Primary school teacher and Pride Group win Just Like Us’ 2021 Role Model Awards

by Just Like Us
February 2022

LGBT+ Inclusive Teacher of the Year Nicola Collins, winner of Just Like Us' Role Model Awards 2021

A London primary school teacher and students who formed a Pride Group in their Essex secondary school are both winners of Just Like Us’ 2021 Role Model Awards, after paving the way for LGBT+ inclusion in their schools.

The awards follow independent research by Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity, that found LGBT+ school pupils are twice as likely to be bullied and experience suicidal thoughts. The report also found that schools having positive messaging about being LGBT+ is linked to school pupils having better mental health and wellbeing, regardless of whether they are LGBT+ or not.

Nicola Collins, a teacher at St Stephen’s CofE primary School in west London, has been awarded LGBT+ Inclusive Teacher of the Year after transforming her school into a safe and inclusive environment for all her pupils, including those who have LGBT+ families. 

“As a gay teacher with children, I talk about my family as a workshop for each year group and share my own experiences of growing up gay and the challenges it brought. Also how they, as the next generation, have the ability to change our world for the better,” Nicola Collins said.

Nicola Collins (she/her), Winner of LGBT+ Inclusive Teacher of the Year 2021

“In key stage 2, we cover the above along with challenging stereotypes, gender identity and vocabulary used within the LGBTQ+ community. We also hold a rainbow dress up day. Reception also held a mini Pride Day this year! 

“As a school, we feel passionate about challenging stereotypes and homophobic language. As a result, the children in our school are well informed and accepting of all people no matter who they are!”

Alison Ollett, a drama teacher at Plume, Maldon’s Community Academy in Essex, has helped set up a safe place for LGBT+ and ally pupils to go to in their lunch breaks with help from Just Like Us’ Pride Groups programme. They are the winners of Outstanding Pride Group.

Their Pride Group has been incredibly popular, with over 60 pupils choosing to join and regularly attending to meet their LGBT+ peers and work together to make positive change in their school.

Alison Ollett (she/her) whose school won Outstanding Pride Group

“The request for a Pride Group came directly from our students. It was the natural step on our LGBT+ inclusion journey,” she explains.

“With over 60 students in our Pride Group, they are an outstanding bunch of young people. Their enthusiasm and passion to make real change for not only our school community but the wider community is second to none. 

“They support each other and encourage their peers to be their authentic selves. I am so proud of our Plume Pride Group students.”

“Plume Pride also offers a space for students to seek support from staff, since holding regular meetings many of our trans students have been able to start their social transition. Many of our LGB+ students have received support on coming out and this has help them build relationships with their parents. 

“We offer family support too, so Plume Pride staff can sit as student advocates in parent meetings where conversation about gender identity or sexual orientation are more difficult. 

“Just Like Us has helped us so much. Whether it be setting out the ground rules or code of conduct, session content or their big event support they are our rock! We are pretty confident we know what we are doing in our Pride Group meetings but our students keep us busy so having the resources and advice to have from Just Like Us is excellent.”

Just Like Us is the LGBT+ young people’s charity. Their 2021 Role Model Awards, supported by J.P. Morgan, celebrates excellence in LGBT+ inclusion in primary schools, secondary schools and colleges across the UK.

Runners Up for Outstanding Pride Group are Brinsworth Academy in Rotherham, Yorkshire, and Blackpool Sixth Form College.

Runners Up for LGBT+ Inclusive Teacher of the Year are Neil Wilson at Waterhead Academy in Oldham, Manchester, and Natalie Chyba at Howell’s School in Cardiff, Wales.

Dominic Arnall, Chief Executive of Just Like Us, said: “We are delighted to celebrate the hard work of so many incredible school staff – and young people – who are paving the way for LGBT+ inclusion in their schools, including through all the challenges of the pandemic.

“Congratulations and a huge thank you to our winners, runners up and all school staff who entered and are making positive change in their schools so that LGBT+ young people can thrive, and showing that you don’t need to be an expert to make your school more LGBT+ inclusive.

“At a time when LGBT+ school pupils are twice as likely to be bullied and contemplate suicide, it is vital that they get positive messaging about being LGBT+ so they don’t leave school feeling ashamed of who they are and we are so grateful to teachers ensuring that the future looks different for them.”

Brad Baumoel, global head of LGBT+ Affairs for JPMorgan Chase, which has sponsored the awards, said: “At JPMorgan Chase, we are proud to support Just Like Us, leaders in LGBT+ inclusion for young people in the UK, building safer school environments for LGBT+ youth, and celebrating the teachers and allies who create safer spaces.”