Birmingham City Council is taking some radical steps to counter homophobia and transphobia in its schools, including primary schools. This may seem an inappropriate age to speak to students, but only if you do not have the necessary tools and training.
This issue has been highlighted by debates in the last few weeks on the derogatory use of the word 'gay' and also the difficulty teachers have with 'coming out'. Schools OUT has a recipe for success to enable teachers to respond effectively to the issues being raised.
In Birmingham 10% of schools have had specific LGBT-focussed Educate and Celebrate training to enable them to apply appropriate resources, techniques and strategies to educate out prejudice. It is significant that 12 of the 40 schools that have gone through this programme are primary schools as important questions have also arisen over at what age it is appropriate to give information to children about LGBT people.
In response to this specific question, Educate and Celebrate have published a free resource called Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools ('CHIPS') to do just that. CHIPS has been developed by teachers for teachers to give them the confidence to engage with students about different types of families, how to tackle the word 'gay' being used in a derogatory way and to challenge gender stereotypes through inclusive books within 'Language and Literacy' in the primary framework http://www.ellybarnes.com/primary/
Schools who have received the Educate and Celebrate CHIPS training agree that it has a positive impact. The pastoral manager at Cotteridge Junior and Infants in Birmingham said:
"The training gave us the confidence to challenge stereotypes and discuss LGBT issues in our school, the books and imagery highlight and celebrate the diversity of family life."
'CHIPS' adheres to Ofsted criteria and to the new primary framework within 'Language and Literacy' and can be embedded within the PHSE Curriculum. CHIPS was originally published in 2007 by Hounslow Healthy Schools and has been used effectively in many Local Authorities.
The 18th November 2013 was the beginning of anti-bullying week and also the 10 year anniversary of the repeal of Section 28. For those who don't know, Section 28 was introduced under the Thatcher government as part of the Local Government Act in 1988. It stated that a local authority "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" and that schools "could not promote of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship".
Section 28 was later repealed under Tony Blair's Labour government in 2003 and the current Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, apologised for the policy in 2009. Schools OUT works every day to ensure a damaging policy like Section 28 can never be introduced again and counters homophobia and transphobia is all schools.
To help achieve this aim Schools OUT ran a 'Pink Promotion' encouraging all schools and workplaces to wear pink against prejudice to commemorate the 10th anniversary since the repeal of Section 28. Schools OUT asked teachers to teach from the free National Curriculum-linked lesson-plan site that has a pink logo 'The Classroom' www.the-classroom.org.uk. This enables teachers to be 'usualising' and 'actualising' LGBT people and is applicable to all ages, all key stages and all subject areas.
Sarah Barton, Head of Expressive Arts Turves Green Girls Schools highlighted the positive impact of such an approach:
"I trained as a teacher under section 28 and it has cast such a very long shadow over many years. At the Birmingham Educate and Celebrate showcase in 2013, Section 28 was finally laid to rest for me by the kids from Perry Beeches, Turves Green Girls and Ninestiles never to rear its ugly head again."
More resources and advice can be found on the Educate and Celebrate website at ellybarnes.com