Pride Month in the Classroom

lisawhelan

This year, MPs in the UK voted overwhelmingly for LGBT-inclusive regulations for RSE provision by 538 votes to 21. This means that by 2020 all secondary schools will be required to teach pupils about sexual orientation and gender identity, and all primary schools will be required to teach about different families, including those with LGBT parents.

As June is pride month, we’re taking the opportunity to look LGBT issues in schools, and how you can ensure your school is an inclusive place for LGBT pupils by celebrating LGBT identities and history in an age-appropriate and sensitive way. All pupils will benefit from a better understanding of the history and groups within the community.

What does LGBT mean?

LGBT is the term used to describe used to describe those who identify with the labels of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender to describe their sexuality or gender expression. The term LGBT could be used to describe your pupils’ developing sexuality or the structure of their families.

Why do LGBT issues need to be covered in schools?

The gov.uk website on Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) explains that “Pupils should be taught about the society in which they are growing up. These subjects are designed to foster respect for others and for difference, and educate pupils about healthy relationships. RSE should meet the needs of all pupils, whatever their developing sexuality or identity – this should include age-appropriate teaching about different types of relationships in the context of the law.”

It is important to all pupils that all identities are taught about and normalised in the language of your school to foster a culture of respect. This helps to reduce bullying of LGBT students (or students with LGBT family members) and to increase confidence in those students.

How can I include LGBT topics in my school?

Create displays

One way to make your school look and feel more LGBT-inclusive, is to create LGBT-affirming displays in your hallways and classrooms. These can be made by pupils, or can be resources from organisations such as the LGBT charity Stonewall or children’s charity Barnardo’s LGBT campaign.

Include LGBT topics in your lessons

You can use your role as teacher to ensure the inclusion of LGBT topics in class. During Pride month, and throughout the year, you can use learning materials that include LGBT characters and history in an age-appropriate way.

Look for opportunities to change the materials you already have rather than developing lots of new content, small changes to include LGBT topics can have a big effect on your pupils.

Some examples:

  • In English lessons, for example, you can include LGBT authors and themes, where you can compare and contrast the representation of LGBT characters in contemporary literature with older texts – how does this reflect societal change?
  • In Maths, teachers can make simple changes to problems such as “Emma’s mums are trying to calculate how much their shopping will cost, on their shopping list they have…”
  • In Art and Drama lessons, you can highlight LGBT artists, playwrights, and themes, and explore representations of gender and relationships in important artworks and plays.

Include pupils

You can also involve the young people at your school, asking them to feed in their own suggestions about how to include LGBT issues in the curriculum. Ask pupils about what they’d like to learn and encourage them to include LGBT issues in their project work across different subjects.

What are my responsibilities?

The Public Sector Equality Duty (created under the Equality Act 2010) from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, which applies to all schools in the UK, requires schools to:

  • Eliminate discrimination (including on the grounds of sexual orientation)
  • Advance equality of opportunity
  • Foster good relationships between different groups of pupils

The Equality Act explains that having due regard for advancing equality involves:

  • Removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics
  • Taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people
  • Encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low

You can practice this duty by ensuring that you challenge homophobic remarks if and when you hear them in the classroom (for example, pupils saying “that’s so gay”, trying to insult a boy by calling him “girly”, etc). This can feel uncomfortable to approach, but once you start, your pupils will quickly learn what is and isn’t appropriate or acceptable.

In the UK, almost half (45%) of LGBT students report being bullied for their perceived differences, and this type of bullying has significant effects on educational attainment, absence levels and emotional wellbeing. A survey carried out by the Government Equalities Office found that only 21% of LGBT respondents recalled there being discussion of sexual orientation, gender identity or both at school. By including LGBT topics in your classrooms and teaching, you can make these students feel welcomed and safe, and improve their attainment at school.

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