Only a third of LGBT+ teachers think a colleague would be comfortable coming out

by Just Like Us
October 2022

A teacher writing on a whiteboard in an article about LGBT+ teachers

Many LGBT+ teachers feel uncomfortable at the prospect of coming out at school, according to independent research by Just Like Us.

The Growing up LGBT+ report, which surveyed school staff as well as pupils, found that more than one third (37%) of LGBT+ staff think that a colleague would feel comfortable coming out as LGBT+ at their school.

This is considerably less than the 51% of non-LGBT+ school staff who think a colleague would be comfortable coming out in school.

A further one in four (43%) LGBT+ teachers in UK schools said they were not sure whether a colleague would feel comfortable coming out at work.

The study also found that more than half (56%) of LGBT+ staff would like support on tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

More than half (54%) of LGBT+ teachers also called for support on LGBT+ inclusion in the wider curriculum. And 50% said they would like support on transgender inclusion specifically.

The research comes from Just Like Us’ Growing Up LGBT+ report, an independent study of 2,934 pupils aged 11-18 (1,140 of whom were LGBT+) and 513 teachers (142 of whom were LGBT+) across the UK, carried out between December 2020 and January 2021.

Visibility of LGBT+ teachers

The report also looked at the visibility of LGBT+ teachers in schools.

While half (52%) of LGBT+ pupils said that seeing other LGBT+ students and staff around school makes the most positive difference to their daily life at school, they said they were often unsure if there were LGBT+ staff members.

Two thirds (68%) of LGBT+ pupils said they didn’t know if any staff members at their school had come out as LGBT+. 

Staff were more likely than pupils to know if any of their colleagues are out as LGBT+, and LGBT+ staff members were even more likely still. 

The study found that gay staff are most visible, with 51% of staff saying there are gay staff members who are out at their school or college. This was most closely followed by lesbian staff (42%). 

Bisexual staff are almost five times less likely to be out than gay staff members (11%), and transgender staff even less likely still (8%).

A teacher speaking to a classroom in an article on LGBT+ teachers
More than half (54%) of LGBT+ teachers also called for support on LGBT+ inclusion in the wider curriculum. (Credit: Pexels)

Barriers to LGBT+ inclusion in schools

In addition, the research found that time and funding were the biggest obstacles for schools when it came to putting LGBT+ initiatives in place.

Half of LGBT+ staff said that a lack of time is most likely to prevent them from running an LGBT+ initiative, compared with 35% of non-LGBT+ staff. More than a quarter (28%) of LGBT+ staff reporting that money was an issue.

LGBT+ staff were also more likely to report that individuals are a barrier to implementing LGBT+ initiatives in school.

Some 14% of LGBT+ staff identified parents and carers as a barrier, compared to 10% of non-LGBT+ staff. A third (31%) of LGBT+ staff said that their colleagues and school board were a barrier to doing LGBT+ inclusion work with their pupils.

However, more recent research shows that 82% of UK parents are supportive of LGBT+ inclusive education.

Free, ready-to-go LGBT+ resources available for schools

Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity, provides free LGBT+ inclusive resources for primary and secondary schools.

The ready-to-go resources are available as part of School Diversity Week – the annual celebration of LGBT+ equality in primary and secondary schools.

Just Like Us’ resources are made by teachers, for teachers. They cover all key stages and subjects – sign up to access the free resources.