One in five teachers is uncomfortable discussing LGBT+ topics with pupils, research finds

by Just Like Us
November 2021

A teacher writing on a whiteboard

One in five (17%) teachers in the UK say they’re uncomfortable discussing LGBT+ topics with their pupils, new independent research by charity Just Like Us has found – 18 years since Section 28 was repealed in England and Wales.

Only a third (29%) of teachers are ‘completely comfortable’ talking about lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans topics in the classroom the poll of 6,179 primary and secondary teachers found, despite recent government guidance reinforcing the need to include LGBT+ topics in schools.

Primary school teachers are even less comfortable with discussing LGBT+ topics at school, with 19% saying they are uncomfortable and only 25% ‘completely comfortable’, despite OFSTED requiring primary schools to include different types of families – such as lesbian mums or gay dads – in lessons.

The independent poll asked primary and secondary school teachers ‘How comfortable do you feel discussing LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) topics with your pupils?’ and 29% responded ‘completely comfortable’, 52% ‘mostly comfortable’, 14% ‘not very comfortable’, 3% ‘completely uncomfortable’ and 2% ‘not relevant/cannot answer’.

The survey, commissioned by Just Like Us – the LGBT+ young people’s charity – and carried out independently by Teacher Tapp surveyed 6,179 primary and secondary school teachers across the UK.

Dominic Arnall, Chief Executive of Just Like Us, said: “Today marks 18 years since Section 28 was repealed in England yet clearly things have not changed as much as we like to think and, as a result, growing up LGBT+ is still unacceptably tough.

“We don’t blame teachers for feeling uncomfortable – they may not have had the resources or personal life experiences – but all you need is a willingness to support your pupils and Just Like Us can help provide lesson plans, assemblies, talks and training so that you feel confident discussing LGBT+ topics with your pupils.

“When so many teachers say they’re uncomfortable discussing LGBT+ topics, such as mentioning that some families have lesbian mums, this has serious knock-on effects for LGBT+ young people’s wellbeing and mental health, who are currently twice as likely to be bullied and have depression. Having silence around LGBT+ topics only results in shame, stigma and students feeling that they don’t belong in school.

“It is essential the government provide support and clear guidance for schools on supporting LGBT+ young people.

“We need to work together to improve the lives of LGBT+ young people so that young people don’t leave school feeling ashamed or depressed about who they are.”

Just Like Us provides free LGBT+ inclusive resources to primary and secondary schools across the UK.