School Diversity Week: Top tips for your school’s LGBT+ inclusion journey
So, you've almost made it to the end of the year and exam season is probably taking its toll – then Pride month approaches.
It's often a time that many teachers ask: how inclusive is my school really for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans pupils? Should we be doing something for Pride? How do we let our students know that their teachers are on their side, that they can learn in safe, inclusive environments?
It's not an easy task. Our independent research last year found that LGBT+ secondary pupils are twice as likely to be bullied, have depression and anxiety, be lonely on a daily basis and face tension at home, so pushing for greater LGBT+ inclusion has to be central to work that supports the wellbeing of all pupils.
Maybe you know of incidents of bullying or hateful language, perhaps things are flying under the radar or maybe you have a fairly inclusive school community already, and you'd like your school to up its game when it comes to making everyone feel safe and included.
At Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people's charity, we work with primary and secondary schools across the UK to help them on their journey to becoming more LGBT+ inclusive.
As a former secondary teacher myself, I understand the various pressures on teachers – high workloads, changing responsibilities and evaporating gain time means there's rarely a quiet moment to plan ahead.
That's why we try to make this journey as easy as possible for school staff. We understand the challenges you're facing. Here are some ways we can help.
Where to begin?
Each year we aim to bring together teachers across the UK to celebrate School Diversity Week, aimed at providing accessible ways for all teachers at any stage on their inclusion journey to take part.
In 2022, it's taking place from 20-24 June during Pride month, and more than 5,000 schools have already signed up to take part - so even if it's your first time, you certainly won't be alone in celebrating.
Representation and visibility of LGBT+ lives and stories in school is repeatedly stated by LGBT+ students to be incredibly important to their own feelings of safety and enjoyment of education.
Our range of free assemblies, form time sessions, video resources and curriculum lessons are designed to offer teachers accessible ways to include all their students in their school, either as standalone activities within a single lesson or as part of a programme of inclusive activities across a week.
Even the smallest changes, such as putting up flags in your classroom, or changing a case study in a lesson here or there, can have profound impacts on your school environment over time.
While you may not change the world by tweaking a scheme of work for your Year 10s, you might give the LGBT+ students in front of you a chance to feel that people like them are fully celebrated within your school community.
Opening up dialogue
Bringing up conversations about LGBT+ inclusion for the first time may feel daunting. It's best to remember you don't have to be an expert. Being a willing ally goes a long way and will be life-changing for the struggling LGBT+ pupils in your school.
One way to start the conversation – or add to the depth of discussion in your school – is to have a visit from a speaker that can really engage and relate to pupils.
Our school talk speakers are LGBT+ 18 to 25 year olds, meaning their life stories are really relatable to secondary pupils. For some students at your school, a school talk like this may be the first time they meet an LGBT+ role model who can demonstrate the opportunities and possibilities that may lie before your students because they are LGBT+, rather than despite it.
The talks we offer can also be tailored to your school's setting, meaning topics that concern your student body can be talked about openly, or adapted to pick out overlapping issues with your school's wider demographics for a flat fee of £100.
Talks and open discussion go a long way to encourage conversations about LGBT+ people and their lives in schools, helping shift perceptions and attitudes towards a more inclusive environment.
- Just Like Us is inviting EdCentral subscribers to sign up to explore the free resources they have available on their website for EYFS through to KS4 - including lesson plans, posters, assemblies, form time activities and videos. Choose what works for you and help celebrate LGBT+ education at your school.
Pride Groups programme
Last but not least, we really find that for long-lasting change for LGBT+ pupils, you need to have on-going support in school.
Pride Groups are lunchtime or after school clubs for LGBT+ and ally students in school. They're pupil-led (we provide Student Leader training) and provide a space for worried and lonely students to go when in need of support.
The purpose is to create a space where students can be themselves, learn, socialise and get support. For many pupils, it's a huge relief to have this space away from an unaccepting home or the usual school environment.
We also hear from teachers that it's the most rewarding part of their week! Alison Ollett at Plume, Maldon's Academy in Essex, told us that her Pride Group has 60 students regularly turn up and she "lights up" when she sees how much of a needed space it is.
Just Like Us provides termly training for staff and fortnightly resources so there's no time-consuming planning. The programme costs £99 for 12 months – get in touch with us if you have any questions.
The author of this article, Rob Ward, is a former secondary teacher. He is currently Education Programmes Manager at Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people's charity.