PUPILS and parents at St Laurence School in Bradford on Avon have been urged to be supportive and respectful, following the announcement that one of the school's assistant head teachers, Mark James, will begin gender reassignment in the New Year to become Ms Madeleine James.

After breaking the news to pupils at the school in Ashley Road on Wednesday morning, head teacher Fergus Stewart sent a mass email out to the parents and carers of the school’s pupils informing them of teacher Mark James’ transition.

Mr Stewart said: “We can confirm a member of staff is planning a gender transition from January 1, 2017. This is something that has been planned carefully with advisors, students, staff and parents in a clear and careful way. Our school community is united in supporting our colleague.”

Mr Stewart has told parents: “One of our longstanding teachers, Mr Mark James, will be making a gender transition from January 1, 2017, and from then on will be known as Ms Madeleine James. As you can imagine this decision has required courage and a long period of planning and preparation. I am confident that our students will respond magnificently - indeed they already have.”

Mr James’ reassignment is being treated respectfully by the school, which is offering advice and help to any of the pupils who may find the news difficult to come to terms with.

“I would like to reassure you that we are ready to provide all the help and support that they might need, in a non-judgemental way,” Mr Stewart has told parents.

“St Laurence has a reputation as a supportive community. The following few weeks, in particular, will be an opportunity for us to practise our values of diversity, equality, teamwork, honesty and learning and to demonstrate that we really are, as our mission statement says, a caring respectful, inclusive community.”

As well as considering the reaction from the pupils of the school, Mr Stewart and the staff at St Laurence have also invited any questions from parents so they can help their children.

“I know that you will want to play your part in helping your child and us with this, even if this process is one that you find challenging in terms of your personal experiences, views or beliefs. If you would like to raise any questions with me, please do feel free to contact me,” the email reads.