The government has announced that protection under the forthcoming Equality bill will be extended to trans pupils.

In a House of Commons debate yesterday, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for schools and learners, said: “We recently committed to extending guidance on homophobic bullying to include trans-gender pupils.

“I am happy to announce that we will extend the discrimination provisions to include trans-gender pupils in the forthcoming Equality bill.”

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 protected trans people against discrimination in employment and this was extended to the provision of goods, facilities, services and premises through the Gender Directive in the Sex Discrimination Regulations 2008.

Until now, these regulations excluded schools in the application of discrimination protection.

Previously, trans school pupils were not protected due to government policy that said the right of parents or guardians to take a case to court on discrimination grounds is unlikely to help very difficult situations and may not be in the best interests of the child.

A spokesman said: “The decision to extend protection in the Equality Bill is therefore a departure from existing policy but a logical one considering the similarity of experience of transgender children and that of lesbian and gay children, and given the decision to extend discrimination protection on grounds of sexual orientation to schools through the 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations.

“The intention is to harmonise the protection against discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment with that of the protection on the ground of sexual orientation in schools.”

Bernard Reed, a trustee of the Gender Identity Recognition and Education Society, said: “We’re absolutely delighted at the news. Transgender children suffer severe bullying in schools and the best schools make very praiseworthy efforts.”

The society recently produced a toolkit for schools on combating transphobic bullying, commissioned by the Home Office, which can be viewed at http://www.gires.org.uk/transbullying.php