LGBT+ inclusion involves reviewing the curriculum and lesson plans across all subjects to eliminate heteronormative bias, and ensure sexual orientations and gender identities are represented.
What is LGBT+ inclusive education?
LGBT+ inclusive education requires a whole school approach, involving everyone in the school community. Creating an LGBT+ inclusive school/college entails attention and action across every aspect of school/college life:
“I recently used Lyra McKee’s ‘Letter to my 14-Year-Old Self’ to get a year 9 English class to focus on their own feelings about growing up/changing and simultaneously exploring the idea of coming out. Students produced some great written work.”
– Classroom teacher
LGBT+ inclusion involves reviewing the curriculum to ensure it includes:
- Teaching about LGBT+ rights movements and LGBT+ peoples’ involvement in culture, music, science, philosophy, politics and art in the UK and globally
- Teaching about the prevalence and resistance to homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and the oppression of gender and sexually diverse people, including the impact of colonisation on LGBT+ people’s rights and experiences globally
- Reviewing lesson plans across all subjects to eliminate heteronormative bias, to challenge gender stereotypes, to ensure diverse families, sexual orientations and gender identities are represented across all subjects.
Values and culture
Situating LGBT+ inclusion in the context of wider equality gives a powerful message about the benefits everyone experiences when education is truly inclusive. Ensuring representation and celebration of people across faiths, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, class backgrounds, family types, nationalities and ages ensures every child is included and informed about the true diversity around them. LGBT+ inclusion cannot be considered an add-on or an optional aspect of this comprehensive inclusion. School values should support an LGBT+ inclusive school community and embed an LGBT+ inclusive culture.
LGBT+ inclusion requires listening to LGBT+ people in your community including pupils, staff, governors and the wider community. LGBT+ people will be a minority in any school so engaging with the LGBT+ community both within and outside the school, and ensuring their voices are heard, is critical to effective LGBT+ inclusion.
Training and development
No one is immune from the negative and harmful messaging about LGBT+ people that permeates our society. LGBT+ inclusion requires un-learning what we have absorbed from a homo/bi/transphobic society. It involves learning more about the diversity of the LGBT+ community and the unique needs and experiences of LGBT+ people. Specialist training and development activities can support your staff team to become more LGBT+ inclusive.
Leaders have an important role to play around every aspect of LGBT+ inclusion. Ensuring decision making processes are transparent and accountable, and delegating responsibilities to encourage a transformed school community, are essential to the success of LGBT+ inclusion.
Parents, carers and community
Schools are inherently connected to the communities around them both as a vital resource and as a hub for community activity. Parents and carers form part of the school community and regular and effective engagement with parents and carers is critical to the success of any school activity, particularly LGBT+ inclusive education which may feel unfamiliar to some families. Schools can also utilise local community organisations and leaders in their LGBT+ inclusion work to bring new perspectives, resources and approaches into the school community.
Many schools/colleges do not collect data on LGBT+ pupils and staff. Without this information, it can be difficult for schools/colleges to plan effectively around the needs of LGBT+ pupils and staff. Reviewing equality monitoring processes to ensure relevant information is being collected, stored and used appropriately is a part of LGBT+ inclusive education.
Policies and procedures
Ensuring all school policies are LGBT+ inclusive and developing evidence-based LGBT+ specific policies where appropriate is important for LGBT+ inclusion.
What legal basis is there for LGBT+ inclusion?
All early years, primary, secondary and post-16 settings should provide an environment where LGBT+ staff, volunteers, parents, carers, children and young people are safe and free to be themselves and experience acceptance from adults and other young people. The NEU believes LGBT+ inclusion is essential to a broad and balanced education and supports members to deliver good, evidence-based practice, rather than simply meet legal requirements. However, if you are facing challenges in your education setting, knowing the law can help.
There are several pieces of legislation and statutory guidance relevant to LGBT+ inclusion.
- Advancing equality (Public Sector Equality Duty, Equality Act 2010)
Schools have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that teaching is accessible and inclusive to all children and young people, including those who are LGBT+, and to teach in a non-discriminatory way. Inclusive RSE will foster good relations between pupils, tackle all types of prejudice – including misogyny, sexism 1 LGBT+ Inclusion Guidance 3 and homo/bi/transphobia – and promote understanding and respect, enabling schools to meet the requirements of the Equality Act 2010. Schools are entitled to cover a range of issues and ideas, however all content must be delivered in a way that does not subject any pupil to discrimination.
- Preventative anti-bullying measures (Section 89, Education Inspections Act 2006)
Schools have a duty not just to safeguard after an incident of bullying, but also to have preventative anti-bullying measures. LGBT+ inclusive education is a core aspect of preventative anti-bullying measures as it fosters good relationships and looks at the impact of homo/trans/bi-phobic bullying.
- Broad and balanced curriculum (Section 78, Education Act 2002).
The Education Act requires schools to promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and prepare them for their adult lives. All children and young people will have LGBT+ friends, family and/or peers so teaching about the existence of LGBT+ people and the rights available to people by law is essential to a broad and balanced education.
- Safeguarding children (Keeping children safe in Education 2019; Section 175 of the Education Act 2002)
There is a duty on all maintained schools to safeguard and promote the welfare of pupils. LGBT+ pupils are entitled to an education free from bullying, abuse and harassment.
- Pupil wellbeing (Section 10 of the Children’s Act 2004)
Local authorities are required to make arrangements to promote co-operation between the authority and schools with a view to improving the wellbeing of children in the authority’s area – this includes protection from harm and neglect alongside other outcomes.
“ My school has participated in London Pride for years and we have a curriculum and whole school assembly/event programme that centres the LGBT+ experience and encourages activism and social consciousness.”
– Classroom Teacher
What evidence is there for LGBT+ inclusive education?
Preparing an evidence-based case for LGBT+ inclusive education will be helpful to present to staff, SLT, governors and/or parents and carers as required. Collating the evidence to support the case for LGBT+ inclusive education may also help to keep you motivated and focused during negotiations.
Start collating evidence on the lived experiences of LGBT+ people in your school community and / or local area. You might:
- Collate information on incidents of homo/bi/ transphobic bullying in the school amongst staff, parents/carers and pupils. This might include incidents of sexual harassment and/or harmful sexual behaviours.
- Collate reports of homo/bi/transphobic incidents in the local media and national press that children and young people are likely to see or hear about. You might also compile data about hate crime incidents.
- Utilise reports from local LGBT+ youth and community groups and campaigns.
LGBT+ inclusion as a child health and wellbeing issue
The experiences of LGBT+ children and young people highlight that LGBT+ inclusion is not optional but can be a life-saving intervention for many children and young people. The following data is taken from Stonewall’s 2017 School Report (S), Metro’s 2014 Youth Chances report (M) and PACE’s 2015 RaRE Research Report (P):
- Over half of LGBT+ respondents knew they were LGBT+ by the age of 13 (M). Commencing LGBT+ inclusion in secondary school is simply too late for many young LGBT+ people.
- At least 2% of the UK population are LGB. This means every education setting will have LGBT+ people (staff or pupils) in the school community. (NB. There is no reliable data on the number of trans people in the UK.)
- 45% of LGBT+ pupils – including 64% of trans pupils – are bullied for being LGBT+ in Britain’s schools with 50% hearing homophobic slurs ‘frequently’ or ‘often’ at school (S).
- LGBT+ young people are twice as likely not to feel accepted in the area where they currently live, compared to heterosexual non-trans young people (M).
- More than four in five trans young people have self-harmed, as have three in five LGB young people who aren’t trans (P).
- 34% of young LGB people had made at least one suicide attempt in their lives as compared to 18% of heterosexual young people (P).
- 48% of trans* young people had made at least one suicide attempt in their lives (P).
- More than two in five trans young people have attempted to take their own life, as have one in five LGB students who aren’t trans (P).
A 2018 UNESCO report on experiences of LGBT+ children and young people found disturbing global parallels, with LGBT+ young people consistently experiencing high rates of victimisation and low rates of reporting.
"At my school, there are a lot of teachers who genuinely listen and respond to our trans kids and change and adapt teaching, e.g. not gendering Shakespeare’s monologues for drama auditions.”
– Classroom Teacher
LGBT+ inclusion as a human rights issue
Some anti-LGBT+ lobbyists are trying to present human rights of LGBT+ people as competing with the rights of people in faith communities. In fact, there are LGBT+ people belonging to every faith community. Education must be inclusive and contribute to giving pupils knowledge and skills to uphold human rights. There are significant international human rights protections relating to LGBT+ inclusive education including:
- Right to Education: All children have a right to education. By not explicitly including LGBT+ pupils, schools may be compounding their exclusion from education in contravention of children’s rights under Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960).
- Children’s Rights: All decisions should be made with respect to the best interests of the child and every child must have freedom of expression including access to all kinds of appropriate information as protected in Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989); and Article 13 of the Convention on the rights of the Child (1989).
LGBT+ inclusion as a workplace equality issue
LGBT+ workers are more likely to face harassment and discrimination based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity than their non-LGBT+ counterparts. The nature of education settings presents LGBT+ staff with a specific set of barriers to being safe and equal at work. Support from the whole school community, starting with Governance and Senior Leaders, is essential to the safety, health and well-being of LGBT+ staff in education settings.
Here are some facts about LGBT+ people at work (all taken from the TUC’s 2017 Cost of being out at work report unless otherwise stated):
- More than a third of LGBT+ workers have been harassed or bullied at work.
- Nearly two in five (39%) LGBT+ workers have been harassed or discriminated against by a colleague, more than one in four (29%) by a manager and around one in seven (14%) by a client or patient. This harassment and discrimination could include anything from 'jokes' at the expense of LGBT+ people to bullying or blocking someone’s career development.
- Only half (51%) of LGBT+ people – and just one in three (36%) young people – are out or open about their sexuality to all their colleagues at work. More than one in four (27%) of bisexual respondents hide their sexuality at work.
- Almost one in three (30%) trans respondents have had their trans status disclosed against their will.
- Nearly a third of primary school teachers (29 per cent) have heard homophobic language or negative remarks about lesbian, gay or bisexual people from other school staff. (Stonewall 2017 Schools Report)
The NEU believes that employment practices in every school will improve if the NEU school group plans to develop LGBT+ inclusion across a range of policies and practices. See NEU advice on LGBT+ Equality.
What child experts say
Many children and young people experts have been vocal in their support for LGBT+ inclusive education.
The Royal College of Paediatricians released this statement about LGBT+ inclusive Relationships Education in primary schools
A group of faith leaders, including Fiyaz Mughal, Faith Matters, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Reform Judaism, Rev Stephen Terry, Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Very Rev Bertrand Olivier Church of England, and Rabia Mirza, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, published an open letter in the Guardian.
The NSPCC said the new inclusive RSE guidance would help children ‘navigate the modern world’.
The Catholic Education Service also welcomed the government’s announcement.
The National Children’s Bureau said: '[the guidance is] a welcome step forward in preparing children for adulthood, improving their well-being and keeping them safe and healthy'.
UNESCO makes strong recommendations about LGBT+ inclusive education from a human rights and mental health perspective, including a recommendation that all schools adopt comprehensive policies to prevent and address violence faced by LGBT+ pupils, review and adapt curricula and educational materials, support and train members and provide information to the whole school community on equality and inclusion.
Why is everyone talking about RSE and LGBT+ inclusion now?
Statutory Guidance on Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education was issued by the Department of Education in June 2019, updating previous guidance issued over 20 years ago. This guidance (hereafter ‘the 2020 guidance’) states that from September 2020, all primary schools in England will be required to teach Relationships Education, all secondary schools in England will be required to teach Relationships and Sex Education, and all schools, except independent schools, in England will be required to teach Health Education.
The NEU believes it is helpful the Government has revised this Guidance. The 2020 guidance covers a range of issues experienced by children and young people including sexual violence, bullying, mental health, domestic abuse and self-harm.
What is the difference between RSE and LGBT+ inclusion?
Relationships and Sex Education includes a wide range of content areas including families, carers, friendships, relationships, online relationships, intimate relationships, sexual health, safety, consent, abuse, sex, love, and many other areas. LGBT+ inclusive RSE is important, but LGBT+ inclusion is about much more than RSE.
What does the 2020 RSE guidance say about LGBT+ inclusion?
There are several documents relevant to new Statutory RSE guidance. These are:
- The updated statutory guidance in full, June 2019 (all content in this section is taken from this Guidance document unless otherwise stated)
- FAQs, published online 29th April 2019 (FAQs)
- Guides for parents and carers: June 2019
- Guide on parental engagement: October 2019
There are many references to LGBT+ inclusion throughout the document. We have collated key references within the guidance below.
The foreword to the 2020 guidance states:
Our guiding principles have been that all of the compulsory subject content must be age appropriate and developmentally appropriate. It must be taught sensitively and inclusively, with respect to the backgrounds and belief of pupils and parents and carers while always with the aim of providing pupils with the knowledge they need of the law.
On LGBT+ inclusion:
At the point at which schools consider it appropriate to teach their pupils about LGBT, they should ensure that this content is fully integrated into their programmes of study for this area of the curriculum rather than delivered as a stand-alone unit or lesson.
The 2020 guidance states that by the end of Primary School:
- All students should be aware of the existence of different families, which can include for example, single parent families, LGBT parents and carers, families headed by grandparents, adoptive parents, foster parents/carers amongst other structures. Care needs to be taken to ensure that there is no stigmatisation of children based on their home circumstances and needs, to reflect sensitively that some children may have a different structure of support around them; e.g. looked after children or young carers'.
- Students should understand the importance of respecting others, even when they are very different from them (for example, physically, in character, personality or backgrounds), or make different choices or have different preferences or beliefs.
- All students should be aware of different types of bullying and the responsibilities of bystanders.
The 2020 guidance states that, by the end of Secondary School, pupils should:
- Be taught the facts and the law about sex, sexuality, sexual health and gender identity in an age-appropriate and inclusive way. All pupils should feel that the content is relevant to them and their developing sexuality.
- Have an equal opportunity to explore the features of stable and health same sex relationships. This should be integrated appropriately into the RSE programme, rather than addressed separately or in only one lesson.
- Learn how stereotypes, in particular stereotypes based on sex, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability, can cause damage.
The 2020 guidance further states:
Schools should be alive to issues such as everyday sexism, misogyny, homophobia and gender stereotypes and take positive action to build a culture where these are not tolerated, and any occurrences are identified and tackled.
Schools should ensure that the needs of all pupils are appropriately met, and that all pupils understand the importance of equality and respect. Schools must ensure that they comply with the relevant provisions of the Equality Act 2010, under which sexual orientation and gender reassignment are amongst the protected characteristics.
The guidance states that schools are entitled to determine how to deliver the content set out in this guidance, in the context of a broad and balanced curriculum. It also refers specifically to Citizenship, Science, Computing and Physical Education as national curriculum subjects where this content could be integrated where appropriate.
What is the NEU’s position on RSE and LGBT+ inclusion?
The NEU has successfully campaigned to achieve statutory status for Relationship and Sex Education. We believe RSE is critical for supporting children and young people to have meaningful, safe and fulfilling relationships.
The NEU believes all Relationships Education and RSE must be LGBT+ inclusive, promote gender equality and actively challenge all forms of abuse, discrimination and oppression. It needs to reflect and celebrate a diversity of cultures, faiths and family types and support children and young people to be their unique and authentic selves.
The Sex Education Forum has collated evidence on effective quality sex and relationships education and in doing so developed 12 key principles, which the NEU endorses.
For this reason, we use the terminology of LGBT+ inclusion as an explicit affirmation of the existence and contribution of LGBT+ people to all societies. To not include LGBT+ people in education is to exclude a group of people with protected characteristics from their rights to safety, self-expression and education.
Every school and district should be having a conversation about LGBT+ inclusion.
What’s happening around LGBT+ inclusion?
LGBT+ inclusion is nothing new and since the repeal of Section 28 in 2003, many nurseries, schools and colleges have developed excellent resources and activities in this area of education. However, the public debate around RSE and LGBT+ inclusion has brought the issue into the spotlight and some members are facing situations where Stop RSE and similar groups have been actively campaigning within school communities to disrupt the teaching of RSE to children, focusing on primary schools.
Members have been raising concerns that the media storm around LGBT+ inclusion and publicised parent protests are leading to a clawback of LGBT+ inclusive teaching and ethos in some education settings as school leaders have become wary of unwanted media attention and/ or significant parent protest. RSE groups state religious opposition to ‘LGBT+ content’ as justification for their campaigns.
Over the last year there have been protests outside Parkfield Primary School and Anderton Park Primary in Birmingham with similar meetings across the country, pressuring schools to remove LGBT+ inclusion and threatening to withdraw children from RSE or even from education altogether.
While anti-RSE groups targeting Muslim parents and carers have received the most media attention, there are similar groups campaigning across other faith communities including Anglican, Christian and Jewish communities. Similarly, LGBT+ led and LGBT+ inclusive faith groups have been vocal about their support for LGBT+ inclusive RSE, see:
- Hidayah LGBTQI+ The Leading Queer Muslim charity
- KeshetUK has a vision of a world where no one is forced to choose between their LGBT+ and Jewish identity
- Humanists UK: Educationists and religion and belief leaders warn of increased bullying if LGBT guidance is diluted.
NEU members facing these challenges have been creative and proactive in countering the negativity, presenting clear evidence to support LGBT+ inclusion and gathering support from LGBT+ allies and relevant stakeholders including local councillors, local faith networks and LGBT+ specialist services.
What can I do to support LGBT+ inclusion?
The NEU suggests five principles for supporting LGBT+ inclusion:
Step one: Speak with LGBT+ staff and pupils
The needs and experiences of LGBT+ people in your school community including pupils, parents, carers, staff and governors must remain central to your organising and policy work in this area. Developing plans or policy on behalf of those most directly affected is never going to be as effective as what you develop in collaboration with people most affected by the issues.
Speak to LGBT+ members in your local area to learn from good practice and collaborate across schools. If there are several LGBT+ members in your workplace/district/region, schedule a meeting together. Connect with a diverse range of members in your school or area who can support the work and ensure the ideas and expertise of LGBT+ members are at the centre of developing ideas. Think about who is and who 2 LGBT+ Inclusion Guidance 2 isn’t represented at your meetings and reach out to others to increase diversity of representation.
Step two: Collectivise LGBT+ inclusion, identifying good practice and barriers
Every school and district should be having a conversation about LGBT+ inclusion now. As workplace rep, organise a meeting in your school specifically to discuss LGBT+ inclusion. As district secretary, clear some time at your next district meeting for a focused discussion on LGBT+ inclusion.
“Since it was the first time we introduced LGBT+ language in my school, we produced a video with definitions of LGB and T. Later, I was asked why I didn’t include +, Q, I, A etc but we need to start with the baby steps sometimes. Now my students understand these terms and that can be built on. I wouldn’t throw too much new information at them. It was also to make sure staff understood these terms and could confidently discuss then with pupils.”
– Classroom Teacher
An initial meeting is an opportunity to:
- Share relevant information including details on the new Relationships Education/RSE guidance, NEU position on LGBT+ inclusion and RSE and helpful resources and facts relevant to your context
- Learn about good practice already happening in your school/district, as well as any issues and gaps
- Gauge the level of understanding and support for LGBT+ inclusion, determining your next steps and identifying potential challenges
- Agree an action plan going forward. If union members are not supportive/aware, you may consider arranging training or guest speakers at a follow-up meeting before an action plan can be determined. If challenges are identified, spend some time discussing strategies to overcome and next steps. Document the key findings including barriers and good practice, as well as any actions identified.
Step three: Develop and deliver action plan
Depending on your context and stage of progress your action plan will differ. You may need to set up meetings with SLT and/or MATleadership. In advance of these meetings, prepare your evidence-based case setting out the need for proactive approaches to LGBT+ inclusion with clear asks while drawing attention to existing good practice, and responses to challenges.
In addition to this you may arrange a meeting with the district or branch secretary to look at the issue across a local authority area or multi- academy trust. Or you may seek advice from the NEU Adviceline and/or reach out to community- based LGBT+ groups for support and guidance. Alternatively, you may be at a stage where a working group is what is needed to take forward policy changes and inclusion-related activity. Use the Equal and inclusive schools and colleges framework and the Negotiating for LGBT+ inclusion flowchart (below) to support you in your action planning.
What can I do if leadership is back-tracking/resisting LGBT+ inclusion?
With RSE and LGBT+ inclusion consistently hitting the press, members have been contacting the union seeking advice after having been asked to either remove LGBT+ inclusion from their classrooms, or to convert LGBT+ events like Pride into more general equality events. Follow the steps above and highlight to your SLT/ Governors that this approach is inconsistent with current legislation and will hinder schools’ ability to develop high quality RSE. Contact your district secretary and the Adviceline for further advice and guidance and look to collectivise the issue across the local authority area. Use the Negotiating for LGBT+ inclusion flowchart to help in your action planning.
Anti-RSE leaflets are being distributed in my community. What should I do?
As soon as you become aware of leaflets in your area, contact your local Union office.
NEU advice is that schools seek a borough/ district/academy-trust wide approach to the issue to safeguard your school and your staff. Whether you are in a multi-academy trust or a maintained school, the local authority should be made aware of the issue as they hold responsibility for safeguarding children. Aim initially to take the focus off the school and its staff and onto the local authority. Your local authority may have a plan to support LGBT+ inclusion. If they don’t, present the evidence-based case and signpost them the guidance for Councillors, local authorities and community leaders (below).
Speak to local LGBT+ members about their fears, concerns and needs and to regional LGBT+ organising forum representatives as they have access to information, peer support and resources from other districts locally and nationally.
A significant feature of the Birmingham schoolgate protests is that the organisers of the protests did not have children at the school, indicating the deliberate wedge anti-RSE lobbyists, and elements of the media, are seeking to create between members and parents/carers. This is a false division. Parents/carers and members have campaigned successfully together in recent years around many issues including SEN pupils needs, assessment regimes and academisation, demonstrating the strength of many school communities. Communicating with staff and parents/carers of the mutually beneficial relationship between parent/carers and staff is essential to moving this conversation forward.
Your action plan will differ depending on your context and the advice from your district office, but some steps may include:
- Setting up a meeting with the local authority and representatives from each school in the area to raise the issues, concerns and challenges and develop a borough-wide approach
- Setting up a meeting with parents and carers to counter the misinformation and provide real examples of what is being taught in school and/or
- Utilising existing parent representative structures (parent/carer governors, parents and carers networks, etc.) to share correct information and develop strategies together for overcoming misinformation.
Anti-LGBT+ meetings or protests are being organised in my district. What should I do?
As soon as you become aware of meetings/protests in your area, contact your local Union office and develop a plan together.
NEU advice is that schools seek a borough/district/academy-trust wide approach to the issue to safeguard your school and your staff. Where meetings or protests are already being organised, collectivising is key. Follow the steps above where possible but if time is tight, ensure your head/district office approaches your local authority for an urgent conversation.
If public meetings are planned, you may consider preparing and attending the meeting together with someone from the NEU district office with a view to presenting accurate information, countering myths, easing tensions and winning over those present. Heads should seek to understand whether there are parent/carers present at the meeting. You may plan to bring NEU inclusion leaflets to share at the meeting, or other materials from the classroom/school to counter misinformation.
Where school-gate protests are planned, consider inviting parents and carers to a meeting in advance of protests to provide further opportunity for dialogue. Parents and carers should be asked to consider the potentially harmful nature of anti-LGBT+ inclusion and antiRSE protests. Explain to parents and carers the teachers’ duty to ‘establish a safe and stimulating environment for pupils, rooted in mutual respect’ and discuss how this particular type of schoolgate protest may be upsetting or unsafe for children and young people. Provide parents/ carers with information about more constructive ways to have their views heard at the school and share information about the harmful nature of similar protests in other parts of the country.
What advice do other members give?
Here are members’ tips for advocating for LGBT+ inclusion:
- Support pupils. Create a space for children and young people to discuss what they think and support pupil-led campaigning.
- Listen to people. Find out where the opposition is coming from–is it from SLT or governors? Is it an unrepresentative but vocal group of people? Is it external forces? Find out who you need to convince and what their concerns are.
- Seek advice. LGBT+ inclusion is both an equality and a workplace rights issue. Your local union officers and reps will be able to help you lay out your negotiation strategy for LGBT+ inclusion in your workplace.
- Get support from other union activists. Informal union networks on WhatsApp and Facebook are active in many regions and can be a great source of emotional and practical peer support both from within and outside of your school community.
- Build a strong evidence-based case. Use the information here to build a case about the need for LGBT+ inclusion. Give the issue time and be prepared. The evidence for LGBT+ inclusion is indisputable, it just needs to be presented well and contextualised in your school community. Gathering relevant information, including the context for the views of people in your school community that may be different to your own, is key to successful union organising and to effective policy change.
- Collectivise! Hold a union meeting to identify and build a community of allies. This may include staff, governors, parents/carers and children themselves. By collectivising the issue, you will know that there are many people who support you. This will make it harder for unsupportive peers to state their opposition also.
- Integrate. Connect LGBT+ inclusive education to other equality-related school activities or priorities and values.
- Negotiate a budget. Negotiate with your head to identify a budget for staff training or creative cross-curricular activities. Organisations that provide this support will have lots of testimonials on their website to help build your case.
- Community. Schools are vital parts of the community. Building relationships with a range of people from across the wider community, from faith leaders to LGBT+ youth centres to councillors, will support you in this work.
- Evaluation and inspection. Where you have been running programmes in the school already, use evaluation and/or inspection evidence to highlight the success of the programme and the benefits for the whole school community. Use Ofsted evidence if you think that will have more sway in your school.
- Be pro-active. Don’t wait for an issue to arise; have a meeting now to discuss any issues and needs and be ahead of the game.
“Find allies within your workplace as best you can. Any member of staff can be powerful for feeling supported. Then you go to the top. I’ve had lots of experience of being fobbed off by SLT without witnesses.”
– Classroom Teacher
Relationships education and health education should begin in primary school and be developed and delivered according to children’s developmental age and lived experiences.
How should I approach the issue of LGBT+ inclusion?
LGBT+ inclusion has a strong legal basis and without an inclusive approach, schools would have a difficult time evidencing how they are meeting the requirements of equality, anti- bullying and curriculum legislation. Using the NEU equal and inclusive schools and colleges framework to develop your plan for LGBT+ inclusion will help you ensure a whole school approach.
How do we decide what is age appropriate?
Any topic in relationships education, RSE or health education can be taught in a way that is appropriate to the age and maturity of pupils, but staff need training on how to do this well. For an example of this, look at the UNESCO guidance, which separates sexuality education into eight key concepts that can be delivered in an age appropriate way from age 5 to 18+.
Which school policies are relevant to LGBT+ inclusion?
Clear and accessible policies on Relationships (and Sex for secondary) Education, staff and pupil wellbeing, equality and diversity, anti- bullying and safeguarding form a strong foundation for LGBT+ inclusion.
- Safeguarding policy should cover how children are safeguarded from LGBT+ abuse and harassment. This may also relate to your RE/RSE policy as it is about preventative as well as responsive safeguarding.
- Anti-bullying policy and strategy. Check the policy makes reference to all protected characteristics and includes specific reference to homo/bi/trans phobic bullying prevention and response.
- Equality and diversity policy should reflect the school’s culture and ethos and show that the school’s approach is inclusive.
- Relationships Education/Relationships and sex education policy. Under the new guidance, schools will be required to have an up-to-date policy for teaching Relationships Education/Relationships and sex education. They will be required to consult with parents and carers about their RSE policy.
- Staff and pupil wellbeing policies should specify the schools’ commitments to LGBT+ staff and pupil wellbeing and outline the steps the school will take to ensure this safety and wellbeing.
How should our school engage with parents/carers around this issue?
Schools are a valuable resource not just for pupils but also for the whole family and the wider community. Good parent/carer engagement has positive impacts both on the effectiveness of education and on community spirit. Research has found:
A critical dimension of effective teaching and learning is the relationship between the teacher, their pupils and their parents [sic]… the degree and quality of engagement that parents [sic] have with their child’s learning is a crucial factor outside the school environment.
Establishing meaningful relationships with all parents/carers as part of your school’s year-round approach will mean you are more likely to have the trust and support of the wider school community in all the work you do, including LGBT+ inclusion.
While schools should be consulting with parents and carers on all school policies, the 2020 guidance makes specific reference to parental consultation around Relationships Education/ RSE policy formation. The Department for Education then issued clarifications, stating:
Schools will be required to consult with parents [sic] when developing and reviewing their policies for Relationships Education and RSE, which will inform schools’ decisions on when and how certain content is covered. Effective consultation gives the space and time for parents [sic] to input, ask questions, share concerns and for the school to decide the way forward. Schools will listen to parent’s views, and then make a reasonable decision as to how they wish to proceed. What is taught, and how, is ultimately a decision for the school governing body and consultation does not provide a parental veto on curriculum content.
Parents and carers at my school are resistant to RSE and/or LGBT+ inclusion. What can I do?
Early and effective consultation enabling the presentation of accurate information, actual classroom resources and open discussions may prevent situations from escalating and/or outside pressure groups becoming involved in your school community.
"Our trans students made and edited a film on their experiences to be played at assembly.”
– Classroom teacher
Members have shared these tips for good parent/carer engagement:
- Representation. Parents/carers are more likely to be engaged with a school they feel connected to and part of. If you have identified a lack of diversity within staff and governance teams, take positive steps to diversify staffing to more appropriately reflect the school community. While you are developing this, invite guest speakers reflective of the parent/carer community to events and consider co-opting representative community members onto the governing body. Local BME, faith disabled and LGBT+ groups may be a good starting point for identifying key people.
- Provide concrete examples of the curriculum content to parents/carers, in the same way as consultations on puberty lessons.
- Be prepared. Have a strong evidence base clearly presented with actual examples of resources used in classrooms, particularly for younger children, and clear explanations around how the school has determined what is age appropriate. Remember the levels of knowledge will vary across the parent/carer community and tailor your preparations accordingly.
- Actively counter the misinformation, don’t ignore it. There is a lot of misinformation in circulation and anti-RSE groups are targeting faith communities. Share curriculum resources with parents and carers for them to be able to understand what is (and isn’t) being taught, as well as the reasons why. Share evidence on the impacts of homo/bi/ transphobic bullying on mental and physical wellbeing as well as attainment levels.
- Ground your approach in school values/ ethos and the Equality Act. Use this as a starting point for building agreement on what is and isn’t acceptable in the school community. Your school values may be what attracted parent/carers to the school in the first place.
- Utilise existing engagement. Involving parents and carers in LGBT+ inclusion work is not effective when it is undertaken as a stand-alone consultation event or a singular communication to parents/carers. Discussions around LGBT+ inclusion should be embedded in existing processes and structures, including with parent governors, and through other parent representative structures and within discussions about your school’s goals for the curriculum.
"My older students set up a GoFundMe and raised the money themselves for LGBT+ inclusive books for key stage 2. They wanted the library to be inclusive. I was so proud.”
– Classroom teacher
- Embed learning. At information sessions, provide parents and carers with guidance on how they can embed the learning at home.
- Remove barriers. Identify and remove potential barriers faced by parents/carers not currently involved in the school community. For example, where there are language barriers limiting parent/carer involvement, utilise multi-lingual staff or interpreters, local Black community centres may be able to provide this service at a discounted rate. Where there are barriers for working parents/ carers, provide advance notice for meetings and alternate meeting times so parents/carers have options.
- Provide a range of options for engagement. Some parents/carers may feel reluctant to come to a social occasion involving alcohol, while others may find it intimidating to attend a formal meeting. Consult with parents/carers about how they would like to contribute to the school community and provide a range of options including inviting parents/ carer support in the classroom and on field trips, involvement in festivals and events throughout the year, coffee mornings and issue-based meetings that strengthen your school community.
- Allow enough time for discussion. Parents/ carers want to be heard. Not allowing enough time may create a situation of frustration.
- Utilise the people resources you have within your school community. At least 1 in 10 young people will identify as LGBT+ at some time in their lives. A higher percentage will have a family member who is LGBT+. Consider how you can invite LGBT+ family members in to support your work around LGBT+ inclusion. Also consider the impacts on LGBT+ pupils and staff and discuss how they would like to be involved. In many schools, it is the pupils who have made a stand for LGBT+ inclusion. Having young people present to parents and carers why they think LGBT+ inclusion is a very powerful intervention.
"The head boy in our school who is openly gay, runs the LGBTQ group in our school.”
– Classroom teacher
- Use your creativity. Use the creative skills you employ in your work with children in this session- make it interactive, fun and a learning experience for everyone.
"In my previous school, a Catholic grandmother helped me protest my school’s poor decisions around LGBT+ inclusion.”
– Classroom teacher
Parents/carers and community members are sharing staff members personal details on social media platforms. Are they allowed to do this?
No, they are not allowed. All employees have rights.
Before an incident occurs
Schools can be proactive about informing parents and carers about the parameters of social media use within the school community. This includes:
- Providing guidelines on what Apps can and cannot be used for with clear examples, for example, arranging play dates and pick-ups, social events for parents and carers. This guidance should be clear that apps cannot be used to name, criticise or share personal information about staff or pupils.
- Where people have dual roles as staff member and parent, staff are entitled to be a member of private parent/carer groups, but they should participate as a parent/carer and should not take part in any discussions about staff or pupils and should remain professional in any other discussions.
- Parents and carers should be reminded that if they have a complaint about a member of staff or a pupil, they should follow school procedures.
After an incident has occurred
If you are aware of potentially discriminatory, offensive or defamatory posts about a member of staff (including yourself) on a parents’ and carers private group, you should inform the governors and senior leadership team and contact your NEU school representative.
School leaders should warn parents and carers of their responsibilities not to harass or discriminate against or make public defamatory statements about staff. Parents/carers should also be reminded that anti-LGBT+ hate speech is a crime. More information on hate crime. School leaders should let parents and carers know what steps will be taken by the school/employer if an incident does occur. The school/employer will take steps to prevent such conduct. School leaders should remind parents and carers that if they have a concern or complaint about a member of staff, they should use the appropriate school procedures. Copies of the procedures should be provided to parents and carers.
If you suspect this is happening to you, contact your NEU rep to discuss how to engage with your employer. You may also consider reporting the incident to the police as a hate crime, particularly if you are concerned about a pattern of abuse, or escalating abuse.
As a school governor / trustee, you are responsible for ensuring the school’s practices are consistent with its values and ethos, even where these may be different to your own.
As a school governor/trustee, what is my role around LGBT+ inclusion?
You hold ultimate responsibility for many aspects of school life. In relation to LGBT+ inclusion, these aspects of your role are particularly relevant:
Compliance with the Equality Act. LGBT+ inclusion is an equality issue. The Equality Act’s general and specific public sector equality duties mean that schools and colleges must have due regard to the need to:
- Eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
- Advance equality of opportunity.
- Foster good relations between those who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
- Publish equality objectives and information demonstrating how they are doing this.
- Pupil wellbeing. LGBT+ inclusion is a mental health, anti-bullying and safeguarding issue. Without active LGBT+ inclusion, LGBT+ staff and pupils are likely to suffer academically and personally in your school community. Under anti-bullying legislation, your school must actively prevent bullying, not just respond to incidents.
- Staff wellbeing. LGBT+ inclusion is a workplace issue. Inclusion is necessary to ensure dignity and fair treatment at work for LGBT+ staff members.
- Vision, values and ethos. You are responsible for ensuring the school’s practices are consistent with its values and ethos, even where these may be different to your own. For example, many schools have fairness, kindness, respect, integrity and/ or achievement as part of their values structure. Look to your school values as part of the foundations for LGBT+ inclusion and ask questions about how your school is promoting those values.
- Educational attainment. LGBT+ inclusion impacts on pupils’ engagement with learning. LGBT+ pupils’ access to education is affected if they are made to feel unsafe or unwelcome at school, and this might affect both mental health and educational attainment.
- Preparation for the RSE guidance. Your school is required to have an RSE/Relationships Education policy. Your role in overseeing the development of this policy, including the consultation process, is vital to ensuring the policy is consistent with school values and legally compliant.
Government guidance on school governance states:
Every effort should be made to ensure the organisation’s ethos promotes the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect for those with different faiths and beliefs; and encourage students to respect other people, with particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010 and accompanying guidance.
Governance Handbook 2019
I don’t agree with LGBT+ inclusion. How can I ensure my voice is heard?
As a Governor, your duty is to ensure the school meets legal and professional frameworks. This is not optional. The Equality Act 2010 applies to all schools as providers of education to the pupils in their care, as providers of a service or public function and (where applicable) in their role as employers. The school board is responsible for compliance with the public sector equality duties of the Act and the specific education sections (part 4) for school pupils. It is a requirement of your role that you put personal views aside and look at what is required for the pupils from a legal, educational and equalities point of view.
What questions should I be asking about LGBT+ inclusion?
There are many questions to ask as a school governor, here are some starting points:
- How do LGBT+ pupils in our school feel?
- How do LGBT+ parents/carers in our school community feel?
- How do LGBT+ staff feel?
- Are there barriers to people identifying as LGBT+ in our school community? What can we do about this?
- Have we spoken to LGBT+ staff and pupils about their experiences? Should we arrange to do this?
- Are there LGBT+ people on our Board? How can we ensure this voice is heard at Governance level?
- How many incidents of homo/bi/transphobic discrimination or abuse have been reported in our school community? What happened in response to the complaints?
- Have there been incidents of homo/bi/transphobic discrimination or abuse reported in press in our local area/village/city? How has this been discussed with pupils?
- If there are no reports of homo/bi/transphobic discrimination or abuse is this because there are no incidents or due to a lack of awareness?
- What preventative measures have we put in place around homo/bi/transphobic bullying?
- How are we celebrating diversity in our school community? What events do we celebrate? What else could we be doing?
- Do our staff need training or other forms of support around LGBT+ inclusion? What are the costs of not accessing this training?
- What barriers to LGBT+ inclusion might we face? How can we pre-emptively build support and community in our school?
Where can I get support / more information?
There is plenty of information available online for school governors and trustees. Here are some helpful starting places from Governors for schools:
What can I do to support LGBT+ inclusive education?
Councillors are a bridge between the community and the local authority. Building and maintaining meaningful relationships with a diverse range of people in your community is essential to you fulfilling your duties. Making sure people on all sides of a debate are heard is key to effective local leadership. However, freedom of speech does not warrant hate speech, which can impinge on people’s right to safety.
The local authority can take a lead in developing a borough/region-wide approach to LGBT+ inclusion in education. In doing this, local authorities will meet their responsibilities around public health, safeguarding, community cohesion, wellbeing, suicide prevention and education, while also protecting individual staff and schools from targeted abuse and harassment. There have been some great examples of councillors working together to be proactive on LGBT+ inclusive education.
There have been some great examples of councillors working together to be proactive on LGBT+ inclusive education.
- In July 2019, Lewisham, Lambeth, Nottingham and Haringey councils passed supportive motions on LGBT+ inclusive Relationships and Sex Education (RSE).
- South Tyneside council co-developed an LGBT+ school standard with young people.
- Brighton and Hove city council updated its toolkit for supporting trans students in late 2018.
By having a clear policy on LGBT+ inclusive education, councils can send a clear message to the community about equality, while also safeguarding schools, staff and pupils from harmful protests and abuse.
Regardless of your personal views on LGBT+ inclusion, as a councillor you are required to adhere to your council’s code of conduct for elected members, deriving from Nolan’s seven principles of public life. Most relevant here are selflessness, objectivity, leadership and honesty.
What can I do about anti-LGBT+ inclusion meetings/protests in my area?
Anti-RSE lobby groups are well-resourced and are trying to co-opt faith communities, framing their campaigns as religious opposition. There are numerous questions about how representative these groups really are, their funding sources and their connections globally. Anti-RSE websites promote links to anti- abortion, anti-LGBT+ rights and anti-women’s rights groups in the United States.
While groups targeting Muslim parents and carers have received the most media attention, there are groups lobbying other faith communities including Anglican, Christian and Jewish communities. Meanwhile, LGBT+-led and LGBT+ inclusive faith groups have been vocal about their support for LGBT+ inclusive RSE, see more:
- Metro: I’m Muslim and LGBT, and I teach children it’s OK to be both
- KeshetUK has a vision of a world where no one is forced to choose between their LGBT+ and Jewish identityand
- Humanists UK: Educationists and religion and belief leaders warn of increased bullying if LGBT guidance is diluted.
A significant feature of the Birmingham school gate protests is that the organisers of the protests admitted they did not have children at the school, indicating the deliberate wedge anti-RSE lobbyists, and elements of the media, are seeking to create between members and parents/carers. This is a false division. Parents/carers and members have campaigned successfully together in recent years around many issues including SEN pupils needs, assessment regimes and academisation, demonstrating the strength of many school communities. Communicating with staff and parents/carers of the mutually beneficial relationship between parent/carers and members is essential to moving this conversation forward.
As soon as you become aware of leaflets in your area, contact your local union office and the local authority. Don’t seek to handle the issue alone, taking a borough/district/academy-trust wide approach to the issue will safeguard your school and your staff.
Here are what some local authorities have done about protests:
- Haringey’s motion on inclusive schools included an agreement to use Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) where protests are taking place outside school gates. PSPO propose to deal with a particular nuisance in a particular area that is having a detrimental effect on the quality of life for those in the local community. They can prohibit certain things or require specific things to be done.
- In Birmingham, the council applied to the High Court for an injunction against named and unnamed persons – the order: Anderton Park Primary School protests: High Court awards interim injunction.
Where can I find out more?
The Local Government Association has developed a comprehensive RSE resource: Resources for councillors on supporting Relationship Sex Education (RSE).
It is often the most unpleasant voices that we hear the loudest and whether you are out at work or not, it can be extremely isolating being a lone LGBT+ staff member.
It’s always me talking about LGBT+ inclusion while my colleagues are silent on this issue. What can I do?
It’s hard when you feel like you are the lone voice. Identifying and maintaining allies is really important because you are more powerful together. Speak to your union representative. If there are no allies within your school community, look to your district office, the NEU Adviceline and peer networks including your regional LGBT+ organising forum members.
Making the connections between LGBT+ inclusion and other equality areas and preparing resources that integrate related areas of equality may help win over some of your colleagues.
Suggesting training for staff, leaders and governors on the rights of LGBT+ employees and the responsibilities of employers and colleagues towards their LGBT+ colleagues is also an important step. This may be standard diversity and inclusion training or something bespoke based on your school community’s needs.
I am being treated badly by my colleagues because of my sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression. What can I do?
The NEU has guidance on sexual orientation discrimination and harassment, trans discrimination and harassment, and a trans members toolkit with advice and guidance on transitioning at work. If you are not sure if your experiences could be categorised as discrimination or harassment, speak to the NEU advice team or your local rep to get someone else’s opinion. Reaching out on WhatsApp groups and other networks to other LGBT+ members for practical and emotional support is also a really good idea.
“For me so far it’s not been a very positive experience. Parents here are very much against the teaching of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE). I tried to arrange something on tolerance for LGBT+ History Month and was shot down by parents and governors. I haven’t felt very comfortable at work since, as it seems to be me versus the parents. My head tries to support but she is fairly and lost as well. I would be lost without my local NEU team and the regional office.”
Conversations in my school about LGBT+ inclusion make me feel uncomfortable or unsafe. What can I do?
Look again at the guidance about harassment and discrimination as your discomfort may be because you are being treated unfairly.
Many LGBT+ people do not feel safe to come out at work. Some members express feeling pressured to come out because of discussions around LGBT+ inclusion in their workplace. It is a decision that is your choice and yours alone. There are lots of ways you can talk about LGBT+ inclusion without having to put yourself in the picture.
Building the evidence-based case, building a network of supporters and focusing on the needs and rights of children and young people are all effective strategies for advocating for LGBT+ inclusion that do not require a staff member to be out at work.
It is often the most unpleasant voices that we hear the loudest and whether you are out at work or not, it can be extremely isolating being a lone LGBT+ staff member. There will be people in your school community who are on your side, they just might not be that easy to find. Seek out like-minded peers and engage with local LGBT+ networks inside or outside of your community to balance the feelings of isolation.
Contact your NEU school rep for advice and connect online to the creative and powerful campaigning being led by LGBT+ members.
The NEU LGBT+ charter is a clear, practical, hands-on guide for how educators might initiate work on LGBT+ equality, develop their approach further or add to what they do already.
Learning from LGBT+ staff across the education sector.