College staff 'need gender diversity training'

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Media captionStudent Jasper Williams reveals transgender education struggle

A lack of gender diversity training is "embarrassing" further education lecturers and could lead to legal issues, an education union has said.

President of ATL Wales Lesley Tipping said staff were confused over pronouns and compulsory training was overdue.

Stonewall Cymru said half of trans students were bullied and most staff were not trained to deal with it.

Bangor University student Jasper Williams, 22, said when he came out as trans in sixth form staff "struggled".

Mr Williams is a neuropsychology student and LGBT+ officer for NUS Wales.

He said: "One [sixth form] teacher couldn't get anything that wasn't male or female.

"He made comments making it sound like non-binary genders were made up and like a fantasy idea.

"The other teachers were fine but they struggled with it."

Image copyright Jasper Williams
Image caption Mr Williams legally changed his name before starting university

He said despite having a "liberal and encouraging" head teacher, a lack of training meant staff who wanted to be supportive were hampered: "They tried but they messed up a lot.

"If they were using someone as an example they'd say he and then change to she and get confused with what they should be using.

"There was a massive lack of education on that part."

Andrew White, director of Stonewall Cymru, agreed most lecturers wanted to be supportive but did not know how.

"We know that the majority of staff want to tackle transphobic bullying, however, most haven't received any specific training on how to do this", he said.

Ms Tipping said too often the onus to train staff was on the college: "We haven't got compulsory training and at the moment it is down to the pro-activeness of the college.

"Lecturers could be put in quite an embarrassing position if they address someone as a he who is a she or neither a he or a she."

Image copyright Jasper Williams
Image caption Jasper Williams was born female and began taking hormones when he started university

She said students who identify as trans or non-binary had "entitlements" and FE staff needed to understand them: "We are keen for lecturer training to understand legalities and ensure they're not embarrassed in any way. If we don't ensure they're trained we could end up with legal issues."

Stonewall Cymru said more than two in five trans young people have attempted to kill themselves.

Mr Williams understands first-hand how hard further education can be: "I was not in a great place. I'd had issues with an eating disorder in the past and it definitely brought that back up again."

He said facilities were also an issue for trans and non-binary students and he struggled when at sixth form: "Toilets were very gendered apart from the disabled on the ground floor which I didn't feel comfortable using.

"Luckily I was two minutes from my house so I used to wait for breaks and go home."

Mr White, whose organisation works with colleges to provide training, advice and resources, said education was vital.

"We owe it to LGBT young people to ensure they don't face discrimination or bullying but are supported to flourish and achieve," he said.

CollegesWales has been asked to comment.

What further education colleges say

BBC Wales contacted all 14 further education colleges and institutions in Wales to ask what gender diversity training they offer to staff . Three responded and all said they had seen an increase in the number of students identifying as trans, non binary or gender fluid.

  • Cardiff and Vale College said all staff have received training which included "protected characteristics" and staff in departments with an increased number of trans and non-binary learners have been given "more detailed, bespoke training". It added it was working with Trans Form Cymru to create a more detailed action plan and more training.
  • Coleg Cambria said all front line staff had received training delivered by the transgender community and guidance materials were in place. There are a number of LGBTQ student groups and each college site has gender neutral toilets and plans for gender neutral-toilets are included in all new builds at the college.
  • Pembrokeshire College said four of its 1,500 students identified as transgender and it had an "active" LGBT group, but could not gave details on staff training.

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