Goodness me, this has been an interesting few weeks.....
Waking up at 3am on a Sunday morning to find a message from an ex-pupil congratulating me on entering the Independent on Sunday Pink List was an unexpected experience, as was reading that I was 'much nominated' and that pupils had voted for me. The Pink List has its detractors I have since found, but there is no doubting it brings a wider audience to my child centred messages. Words are all I have, therefore any help to spread them is much appreciated.
So if you did vote for me, a heartfelt 'thank you'.
A wonderful and life affirming aspect of the press and online attention my work has received over the past few weeks has been the number of ex pupils who have contacted me to offer support, some state they knew they were different way back when we taught them in primary school. This experience resonates with my own and that of many of my LGBT peers, we knew very early on we were different.
On November 15th I led a training day (kindly the delegates evaluated it as 'outstanding' ) entitled 'Tackling Homophobic Bullying and Language' in my own school. Amongst the delegates were primary, secondary, newly qualified and supply teachers, parent governors and two ex pupils. The contributions of all in attendance were self reflective, constructive and positive. After over two years of outreach work leading up to the training, the presence of two ex pupils who cared passionately about tackling gender stereotyping, homophobic bullying and prejudice really was the icing on the cake. The next training date is March 20th and I hope again to see some familiar faces on the delegate list. Several delegates have since emailed me to tell me they are already driving forward positive change in their own contexts- good on them!
With a raised profile comes the likelihood of distractions and inevitably some hate. Already since the Pink List and the recent Guardian Online article about my work 'Homophobia is the Toughest Nut to Crack' I've wasted precious time fending off hate filled online trolls and negotiating requests and emails from people trying to pull me into political debates; debates which have no direct benefit upon the happiness, safety and life chances of all our children and generations of children to come. Note to myself; keep focussed on the job in hand.
Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a run through of the new Royal Court production 'Hero' by the EV Crowe. The highly talented cast, writer and director visited our school and observed a lesson led by myself around prejudice and the representation of a diverse range of role models (including gay teachers) in schools. Again I must pay tribute to the children, their mature and compassionate attitudes inspired the Royal Court team and EV Crowe enough to add a few additional moments of authenticity, to what is a highly though provoking and courageous piece of writing. To sit in a rehearsal room and see so many words and situations I have lived through brought to life was a moving and cathartic experience and one I shall never forget. How wonderful to have this experience in Anti-Bullying Week.
Children all over the country this week are celebrating their anti-bullying work and learning about the destructive impact of homophobic bullying and other forms of prejudice related bullying and discrimination. There is some fantastic work going on out there and many individuals, organisations and groups are working very hard to make life better for all our children. They deserve a time of focus and celebration, yet as school leaders we must never forget that an anti-bullying ethos must pervade our school communities every minute of every day.
Recently somebody said to me ' You do go on a lot about homophobic bullying don't you?'
'Yes I do' I replied.
Homophobic bullying affects attainment, attendance, mental and physical health and can result in the self harm or suicide of young human beings. It is absolutely clear that homophobic bullying is a child protection issue. I personally believe that any school leader who ignores a child protection issue, because of their own beliefs, their own prejudice, their lack of relevant training, their fear of causing offence or their fear of parental reprisal is laying all of their pupils open to harm.
I know I still have much to learn as a school leader, but I just can't accept that.