Marie is the Head of Humanities and CPRE at Gilbert Inglefield school in Leighton Buzzard. Gilbert Inglefield is a middle school; children arrive in Year 5 and leave in Year 8. This was Gilbert Inglefield’s first year running School Diversity Week.
I would describe LGBT+ education as a shock to the system for some of our young people. Unless they have travelled, they’re unlikely to have much experience of a particularly diverse society, and within our school we don’t have a huge diversity of backgrounds.
Our week focused on different kinds of diversity, and we had an afternoon session in each of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act, looking at each in a meaningful way and thinking about diversity not just in our classroom, but in the world. We used Just Like Us’ resources to focus on LGBT+ diversity, and we finished the week with Rainbow Day.
We’ve been doing a mixture of online learning and remote learning, making sure our priority is looking after the well-being of our pupils. The remote learning aspect involved more creative activities which parents could help with at home.
Parents make it happen
Parents have been a huge part of making the week a success. We sent them activities like the ‘As and when’ tasks featured in the Home Edition (the version of the School Diversity Week adapted for remote learning), activities on the Stonewall riots and key LGBT+ figures. They made presentations and posters on people who have led positive social change, and made Progress Flag posters too. I loved discovering all the different flags which celebrate different LGBT+ identities!
Naturally, I’d been worried about complaints. To those who are also worried about complaints, I would say don’t let that fear hold you back. We only had one complaint, which I was able to resolve in one phone call.
Questions, questions, questions
The children wanted to talk about these topics in a way I’ve never heard them do before. I’d been really cautious approaching the week because of this aspect - what if they haven’t been talking about it at home? What if they ask tricky questions? And actually, they did have some pretty tricky questions (“is it okay to say queer?”) and some really important ones (“why is it sometimes bad to say gay?”). They opened up about so many things which they’d obviously been wondering, and in the end it turned out that all those tricky questions were answerable, and brilliant to hear. Exhausting, but brilliant.
What advice would I give to a school thinking of running School Diversity Week for the first time?
Throw yourself in at the deep end! This year I took a more cautious approach, including more lesson-based and individual activities. Next year I’ll give the pupils the chance to collaborate more on creative activities, as that was a real hit when we did it this year.
Don’t over-plan. I planned an activity for every hour of the week, but in reality giving more space for a smaller number of key activities would have been more effective.
Seek support from others in your school. I’ve put together a steering committee with other staff. This helps to share the load, but also introduces other people’s experiences - one of my LSA’s is bi, and she brought new ideas to this year’s planning. I’m aiming to get a range of people involved in organising for 2021.
Everyone should do School Diversity Week. It’s been such a fantastic experience and I already have plans for next year. We can’t wait!