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Sex and Gender

No doubt the title of this article will set various warning bells off.  However, the DfE has published "Data Operations Division - request for change form RFC 1233a - Gender Identity and Sex" which offers clarity of definition for both Sex and Gender Identity.  Sex is the sex of a person recognised in law, which is either the designation on a birth certificate or a legal change thereafter.

SIMS 7 changed the label 'gender' to 'sex' in Autumn 2022 to better match the conventional use of the terms.  There is however a lack of consistent use of the two terms on government websites. Where the terms 'sex' and 'gender' appear to be used interchangeably. 

The term 'Gender Identity' is defined as 'A person’s inner concept of self as male, female, neither or a blend of both.'  and goes on to clarify that it is recorded as per the wishes of the young person and/or their parents. SIMS plans to add this in the Spring/Summer 23 release of SIMS and at the time of writing, the development team is considering how best to implement the requirement below.

Update Apr 24

Progress is being made to implement Gender Identity collection in SIMS, planned for the Summer 23 release.  Whilst this is work in progress, tasks include:•138672:  Gender Identity Lookup

• Gender Identity - Self Description Lookup
• Student Details: New data item - Gender Identity
• Staff Details: New data item - Gender Identity
• Applicant Details: New data item - Gender Identity
• Contact Details: New data item - Gender Identity
• Delete with Gender Identity
Within the screens if selection for Gender Identity is made of 'Prefer to Self Describe' then the user would be able to choose from the self description lookup. 

Note:  Recording is optional and there are no plans to collect the ‘Gender Identity’ data item, it is intended purely for local use in schools and other institutions.

Warning - Until this is released, it is subject to change.

DfE Requirement for Gender Identity 

  • 0 - Not known (for example, the question has not been asked, or the answer was refused)
  • 1 - Man / Boy / Male [systems should display the most appropriate value, e.g. Boy for children, Man for adults, Male if preferred]
  • 2 - Woman / Girl / Female [systems should display the most appropriate value, e.g. Girl for children, Woman for adults, Female if preferred]
  • 9 - Prefer to Self-Describe

Codes 10 to 99 to be available for local use but are to be regarded as subcodes of 9 (Other). Free text field or locally defined codes to be available for recording individual’s identification where ‘Prefer to Self-Describe’ has been chosen. While there are no plans to transfer this data it is envisaged that, if a transfer of codes was to be implemented, only code ‘9’ would be transferred rather than codes ‘11’, ‘12’ etc. in schools and other institutions.

Note: Software suppliers are asked to comment on whether the codes should be two digits, ie ‘00’, ‘01’ etc, or whether they should be in the form ‘0’, ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘9’ with double digits only used for the local use codes.

At this stage, there is no plan for the DfE to collect this data.  As such it is not a mandatory field and may not contain a value.

Reflections on the requirement

If this is implemented with codes, then it is important to notice that a code 11 in school A may well be very different to code 11 in another school and that there is no suggestion that a moderated set of options will be offered by the DfE (I note that this may contradict the concept of 'Self-Description' ) but code 9 - Other (Please specify) is likely to be the only exchangeable data.

It may also pose the question, where should gender identity be shared between computer systems? Whilst this is clearly a protected characteristic, the decision as to where that data can shared (including other computer systems) must remain a decision for the data controller. Consideration should be given to allowing opt in / out for this individual field.


Views on sharing the data would be expected to vary from school to school.  As such TI's may be prudent to:

  • Have a specific opt in to enable the exchange of gender identity
  • Ensure that their system continues to operate if the school opts out.