It’s at least a couple of weeks into term and things are probably looking quite different. Perhaps you’re running a recovery curriculum, adapting the existing curriculum, or continuing to run remote learning for students who aren’t able to come back to school yet. Almost everyone seems to be adapting to staggered start and break times - necessary, of course, to ensure the safety of students and the only way to maintain “bubbles”.
The existence of these bubbles, the lack of a shared lunchtime, and current government guidance on after school clubs means lunchtime clubs right now are a no-go. And lunch is by far the most common time of day to hold LGBT+ student groups (GSAs, or Pride Groups, as we know them). Many educators have told me that their Pride Group is for now, on pause.
Wellbeing is our guiding light
Everyone is sensitive to their students’ wellbeing needs right now, and you’ll already be aware that for some LGBT+ young people, coming back means much more than just a welcome change of scenery. It can mean being around people who accept them, and hopefully celebrate them, for who they are. Time and time again at Just Like Us, we hear about how a sense of community and belonging are vital to positive wellbeing.
Lockdown, and the restrictions brought in response to coronavirus, have been tough on LGBT+ young people in particular. Research by UCL and Sussex University has found that around a sixth of the LGBT+ people who responded to their survey “had faced discrimination during the pandemic because of their sexuality”. This doubled among those living in homes where they were not able to be out. Younger trans and non-binary people reported suffering more discrimination and the highest levels of depression.
Now students are back in school you can make sure that regardless of what is happening elsewhere in their daily life, they have a supportive community they can turn to. There is a significant body of evidence suggesting that Pride Groups can reduce the effects and prevalence of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Students at schools in the USA with GSAs report reductions in school-based victimisation, lower risk of suicide and depression, less absenteeism and increased likelihood of teachers making positive statements about LGBT+ people than those without (we’ve done the reading: here, here, here and here).
What do Pride Groups do which improves student wellbeing? Research suggests there are several ways, including the development of positive and supportive friendships, helping students to feel more connected to their school, learning more about their own and others’ identities, generating hope, giving students a sense of ownership over their own lives and reinforcing the message that their thoughts and feelings are normal (read more here and here).
We asked the school staff in our Pride Group Community last year to let us know what they saw as the biggest difference the group made to their students, and what they told us exemplifies how wide-ranging the effects are:
The results read:
Peer support 87.88%
Provide a safe space in the school 84.85%
Make friends 81.82%
Understand their own identity better 78.79%
Learn more about the LGBT+ community 75.76%
Improve ability to discuss sexual orientation and gender 63.64%
Feel able to be out amongst friends 63.64%
Discover role models 60.61%
Help them to be able to explain better their own identity 57.58%
Feel able to be out in general 45.45%
Improve engagement with school work 21.21%
Feel able to be out with family 15.15%
Improve attendance 3.03%
It can be done, and we can help
So it would be a huge loss not to run a group for your LGBT+ students and their allies this academic year. You’re probably now adept at using a remote learning platform - the perfect tool for continuing the group. Whether students are in the same bubble or not, getting your group online means they can continue to link up and maintain a precious sense of community.
It’s different - we know. It’s not the way you’d imagine your LGBT+ student group running. But the alternative is that the group doesn’t run at all.
Just Like Us can save you time
We know you have a lot to do, as well, there may be a hundred other ways you need to safeguard students and take care of their wellbeing right now. That’s why we have made our materials as easy to use as possible, including not just guidance and training opportunities, but plenty of ready-to-go resources and templates.
Just Like Us Pride Groups Online will be going strong in 2020-21, and we can’t wait to make it happen.
Whatever else is happening with your extracurriculars, make sure Pride Groups Online is in your plans for this year. Find out more and join today.