The Co-op Academy Swinton is an all-genders state school in Salford, with 800 students from ages 11 to 16.
I work as a lab technician at the school, and I’ve been here for the last two years. In the school, pupils are quite understanding, but the word ‘that’s gay’ is still used. Even though we’re near Manchester, there’s still stigma if you’re LGBT+ and prejudice is still a problem.
We had some training last July - two people from The Proud Trust came to the school to speak to us about LGBT+ and key terms, vocab, and ask how LGBT+ people felt in school. The students said they had no safe place and they didn’t have anyone to speak to. It was a shock and it made me think we needed to do something now.
We started the group in September, hoping to help LGBT+ pupils and allies. Last year at the end of the year I received an email from SLT to ask if anyone wanted to help with the LGBT+ club. I offered to give a hand and now I run the club!
In September we did promotion at open evening. We started the project in line with something called ‘Envision’, an initiative which encourages everyone to do a project to change something in school. To get some evidence together to show the need for the group, we made a survey. It included questions around understanding what LGBT+ means, should LGBT+ be included in SRE, did students think we needed group, and how can the school improve and be more inclusive. The whole school did the survey and it really helped us in moving things forward.
We meet every Friday lunchtime for 35 minutes. We watch videos, do quizzes, and have lots of discussions! In January we did an assembly which focussed on stopping homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language. A range of students come, mostly from year seven to eleven. I try to give the pupils as much ownership as possible, although I am still chasing them a lot - be prepared to do this even if they’re leading it!
A challenge has been trying to get staff to challenge homophobic language all around school. I’ve personally been anxious about pupils coming to the club who might make fun of me - I need to feel like it’s a safe space too. But there hasn’t been anything to worry about, as the school has been really supportive, and they are glad that I’m learning from the group and using that knowledge.
One moment which really showed me that all the effort is worth it happened one day when I was on duty. One of the pupils came to find me and asked for my advice on coming out to his mum. I was able to use the knowledge from the research and training I’d had. It’s so worth it to know that they trust me, and they are able to use that trusting relationship to make breakthroughs in their family lives. The conversation with his mum went really well, and I was glad to have had a small part in that.