We need visible LGBT+ role models in schools now more than ever

In our regular series highlighting authors in education, we hear this month from DANIEL TOMLINSON- GRAY, editor of Big Gay Adventures in Education: Supporting LGBT+ Visibility and Inclusion in Schools.

The Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, has suggested we should pivot from “fashionable” race, sexuality and gender issues to focus on poverty. This is part of a worrying trend, reflected in the press, where genuine issues and fears of minority groups are dismissed as part of a culture war. The fact that genuine movements like Black Lives Matter and issues around trans rights are dismissed as “fashionable” show just how out of touch our Government currently is. In July 2018, former PM Theresa May’s Conservative government

launched its LGBT Action Plan, where it was claimed it was “committed to making the UK a country that works for everyone.” I was there at the launch of the Action Plan, in the garden of 10 Downing Street. For a moment, during Theresa May’s speech to us, I saw glimpses of a policy that showed LGBT+ people matter. Fast-forward to two years later and that ‘commitment’ has all but

disappeared. Most significantly, funding for LGBT+ bullying projects has been axed and funding for Equality and Diversity projects in schools has been cut on a massive scale. To counter this worrying trend, it’s time for more LGBT+ teachers to be visible in schools and show there is hope for our LGBT+ young people. I co-founded LGBTed – a national network of more than 5,000

LGBT+ teachers and leaders – with business psychologist Hannah Jepson in 2018 because I believe that visible, authentic role models in schools are important. In the new LGBTed book just published through Routledge, Big Gay

Adventures in Education, the contributors are all ‘out’ teachers, or students of ‘out’ teachers writing about how much it benefits our LGBT+ young people when they know that some people around them are LGBT+ and are OK with it. As the saying goes “you can’t be what you can’t see”. At LGBTed, we relied on the Equality & Diversity funding from the

Department for Education to run two successful cohorts of our Proud Leadership programme. We were determined to increase the number of LGBT+ school leaders and 75% of our participants achieved a promotion as a result of the empowerment, knowledge and skills the programme offered. This funding was pulled with no communication and no warning. With it no longer available, we risk losing the momentum behind us and undoing the work we have done. Since co-founding LGBTed, I have been contacted by so many people

who have felt inspired and empowered by what we do: trainee teachers have been ‘out’ from the outset; senior leaders have redesigned their curricula to make them more representative of the children they teach; young people have started seeing themselves represented and are beginning to feel safer. According to the Stonewall School Report 2017, 53% of LGBT+

students said there wasn’t an adult at their school they feel they could talk to, while 45% of young trans people had attempted to take their own life and, tragically, half of them succeeded. Therefore, we cannot continue to claim that some identities are more or less valid than others. Suggesting that fighting for equality and diversity is “fashionable” sounds like this is exactly the way things are heading. We have to fight back in our schools. Let’s be the role models

we needed.

Big Gay Adventures in Education: Supporting LGBT+ Visibility and Inclusion in Schools, edited by Daniel Tomlinson-Gray, is published by Routledge and is available now.

January 2021


In her regular column for Education Today this month, JULIA GARVEY, Operations Director at school suppliers’ association BESA, looks ahead to content-based learning event BettFest.

January is the month of Bett. Normally. That time of year when we all decamp to the Excel centre in London to walk the halls and marvel at the plethora of new technology on display, whilst also enjoying one of the many free CPD sessions on offer.

In a year when the use of technology in

schools has taken a gigantic leap forward, albeit in unwelcome circumstances, it seems most disappointing, almost cruel, that we won’t be able to attend Bett as usual.

With school closures came a shift to Emergency Remote Teaching with

schools trying out a range of different approaches from independent study, to teacher guided video lessons, and everything in between. There were clear winners – Teams, Google Classroom and a host of online platforms that enabled students to participate in groups whilst retaining a sense of connection with their peers and their teacher being the most notable. 9 months later the demand for these technologies has not fallen away even if the immediate need is less pressing. The new government requirement of 4 hours per day learning for all pupils who are not in school has helped fuel the ongoing need for digital learning solutions. COVID aside, many teachers are recognising the benefit of such platforms for students who are off sick or otherwise excluded from school.

It’s a fair assumption to say that these technological leaps will not be

undone, and the expectation, from government, parents and students alike, is that schools will now build on what they have learned.

Which brings us to Bett again. Here is an event that would be perfectly

poised to help at precisely the time it’s needed. Now teachers recognise the type of approach that works best for their own school, because no two schools are ever the same, they are ready to seek out the help, advice and products that will enable them to take the next step.

Thankfully all is not lost. Bett is going online, not as a product-based

exhibition, but a content-based learning event. BettFest will run during what would have been the Bett show dates (20-22 January), and will give access to three afternoons of CPD and solution discovery that can be viewed live or in your own time. With training and user confidence being key to the success of any new initiative, these sessions will no doubt prove a lifesaver.

But what of product discovery? How best to replicate the joy of trying

out new tech, of encountering a solution you’ve never before come across, or the reassurance of being able to handle and test a product you were previously undecided about? While we can’t offer you a free goody bag and a set of stickers, we can offer you the next best thing The online lending platform that gives teachers the chance to try before you buy, to put a product to the test in your own environment before making a purchasing decision.

So while January will still seem a little different and no doubt

somewhat less exciting than in previous years, at least we can still experience some of the joy that would normally be found in an exhibition hall in E16 right in the comfort of our own homes. Julia Garvey Operations Director 13

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