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PrimaryHealth & Wellbeing

LGBT education – Why we celebrate School Diversity Week

We’ve embedded LGBT inclusive education into our curriculum to ensure children know that it’s OK to be whoever you want to be…

Heather Denny
by Heather Denny
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PrimaryHealth & Wellbeing

The charity Just Like Us did independent research, surveying almost 3,000 pupils, and found that nearly half of young people have had little to zero positive messaging about things like same-sex relationships, sexual orientation, sexual identity and gender identity in the past year.

We want to make sure that doesn’t happen at my school, Norwich Primary Academy. In my opinion, primary schools should champion LGBTQI+ history and education and raise awareness to make sure every member of their community feels represented and understood from an early age. When I joined the Inspiration Trust, in East Anglia, the importance of LGBT+ education in a primary school setting wasn’t new to me. Having previously worked in a Stonewall school in London, I knew the importance of working with institutions to create inclusive and accepting cultures in a school community.

At every corner, we need to tackle prejudice and promote understanding. But we can’t just do it for our school’s performance or Ofsted rating – it needs to be for the benefit of our children and wider community. We should champion diversity because it matters. The first step in our journey was gaining funding from the Government Equalities Office to pay for our Stonewall set-up costs so that we could have a budget to do this work, as we’re a school in an area of high deprivation and have high pupil premium numbers.

However, if you’re a school without a budget for LGBT+ inclusion in schools, that doesn’t matter. Every summer we take part in Just Like Us’ School Diversity Week, celebrating LGBT+ equality in education.

It’s completely free, including the resources provided for primary schools.

Promoting healthy relationships in British schools

At my school we celebrate School Diversity Week alongside our participation in Black History Month, Norwich PRIDE and much more. We want our pupils to value equality, be open-minded, supportive and able to challenge negative stereotypes and stereotypical views.

As a part of a multi-academy trust, it’s important our values are aligned with our other schools. The trust supports us through its commitment to responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities. Our celebration of School Diversity Week includes diversity ‘story time’ each day, learning songs, assemblies, a non-uniform day wearing rainbow clothes, and core lessons that teach inclusion and equality in all the curriculum areas for EYFS, KS1 and 2 and PSHE.

One of the most important things is to embed LGBT+ inclusivity invisibly in the day-to-day running of your school. We train staff for LGBT-inclusive teaching, to think about their language and lesson planning – we want them to act as champions themselves.

Making your curriculum inclusive allows for a whole-school approach in tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. However, it need not be an enormous task – you don’t even need to necessarily rewrite your curriculum. You just need to start by looking at what forms a natural fit within your existing medium- and long-term plans.

It works really well when you encourage cross-departmental or year group collaboration to make the task easier to manage. For example, our art curriculum features LGBT+ artists and challenges stereotypical art throughout investigation and examination.

Teaching on equality

Our RSE and PSHE curriculum delivers age-appropriate content to all year groups from Reception to Y6 and teaches equality and diversity in families right from the start. We teach all our pupils that families are all different and may include mums and dads; mums and mums; dads and dads; and grandparents and carers too.

Our Smart Schools Council has worked on writing a child-friendly anti-bullying policy that focuses on equality and diversity. Our pupils have made a pledge to be ‘upstanders’ and we have worked with the community on raising this awareness with parental videos and family information packs. Our school is such a wonderful diverse and rich community. Everyone has embraced and accepted our inclusive approach. We educate and celebrate with all of our children, staff and families and teach everyone that we’re all equal. The main message is that it’s OK to be whoever you want to be and be proud of this.

We explicitly teach equality and the vocabulary around this and what it means. We’re not afraid to be inclusive and the education of this is at the core of our values at school. I’d encourage all primary staff reading this to get involved in School Diversity Week and send a positive message of acceptance to your pupils too.

Heather Denny is vice principal at Norwich Primary Academy and arts specialist advisor at Inspiration Trust. Sign up for School Diversity Week and receive a toolkit of teaching resources. Follow Heather on Twitter at @dennyheather.

Discover LGBT History Month and Pride Month 2023 resources.

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