We invited authors Elly Barnes and Olly Pike onto the JKP podcast to talk about best practice for teachers who want to make their schools LGBT+ friendly places, for LGBT History Month and beyond!

Elly Barnes is the CEO and founder of the charity, Educate & Celebrate, an organisation that works with schools to transform their curriculum and environment to be LGBT+ inclusive. She is also the co-author of How to Transform Your School into an LGBT+ Friendly Place.

Olly Pike is the founder of Pop’n’Olly, an online LGBT+ education resource for parents, teachers and children, and the author of many kids’ books, including The Prince and the Frog, that teach children about diversity and same-sex relationships.

Listen to the podcast here.

Or read the main take-outs from our discussion below:

What are the most common challenges that teachers face and how can these be overcome?

  • The hangover of Section 28. Older teachers will remember the limitations placed on them, as they weren’t allowed to talk about LGBT issues in class. It’s important to let teachers and staff know that they are allowed to discuss LGBT issues – via The 2010 Equality Act.
  • It can be difficult to embed an ethos of cohesion without any prior experience. It can be helpful to start with ‘quick wins’ like language…
  • Eradicating gendered and heteronormative language. E.g. ‘I need two strong boys to come and help me.’
  • Gender segregation in classrooms – remove gendered coat pegs and drawers.
  • ‘Usualising’* identities. There is no such thing as normal. Let pupils know that there are other options available, beyond societal ‘norms.’

Should teachers tell parents that the curriculum will be LGBT+ inclusive?

  • Remember that from 2020, it will be the law for all schools to teach a LGBT+ inclusive curriculum. Teachers don’t notify parents of a new syllabus for other subjects, like geography or history, and this shouldn’t be the case for LGBT+ issues. You do not need to consult parents.
  • However, it can be beneficial for teachers to have an open dialogue with parents, but LGBT topics should not be singled out. Share the entire syllabus, not just the LGBT books.
  • Schools could ensure that all the policies they must follow are easily accessible online, for parents to read. Misinformation is the root of unrest, so they should be able to access the correct information easily. This includes the Equality Act, but also Uniform policy, Anti-Bullying policy etc.
  • It is teachers’ roles as educators to ensure that children un-learn any homophobic or transphobic behaviours. Sometimes it is the teachers’ role to educate parents too.

How can teachers cut out homophobic or transphobic language in schools?

  • Try to make the environment gender neutral.
  • Make sure pupils aren’t segregated for learning and that everyone learns about everything e.g. all pupils learn about periods.

Uniform policy = a quick win

  • An easy first step for schools – update your uniform policy to allow all students to wear the uniform they feel most comfortable in.
  • “Students in our school can wear… trousers, skirts, shirts, blouses etc”
  • Allowing pupils to be comfortable in the classroom gets the best out of them.
  • This can be life-changing for the % of pupils that don’t fit in with gender stereotypes.

Next step = policies

  • Ensure all teachers and staff have read your school’s policies. Yes, they’re boring, but they’re there to keep everyone safe.
  • Make sure teachers know that they have legal back-up to talk about LGBT+ issues in class.

Yes, it can seem like a mammoth task to implement across the whole school

  • This won’t happen in an afternoon, but baby steps are completely fine. It will take time to change the culture.
  • Schools must aim to be inclusive the whole year round. Start with key annual touchpoints like LGBT History Month or Pride, but then roll it out to include LGBT material every month.
  • Inclusion is for ALL subject areas.
  • Increase LGBT visibility – make sure your school looks LGBT inclusive through welcome signs and banners. “In our school, we welcome everyone!” and list the 9 protected characteristics from the Equality Act.

How can teachers get students involved in making their schools more inclusive?

  • Drop-in coffee mornings hosted by students for parents are an effective way to calm any concerns that parents might have.

What options are there for Faith schools?

  • Faith schools may think that LGBT+ isn’t ‘for them’ but only the RE lessons are judged by the diocese and all other subjects will need to adhere to Ofsted and be LGBT+ inclusive from 2020.
  • Protected characteristics aren’t hierarchical – faith cannot usurp gender identity or sexuality. They must all be observed equally.
  • Church of England and Jewish schools already have guidance for schools available.
  • Other faith schools should look out for the guidance from Educate & Celebrate.

Any advice for teachers who identify as LGBT+ but are unsure whether to come out to colleagues?

  • It can be life-changing for you and your pupils if you come out to them – you can be the role model that many will need.
  • We need to encourage young people to be who they are.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable being out at school, why? What are the underlying issues here? Are you not supported by leadership?

How to be an ally if you’re not LGBT+?

  • Be informed and educated. Get the information you need before you start (from our books, online resources.)
  • Just do it!

‘How To Transform Your School into an LGBT+ Friendly Place’ is available now, and is a great place to start for primary and secondary school teachers looking to make changes immediately.

‘The Prince and the Frog’ can be used in nursery and primary settings, to teach children about same-sex relationships and the importance of being yourself and embracing diversity.

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Listen to more audio on the JKP  podcast here.

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