A private girls' school in west London has decided to allow its students to choose their own identity, including opting to use boys' names and wear boys' clothes if they want to, under its new "gender identity protocol".
St Paul's Girls' School will now consider requests from its students aged 16 to go through a formal process to be known within the school as either a boy or gender-neutral.
The school's high mistress, Clarissa Farr, told The Sunday Times that the move was in response to pupils questioning their gender identity. It is aimed at ensuring the safety and the wellbeing of pupils who "don't want to identify as one gender or the other," she said.
It is understood that up to 10 girls in the sixth form have gone through the formal process to be known within the school either as boys or as gender-neutral, the paper says.
Those who are younger, aged between 11 and 15, can still have discussions "at any time" to explore their gender identity and will receive help and support to prepare for an application "at the right time," Farr said.
"We are moving to the point where your gender is a choice. I see this as a social phenomenon, especially in London, which is much talked about among school leaders," Farr said.
The school "takes a neutral stance, neither encouraging nor discouraging," the students' decisions.
The process starts with the pupil submitting a written request which outlines their wishes and the reasons. This will be followed by counselling and pastoral support "to help them debate and reflect,"
The high mistress said: "We have had an LGBT society for a long time. The school is very relaxed about sexual orientation but this is a different issue. This is about gender reassignment. That is a new thing for us."
Gender-neutral uniform policies
The Sunday Times notes that about 80 mixed-sex schools in the state sector already have gender-neutral uniform policies that allows boys to wear skirts and girls to wear trousers.
Despite the new protocol, the parents of students who seek to change their identity would be expected to know about the request and would "preferably" be "fully involved in such discussions".
However, the original name on the pupil's birth certificate will still continue to be used in public exams, the school's website and in letters to parents and in school reports, The Sunday Times said.
Farr noted that if a pupil had fully transitioned to become legally male, they could no longer remain as a pupil of the school as St Paul's is a girl's school.
"We are only able to educate students who are legally and physically female. The school will not admit pupils who are physically and/or legally male, nor therefore will it normally be able to continue to educate anyone who has transitioned fully and become physically and/or legally make."
Leading personalities who have attended the prestigious school include MP Harriet Harman and actress Rachel Weisz.