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7 steps to making your school more LGBTQ+ inclusive

On the first day of LGBT History Month, one teacher explains how schools can support their LGBTQ+ students and staff this February and beyond

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On the first day of LGBT History Month, one teacher explains how schools can support their LGBTQ+ students and staff this February and beyond

Figures from the charity Stonewall show that nearly half of LGBTQ+ pupils are bullied in our schools. While some schools are leading the way to actively support their LGBT staff and pupils, as minister for school standards Nick Gibb has said, “there's still a long way to go”.

So, here are seven ways to make your school more LGBTQ+ inclusive.

1. Celebrate LGBT History Month

LGBT History Month is celebrated every February with more than 1,000 events organised up and down the country. Many schools hold assemblies, have discussions in tutor time or run events that students can get involved with. LGBT History Month is a step in the right direction towards creating a more inclusive environment, but February only comes once a year…

2. ‘Usualise’ LGBTQ+ people

As practitioners, there is a simple step we can take to make out lessons more inclusive – what the organisation School’s Out calls "usualising". While "usualising" won’t be found in a dictionary, it is much less problematic than the word "normalising". Let’s face it: what is normal, anyway?

Usualising is about integrating LGBTQ+ representation into the curriculum – whether in the images we use, the questions we write or simply using the words "lesbian", "gay", "bisexual" and "trans" to describe people. Usualising is not about tokenism, but about students feeling represented in the curriculum and seeing positive modelling of inclusivity from all teachers. For more ideas about how to make what you are already teaching more inclusive look at The Classroom, Educate and Celebrate and The Proud Trust.

3. Change your school environment

Creating an inclusive environment not only supports LGBTQ+ staff and pupils, but opens up space for healthy conversations about gender and sexuality in school. Stonewall’s free posters are a great way to make your classroom and hallways more inclusive. Displays in corridors could feature inspirational LGBTQ+ people. You could also stock up your library with collections of LGBTQ+ inclusive texts.

4. Offer staff CPD

Staff CPD is vital if we are going to create truly inclusive schools. Inclusivity training gives teachers the tools we need to make all of our students feel safe and supported in school. Educate and Celebrate provide excellent training aimed at both primary and secondary schools.

5. Challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language

All teachers, without fail, need to challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language and bullying. Consider if your school has policies in place which explicitly support LGBTQ+ staff and pupils. Guidance on challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language can be found in Stonewall’s guide, here.

6. Forget gender stereotypes

Research suggests that gender stereotypes not only harm those who do not conform to them, but also harm those who do. Gender stereotyping by teachers, whether intentional or not, can have negative impacts on aspirations, behaviour and attainment, especially among boys. Research by the director of the IOE, Becky Francis, suggests that challenging gender stereotypes can have a positive impact on all students and create a more inclusive learning environment.

7. Get your students involved

Our students are the future, so let’s hand the baton over to them. Forming LGBTQ+ groups can be a great way for students and allies to promote and celebrate diversity in schools and build confidence and leadership skills. Last year, for example, students from the Pride Youth Network proudly marched alongside Teach First and the NUT teaching union at London pride.

James Bennett is a teacher of English at Holloway School in North London and a volunteer with the organisation Schools Out

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