• Headteacher Claire Birkenshaw featured in the Times Education Supplement. (Times Education Supplement / Twitter)Source: Times Education Supplement / Twitter
“Straight away one kid said ‘Hi Miss’. It was brilliant. There were no sniggers, it was just superb.”
By
Shami Sivasubramanian

9 Dec 2016 - 12:58 PM  UPDATED 9 Dec 2016 - 12:58 PM

A UK headteacher has been received with a warm welcome from her students after coming out to the school as a transgender woman.

Claire Birkenshaw, headmistress of Ashwell Academy in Hull, Yorkshire, took a leave of absence for six months to undergo her transition. Upon returning, she was moved by how open and accepting her students were.

“Straight away one kid said ‘Hi Miss’. It was brilliant. There were no sniggers, it was just superb,” she tells she says to Times Education Supplement.

For 13-year-old Alfie, a student at Ashwell Academy, Ms Birkenshaw is first trans person he has ever met. That’s why he felt it was important to be open-minded when meeting her after her transition, he tells Hull Daily Mail.

“So when I met her and I was just talking to her, she was just a normal person. I didn’t think there was anything else to it,” he says.

 

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Alfie also says and his fellow students find it disheartening that “there’s a lot of hatred towards transgender people” in the world.

“I know transgender people get called a lot of names and there’s a lot of prejudice but that’s just not right. They’re just like anybody else,” he says.

“I don’t care whether they are transgender or not. It’s about what they are most comfortable about.”

Ms Birkenshaw “still expects to be a headteacher” now that she’s transitioned. She is in fact the first known person to transition without leaving her job.   

“I still expect to be working with schools, with academies and ensuring that children are making progress – but also that children are happy. If I look at education, it doesn’t seem to be that many role models,” she says.

“So I can try to do things under the radar, but how are people going to know? These children in schools need someone who is out there. I think what people find really difficult to understand is that the essence of me has never ever changed.” 

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