Students at a Somerset college have been asked to be supportive of a staff member who is transitioning from male to female.

Emma Holbook, a media and films studies technician, is returning to Richard Huish College in Taunton as a woman after the Easter break.

Principal Dr Peter Avery wrote to students and parents: “Paul Holbrook is undergoing gender transition and has reached the stage that Emma Holbrook will continue her excellent work in media and film studies when the college restarts after the Easter holiday.”

His letter explained transgenderism and said that “stigma and taboo” could make changing sex a “difficult prospect”.

It added: “I have every expectation that the community that is Richard Huish College will be supportive of Emma as she moves through this extraordinarily challenging phase of her life.

“Emma is not undergoing this transition to become a sensation, but for reasons of personal integrity – she simply wants to be herself.

“With our collective support she will simply continue to provide the expert assistance so appreciated by our students.”