Northern Ireland transgender education row: TUV leader Jim Allister discovers UK-wide IT system (SIMS) which allows teachers to change children's gender identities without parental knowledge
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The information has been brought into the public domain by TUV leader Jim Allister via the BBC Stephen Nolan Show.
The Education Authority has not challenged the claims but says the changes to the IT system were UK wide and that keeping information from parents is permissible if the child wishes, based on English legal precedents.
Mr Allister, the chair of a board of governors in an NI Primary School, revealed that the Schools Information Management System (SIMS) now provides a drop down checkbox for pupils which means that if the child has changed their gender identity in school, their parents may never know.
It is reported that the child can insist their gender pronouns are registered as “Zee, Zim or Zer” on the system.
The BBC reported that official guidance from the Education Authority says that parents of pupils questioning their gender should not be told about the changes unless the child has specifically agreed.
Mr Allister said SIMS system is a perfectly legitimate IT system to record important information on pupils.
"But I then discovered, because I'm chairman of a board of governors of a primary school, that within that system has a drop down box whereby the child - at their discretion - can decree by what pronoun they want to be described.
"And then there is a further drop down box, which indicates that it can be concealed from the parent.
“So you have a situation where Johnny leaves home as Johnny and can decide to go into school and say, 'I want to be called Janine. I want to be referred to as she or some other pronoun’."
"And then they [the pupil] can home again and become Johnny – and all of that clandestinely - protected from the knowledge of the parents. Now that seems to me fundamentally wrong, that that system should be an operation behind the backs of parents."
The Education Authority (EA) said a system wide update was introduced to the SIMS platform across the UK in Summer 2022 which provided schools the option to add personal pronouns to schools records.
“It is important to note that the inclusion of personal pronouns in school records is not mandatory,” a spokeswoman said. “Each school has the autonomy to decide whether or not to use this feature."
She added that "only restricted members of staff who have been granted higher-level permissions have the ability to update the Pronoun list".
The EA has developed guidance on supporting transgender young people, which has consulted upon with schools, young people, parents and faith-based organisations and in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), she added.
“Extensive advice is provided on the development of a support plan for the pupil which provides for inclusion of the parent and Gillick competency. This includes practical advice on changes to names and pronouns on systems such as SIMS.”
Gillick competency guidelines refer to a legal case in which the House of Lords decided that doctors in England and Wales can give contraceptive advice or treatment to pupils under 16-years-old without parental consent or knowledge.