FE leaders challenge ‘silence’ on LGBT inclusion

Senior figures from across education and business meet in Parliament to discuss LGBT inclusivity in the skills sector

George Ryan

The event held in Parliament was organised by WorldSkills UK, Tes and PinkNews

The "silence" in the further education sector around inclusivity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and staff must be addressed.

That was the message that came loudly from a roundtable discussion held in the Houses of Parliament today, which explored issues faced by LGBT learners and apprentices, colleges and training providers.

The event, organised by WorldSkills UK in collaboration with Tes and PinkNews, was held as part of LGBT History Month, with the discussion chaired by chair of the Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network (ADCN) and Conservative MP Helen Grant.

Read more: LGBT teachers, don't be afraid to be YOU in the classroom

More news: FE colleges hardly feature in LGBT inclusivity index

Background: 'Role models are important for LGBT youngsters'

The importance of 'storytelling'

Ian Pretty, chief executive of Collab Group, an organisation that represents larger colleges, said there had been a “silence” on LGBT issues that needed to be challenged. Association of Colleges chief executive David Hughes also noted a wider lack of conversation in the public sector about diversity, which argued needed to change.

Jessica Bushell, senior manager for employer engagement strategy at the Department for Education, said that “storytelling” was important in allowing LGBT students and staff to share their experiences, and to highlight some of the challenges they faced in their everyday lives; for example, couples who avoided holding hands in public because they feared for their safety.

Key points that came out of the discussion included:

  • The importance of role models for LGBT young people, and the need to ensure “appropriate” role models were visible across an organisation at all levels.
  • How work between trade unions and employer organisations on LGBT inclusion could have a big impact.
  • Why a data-driven, strategic approach was vital to get a picture of where to target support and highlight gaps in the information that is currently available.
  • The roundtable panel agreeing to meet again at a later date to discuss progress made.
  • The role that local enterprise partnerships, the ADCN and other intermediaries could play to influence small- and medium-sized enterprises in their approaches to LGBT apprentices.
  • The need for more training for staff in education to prompt a cultural shift, and to ensure the psychological and physical safety of LGBT staff and students.


The roundtable panel discussion was organised by Worldskills UK, Tes and PinkNews

  • Helen Grant (chair), Conservative MP and chair of the ADCN
  • Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann, WorldSkills UK chief executive
  • Jessica Bushell, Department for Education senior manager
  • Ori Chandler, WorldSkills UK
  • Ben Cohen, PinkNews founder and chief executive
  • Stephen Exley, Tes FE editor
  • Janet Gardner, Newham College deputy principal
  • Su Gough, apprentice at Lloyds Banking Group
  • Andrew Harden, University and College Union head of FE
  • Jonathan Howe, emerging talent lead at Lloyds Banking Group
  • David Hughes, Association of Colleges chief executive
  • Susan Kitchner, director at People Plus
  • Dr Ann Limb, chair of the Scouts Association and former college principal
  • Mark McBride-Wright, Equal Engineers founder
  • Ian Pretty, Collab Group chief executive
  • Sue Sanders, LGBT History Month founder
  • Mo Wiltshire, Stonewall director of education and youth

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George Ryan

George Ryan

George Ryan is a further education reporter for tes

Find me on Twitter @GeorgeMRyan

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