A week open to everyone

Inscape House School is a special school located in Stockport and caters for pupils from 5-19 as part of The Together Trust, supporting young people with autism. The school has worked with Just Like Us for a number of years across multiple programmes, including Pride Groups and School Diversity Week. Stéphane, a teacher who has worked with us for over a year, writes below about his school’s experience.

To say this school year has been a challenge, no matter where you teach or the age of your pupils, is an understatement! In the run up to this year’s School Diversity Week we had to reintroduce bubbles and move some learning to Teams. However, that’s what made this week so special and important to run as we can celebrate and normalise differences, no matter what restrictions are in place.

Just Like Us has been a great source of support to me over the last few years. At Inscape House, we’ve really been focusing on equality and inclusion since I was inspired to do more following an LGBT+ educator’s conference where the organisation was mentioned. What motivated us to get involved, not just with School Diversity Week but Just Like Us’ wider offer is the sheer amount of things we can do! School Diversity Week 2021 was no exception and some of the ways we engaged with their toolkit of resources this year were:

  • Running assemblies using their template slides, making sure we reached everyone across our school community

  • Making use of lesson plans and content such as in our Food Technology classes to make amazing rainbow treats and LGBT+ essentials with older pupils to learn about the different parts of the LGBT+ community

  • Tuning in to the daily masterclasses on lots of different subjects and talking about them as a group

  • Personally, I made use of primary aged materials with my own class including the story of Prince Henry and learning about the rainbow flag

I love how easy it is to access Just Like Us resources as an educator. As both an all-through and special school we needed something which we can differentiate and is appropriate for all ages and abilities. Though we are a small school of around 100 pupils, all with autism and additional needs, it’s really easy to pick up and run any resource from Early Years to GCSE level. If needed, we can adapt resources to suit us; there’s lots of direction in the lesson plans and I know I can drop the Just Like Us team an email if needed.

Due to COVID I’ve only been spending 50% of my time in the school building so having a toolkit of resources and guidance on-hand makes organising a week like this really easy under the current circumstances. Of course, many of you reading this will also have experienced COVID issues this year that may have changed your own plans - well, you’re not alone! We had originally planned for a Pride party, a bake sale and a sports day event to go along with our in-class work but it just wasn’t feasible to do in a way everyone could be safe. However, that’s what makes it so important to run whatever activities you can as this week really is a celebration.

It’s not just our Pride Group pupils who have benefited from School Diversity Week but the wider community. I’ve noticed that since we have been involved, pupils have become more active in wanting to tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia as well as raising awareness more generally for staff. This positivity has trickled down; pupils have more confidence to be themselves and some have even felt able to come out. I think weeks like this have been a huge part in helping staff learn more about LGBT+ identities.

I’ve been working with Just Like Us on their Pride Groups’ programme for two years and I know that not every LGBT+ pupil will come to meetings. However, but School Diversity Week allows us to reach everyone and normalise being LGBT+. It was also great to have a group like this during the week as we were able to use all their wonderful creative creations, such as posters, across the school.

It’s also been wonderful to see the school and wider trust prioritise inclusion and diversity; should it go ahead (fingers crossed!) the trust will march in this year’s Manchester Pride parade. We’re very excited to continue to build on all our hard work as a school, trust and community. It’s been wonderful that not only do we have the support of SLT but our head has made sure that School Diversity Week is on our school timetable well in advance. I’m lucky that I’ve been given reassurances that I’ll have time to properly plan next year’s event!

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