Out and about
Since the infamous Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act, which forbade local authorities from "intentionally promoting homosexuality", there has been much anxiety and misunderstanding among teachers as to whether they are even allowed to mention the subject at all in classrooms.
A Department of the Environment circular later that year stated that "Section 28 does not affect the activities of school governors nor of teachers. It will not prevent the objective discussion of homosexuality in the classroom nor the counselling of pupils concerned about their sexuality." But six years on, how many schools are hoping the issue will go away if they continue to do nothing about it?
One of the few organisations in the UK to grasp the nettle and produce materials aiming "to raise awareness of the issues of homosexuality and homophobia" is Kirklees Curriculum Support and Development Service in West Yorkshire. Made with the approval of Kirklees local authority and the participation of students at the University of Huddersfield, Pride or Prejudice? sets out to inform young people at key stage 4 about what it's like to be young and gay in today's society and to challenge homophobic attitudes.
Fast-moving, with good use of graphics and music, the video features several young gay men and lesbians talking about how they realised they were gay, religious attitudes, coming out, homophobia and how it can be dealt with, as well as stereotypes of gay people. Parents' views are represented too and there is a long list of famous gay people from history and the present day. But why were there only five lesbians to 27 gay men? Hardly fair.
The teaching materials include tried and tested activities for use with young people. These are good, although the teachers' notes are rather brief.
Teachers using this material need to be confident and comfortable with the issues, which could well mean more reading and possibly in-service training or, at the very least, proper discussion and planning with colleagues.
I'd like to see lots of 14 to 16-year-olds viewing this video and thinking about the issues. As one young woman in it says, "we can't afford to go down the road of more conflict and broken lives".