Jonathan Charlesworth, author of How to Stop Homophobic and Biphobic Bullying, writes about ways in which schools can start responding to and solving LGBT+ issues, even during the disruptions of lockdown.
We’re halfway through LGBT History Month 2021. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Government for the funding it has donated to help organisations such as Educational Action Challenging Homophobia (EACH) challenge homophobic, biphobic or transphobic (HBT) school bullying through our training delivered and resources created. As this funding stream draws to its close it’s noteworthy that Diversity Role Models produces a survey into HBT bullying, reflecting that we’ve yet to fully conquer these forms of bullying in our schools – you can read about this here.
Many schools benefited from the interventions of the organisations with whom they worked. Some will have done much and very successfully whilst others, overwhelmed by such things as ‘Prevent’ or bespoke social problems particular to a school which beset even some of our ‘outstanding’ schools, couldn’t. Three lockdowns and schools only being open to a limited number of pupils has created an exceptional set of challenges for schools and their staff. This has made headway concerning issues such as support provision for pupils ‘coming out’ as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans or revising policy to put in place strategies to challenge HBT bullying that much more difficult.
Even in ‘normal’ times there are any number of reasons why there just isn’t the bandwidth available to Governors, Heads, their senior leadership team and the rest of the staff to know instinctively how to recognise, stop and prevent HBT bullying. So if you and your young people’s school are looking for ideas, Educational Action Challenging Homophobia has been working with the Criminal Justice, Health and Education systems since 2003. I’ve delivered training to schools and worked with children since 1985.
Take a look at our website where you’ll find my new book, How To Stop Homophobic & Biphobic Bullying: A Practical Whole-School Approach. This is my follow-up to That’s So Gay! Challenging Homophobic Bullying published in 2015 in response to the complete overhaul of Relationship and Sex Education and all the changes in legislation between then and now. It’s as much a book about supporting lesbian, gay or bisexual young people who come out or are questioning their sexuality as it is about homophobic and biphobic bullying. Following the repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 and ever since I co-wrote Safe To Learn: Homophobic Bullying with Stonewall back in 2006 there’s been a steady increase in the number of resources and guidance published and upon which schools may capitalise.
Also via our website you can order a whole-school set of lesson plans and guidance in a digital download called “Inspiring Equality In Education”. We’ve also a 13 film DVD with teachers’ notes: the Reach Teaching Resource plus Safe Space Stickers, posters to prompt discussion around HBT bullying. We’ve also a really popular Glossary explaining the terms describing sexuality and gender identity.
The vocabulary and language we use in schools (and elsewhere) when we talk to and about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people is important. When we ‘get this right’ we indicate to others we are empathetic, that we understand and are a source of reliable help. We might not have all the answers but we’re going to make the best job of helping someone who seeks our counsel or support. The world of LGBT+ matters is growing increasingly complex as each generation brings its own ideas about identity into our schools. If you’d welcome a training or consultancy session on sexual orientation or gender identity matters just head across to the EACH website and get in touch.
There’s plenty of material to choose from and any number of providers who can deliver staff training, lead Pupil Engagement Sessions to consult with your children and young people which in turn can inform your policy’s revision and hopefully build upon your school or college’s current practice to make it not only be a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans young people but feel like one to them too.
Jonathan Charlesworth M.Ed. ¦ Executive Director ¦ Educational Action Challenging Homophobia