At Educate & Celebrate we are always talking about the lifesaving importance of an LGBT+Friendly education. Recently released research shows us that LGBT+ people are being failed by the systems that claim to protect, serve and defend. The Women and Equalities Committee report on Transgender Equality (January 2016) concluded that trans+ people are being failed at basic, systemic levels, and The Evening Standard's troubling figures on hate crimes (April 2016) highlighted the increase in reports of homophobic and transphobic attacks even though the numbers of prosecutions are falling. Amidst all of the hand wringing and honest concern, there's real alarm that these reports seem only to comment on inequality, and do little by way of action. Something does need to be done, and what's the fix? It's simple: EDUCATION
Of course, simple isn't the same as easy. It's no surprise in a world dominated by white cisheteronormative representation that visibility is sorely lacking for everybody else. The truth is that making environments truly inclusive is about so much more than putting up the odd token poster and attending pride events - although that's a good start! Over the past year the Educate & Celebrate programme has, thanks to a grant from the Department for Education, extended into another 60 schools (primary and secondary) across the country who now have the skills and support in place to make sure that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is challenged, corrected and ultimately eradicated. Early evaluations show there have been no reported HBT bullying incidents in the last term. This has been possible as we have shown teachers and staff how to create a comfortable environment for young people to learn about their rights and responsibilities, allowing a new generation of enlightened, compassionate people who will be in the perfect position to affect real change.
How do we know this? It's clear from the NATCEN Social Research evidence 2014 that a whole school approach is more effective. We advocate this as the number one way to take the message of inclusivity out of the hypothetical into actual, measureable change. By teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation as facets of human experience, children, parents and teachers learn how to talk to one another about important issues. In every school and in every environment, this opening up of dialogue turns confusion, fear and ignorance into something truly inclusive. In our experience, this works in all schools, for all people!
Teachers and pupils tackle challenging subject matter like 'hate-crime' and stereotyping head on. A group of Year 6 pupils frankly discussed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues with appropriate respect and maturity. These opportunities are enabling positive social, moral and cultural development.
Ofsted Report, 2016
While the world continues to fragment, inclusivity remains powerful, crossing both religious and political lines. We've found the work accomplished in faith schools to be the best example of this - two of this year's best practice schools identify as 99% Muslim, and have celebrated the diverse expressions of sexual orientation and gender identity that are present in the UK. It's this kind of grass roots, hands on, intersectional approach that really serves to make a difference - all our schools report a more embracing atmosphere, where children feel safer and empowered. As with all activism, if even one life can be improved then the work is worth it, but as more and more troubling statistics are revealed, it's clear how vital this work continues to be.