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Boarding schools told to refer to transgender pupils as 'zie'

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Boarding school teachers should refer to pupils who identify as transgender as 'zie' so as not to offend them, according to new official guidance.

Issued by the Boarding Schools Association, the guidance is aimed at "queering the education system", and staff have been told to learn a "new language" for pupils who do not wish to be addressed as 'he' or 'she'.

Far-reaching policy

There are 450 full members of the Boarding Schools Association, the majority of which are accredited by the Independent Schools Council.

37 are state boarding schools or academies, and 45 overseas schools are in associate membership.

In total, 65,000 pupils attend these schools, making this policy quite far-reaching.


The move to implement a 'zie' pronoun follows the adoption of gender-neutral uniform by around 80 state schools across the country, and Brighton College in the private sector.

Single-sex private schools have also been told by the Girls' Schools Association (GSA) to replace terms like "ladies" and "girls" with more neutral terms like "pupils" or "students".

The advice was given to the GSA by the group Gendered Intelligence, whose chairman Jay Stewart said that terms like "young ladies" are 'trans-phobic'.

Teachers are also being taught new LGBT-related vocabulary, such as 'genderqueer', a term used by individuals who identify as neither male nor entirely female; or 'pansexual', which is someone attracted to men, women and transsexuals.

'New language'

Elly Barnes, the head of pressure group Educate and Celebrate, commented on the new language guidelines:

"It's a new language that's absolutely needed in schools. We have, of course, restrictions within the English language but the more we use these pronouns the more they become part of the language.

"If you're new to the 'trans' community, this is very new language."

Alex Thompson, deputy chief executive of the Boarding Schools' Association, which issued the guidelines to schools, said the guidelines were aimed at educating those who were "in the dark".

He said: "Teachers, heads and deputy heads were asking questions about these issues and they felt they were in the dark on what was politically correct and had fears of causing offence as young people largely between the ages of 13 and 18 were questioning their gender identity.

"There was a strong understanding when it more obvious and direct when someone came out as gay but not in the area where young people were asking 'who am I?' to a member of staff and these were questions they had not been asked before."

Help children understand their God-given gender

Christian Concern's case worker, Libby Powell, discussed gender-neutral uniform on Share radio on 17 July.

She said that "what we need to look at is what is the demand for this? And how are our children going to react to this?"

Gender-neutral uniform policy, she said, is "confusing" and "not the way to deal with this particular issue".

 When asked how schools should deal with those who identify as transgender, she replied:

"The way is to treat those children with great care and love, and counselling to help them know that the sex that they were born – male or female – is how they were created and how they were intended to be."

Understanding transgender issues

If you or your church would like to better understand transgender issues and a compassionate, biblical response, this resource by fellowship group Affinity may be useful. 

Related Links: 
Free Church of Scotland Moderator Emeritus speaks against mandatory LGBT education 
Are we all 'omnigender' now? (Affinity)
'LGBT Diversity Week' launched in schools 
UK schools allow boys to wear skirts as uniform  
CofE school fears cross is offensive