Downfield Primary School in Dundee, has become the first primary school to receive an award for promoting inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pupils.
To get the LGBT Charter award, from the charity LGBT Youth Scotland, the whole school - both staff and children - dedicated a year to improving policies around inclusive education and pupils were educated about the school’s equality and diversity policies.
When asked why they thought learning about LGBT is important, one child responded: “because it doesn’t matter what people think about you, you should always be yourself,” and another said “because it makes people feel safe and happy.”
Prior to getting the award, the school had set up an Equalities Group consisting of nine children who took a lead role in the review and development of the school’s policies.
The children, some of whom have LGBT family members, were keen to be involved in making change happen and the school received overwhelming support for the group from parents, with some writing letters to the headteacher reflecting on the positive impact it had on their children.
Fergus McMillan, chief executive of LGBT Youth Scotland, said by involving pupils in the development of policy, Downfield had sent a strong message of inclusion to the entire school community, including pupils, parents, carers and staff. “LGBT Youth Scotland congratulates everyone at Downfield on this brilliant achievement,” he said.
The equalities group were presented with the award during a whole school assembly on Monday 19 June. The pupils also highlighted the school’s commitment to celebrating difference by performing choreographed dances and renditions of ‘This Is Me’ from the musical ‘The Greatest Showman’. They also held up coloured card to create a 400-person giant rainbow flag to round off the afternoon.
The award has previously been won by secondary schools, but this is the first time it has been given to a primary school.
“To be the first in the entire country is an accolade that really demonstrates the hard work and commitment from all of the staff and parents, and of course, the pupils,” said councillor Gregor Fisher Murray, convener of education at Dundee City Council. “It is a fantastic achievement and will improve the experience of all pupils, not just those who identify as LGBTI.”
Fiona Ballie, deputy head at the school, worked with LGBT Youth Scotland to ensure that every staff member in the school received comprehensive awareness training. She said the changes in the school reflected nothing less than a cultural shift.
The school is now standing as an ambassador for effective LGBT-inclusive education with primary children, and other schools in the area and beyond have reached out to learn from its good practice.
To find out more about the LGBT schools charter in Scotland, click here.