As a headteacher, I know how vital it is for all pupils to experience LGBT+ inclusion at school
Marie Greenhalgh is head of Inclusion College.
“Are you LGBT+ friendly at this college? Because I am trans and I haven’t found places very accepting before.” This was a question from a student visiting our college for the first time, a question that broke my heart and that he shouldn’t have needed to ask. That is why, as headteacher, I make sure that we celebrate School Diversity Week at Inclusion College.
Just Like Us’ Positive Futures report finds support is key to LGBT+ young people’s success as adults. LGBT+ young adults are already at a disadvantage compared to their non-LGBT+ peers, but those from unsupportive school and home backgrounds are four times as likely to feel ashamed of being LGBT+ and half as likely to feel good about themselves. They are also more than twice as likely to have experienced panic attacks, had suicidal thoughts, and to have self-harmed.
School Diversity Week gives us the opportunity to support, educate and, probably most important to me, celebrate people. Just people. I am an ally and it is essential to me that anything I am putting in place at the college isn’t done from my perspective and experiences as a cisgender, straight person, but gives people from the LGBT+ community a voice. And let me just say, they are all different! One person’s journey isn’t necessarily another’s, and that deserves respect and understanding.
Our college is a student-led environment, and often they have had past negative experiences of education. By putting young people at the heart of it, by giving them a voice and hearing that voice, we see them re-engaging with learning, with the future, and with the wider world. We have a wide range of student ambassadors: Listeners, Peer Behaviour Leads, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT), and LGBT+. Our Student Voice panel is integral to the college, they ensure that we are listening to their experiences and making the changes they need to see.
Our college is based on the values of kindness, respect, safety and empathy. By empathy I mean feeling the feelings of other people — “You’re in pain and I feel your pain, I feel empathy toward you”. We firmly believe that part of feeling empathy is being a good ally.
We are celebrating School Diversity Week again this year from 26 – 30 June, and our LGBT+ student ambassadors have been busy planning!
They have designed a LGBT+ box and set it out at the college, for people to ask any questions or make any positive comments and pop them the box. Our LGBT+ Ambassadors will then be answering them.
We will be also using the amazing resources from Just Like Us, and doing activities including:
- Standalone sessions that will run throughout the week, including how to be a good ally
- A range of group sessions covering LGBT+ topics
- Using curriculum resources for across all subjects and key stages
- Ending the week with ‘Rainbow Friday’ and dressing in our brightest rainbow colours to show support for LGBT+ people and equality
- Using the display materials and posters to create inclusive spaces for students, and our own student work as well of course!
I highly recommend that all teachers sign up for School Diversity Week so that they don’t miss the opportunity to show support to their LGBT+ pupils, students and staff, and show them they are accepted, celebrated and safe. Educate yourselves, educate your pupils and students, your staff, and shout about it.
Let’s make this world a more inclusive place, and have a lot of fun doing it!