender issues.

"As part of the national curriculum, we spend time talking to the children about British values of tolerance, respect and celebrating differences," she told the the East Grinstead Courier.

"One of the areas we will be discussing shortly is gender identity." 

It is hoped such discussions would challenge prejudice and discrimination. Despite growing awareness of transgender rights - thanks in part to high-profile celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox – activists say this hasn't yet translated into widespread acceptance.

However, some parents have expressed concerns about holding a "transgender day" for children as young as four.

"There is great unease among the parents. There have been complaints to the headteacher, and some parents announced their intention to keep their children from school [for that day]," said one.

Three families told the Daily Mail that they would not allow their children to attend the event.

"Kids need to be left alone when it comes to things like this. They just want to run around the playground, not be told they need to 'think differently' about gender issues," said one mother.

But Maltby insists the school had a "very positive response" to the event overall.

"St Mary's is an extremely inclusive school which embraces and celebrates difference and encourages children to be themselves," she said.

"While some parents may have felt uneasy discussing a topic such as gender identity, our priority is to give pupils a well-rounded education and help them become responsible, independent people able to respect others."

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