A teacher came out as transgender, and the way her students reacted will warm your heart.

A UK transgender school principal has been moved by the supportive response of students when she returned to work as a woman.

Claire Birkenshaw, formerly known as Michael, left the post as head teacher of Ashwell Academy in Hull, Yorkshire, for six months to undergo her transition.

The 48-year-old said she was touched by the support from students in an interview with the Hull Daily Mail.

“The support really has been overwhelming. Coming out in Hull has been like being engulfed in a warm blanket of acceptance,” she told the newspaper.

“It’s the enthusiasm of the reception, it’s really heartfelt.

“It reaffirms to me just how genuine and caring the vast majority people are, and there’s something about the community spirit in Hull and the way everyone supports each other.”

Ms Birkenshaw said the response had been warm from day one.

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

Ashwell Academy student Alfie Wilson came to the school after Ms Birkenshaw’s transition and told the Hull Daily Mail that while he hadn’t met a transgender person before, he went in with an open mind.

“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,” the 13-year-old said.


Ms Birkenshaw shared other positive responses on her Facebook page, with one former student reassuring her “how much support you have behind you”.

However, it hasn’t always been easy for the education professional. She told the Hull Daily Mail that while she was living as Michael she experienced shame and fear due to her gender dysphoria.

“I’ve had a lifetime of fear about being ‘found out’, like I was an imposter to masculinity,” she said.

“It was an age where there was little knowledge about transgender.”

Ms Birkenshaw said fears about her career in education kept her from transitioning sooner.

“Schools are very complex organisations and I just wasn’t sure if the industry was ready for it,” she said.

“But I just thought of all the children who might be experiencing what I went through. I don’t want any child to feel what I felt.”

Ms Birkenshaw said part of the reason why she chose to remain in the role was so that she could be a positive role model for students.

“If I look at education, it doesn’t seem to be that many role models,” she told the Times Education Supplement.

“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.”