Professor Sue Sanders, Co-Chair, School’s Out and Founder, The Classroom and LGBT History Month discusses the importance of inclusive LGBTQ+ Education in schools to promote equality and diversity.
We are in schools for at least 11 years of our lives. That is a long and vulnerable time.
What Does the Law Say About LGBTQ+ Diversity in Schools?
Presently the levels of respect and safety our children experience can vary widely, depending on the attitudes of those around them towards their family members, their religion, class, ethnicity, ability, gender identity and sexual orientation.
The Labour government realised this and so it’s Public Sector Equality Duty Act 2011 states:
When Public Authorities carry out their functions, the Equality Act says they must have due regard or think about the need to:
- eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act; (the Equality Act)
- advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who don’t;
- foster or encourage good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who don’t.
The Relationship and Sex Education Act, 2019, is a step in helping schools to execute their responsibility to educate their pupils in the diversity of relationships and the complexity of the functions of intimate relationships including bonding, procreation, and pleasure.
Why is LGBTQ+ Inclusive Education So Important?
In the age of the Internet where we can all access pornography with a quick click, it is vital that schools provide students with perspectives on intimate relationships that can counter the myths and problematic ideas to be found on the net and in the playground.
Children of all families and none need to feel that their identity is recognised and valid. For too long white, able bodied, heteronormativity has dominated in our schools leaving many children to flounder and feel like outsiders. The majority of children who may question their sexual orientation or assigned gender are raised in a heterosexual milieu and do not hear positive comments about LGBT+ people, let alone an acknowledgement that we exist. We know this from personal accounts. Many will hear quite the opposite. That is why Schools OUT UK has produced free resources for teachers, museums, libraries etc. to enable positive presentations of our LGBT+ history and achievements.
I want schools to be places where everyone feels celebrated. We have campaigned for Teacher Training that equips them to know how to make a safe classroom, to have the resources and confidence to ensure that their pupils know about and respect each other. It is a tall order but if we are going to heal our society, ensure that we can listen to ideas that are foreign to us and ensure that every child can feel recognised, it is essential.
How Can You Promote LGBTQ+ Inclusivity?
You can help by contacting your local school to find out if they are using the many free resources that are available to them, and if they celebrate the diversity months (January, Holocaust Memorial Day, February LGBT History Month, March Women’s History Month, June Gypsy and Traveller Month, October Black History Month and November and December Disabled History Month).
Schools need governors who have this agenda. Please consider being a governor. I believe that each of us has a responsibility to ensure that LGBT+ youngsters and all children feel safe, welcome, and proud.