Why is it important to have a visually inclusive LGBTQ+ school environment?
All children in the UK between the ages of 5 and 16 are entitled to a free place at a state school. The “Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022” document states: “Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone who comes into contact with children and their families has a role to play. In order to fulfil this responsibility effectively, all practitioners should make sure their approach is child-centred. This means that they should consider, at all times, what is in the best interest of the child.”
With this at the forefront of what we educators do, all students —including those who fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella— should be catered for and made to feel included in what can sometimes be a heteronormative society. In recent times, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic, unfortunately there has been a rise in the amount of peer on peer abuse against those in the LGBTQ+ community, with homophobic hate crimes also on the rise in some parts of the UK.
How can we educate and make a difference?
A visually LGBTQ+ school can make a difference, as demonstrated in our UK school. Whilst one-off events such as assemblies or a single noticeboard can have an impact on visual inclusivity, we want to encourage embedding inclusivity as part of our culture, rather than virtue signalling.
So what tools have we implemented so far that have made a difference?
Every week our colleagues receive terminology and information through our staff bulletin, to enable them to support students. Colleagues have been grateful for this, with some individuals previously worried about getting terminology wrong in an ever growing and changing community.
Colleagues and students all have the opportunity to wear a rainbow badge showing their support as part of the LGBTQ+ community or as an ally.
All staff emails from September 2022 will have preferred pronouns in their signatures, and student pronouns will be displayed on registers coming in the academic year 2022–23.
During staff training in January 2022, we were able to deliver LGBTQ+ training to colleagues, before they went on to teach a lesson on this topic to all students in school. There was an overwhelmingly positive reaction to this, as staff felt confident to deliver the resources.
Our biggest achievement (which caused a social media frenzy!) is our LGBTQ+ stairs. These are and will remain in our school as a visual symbol that everyone is accepted. The negative comments, re-tweets, and unkind comedy sketches from those in the public eye show that we still have a way to go.
All of us need to take responsibility and make positive changes to make every student feel included and safe in what can be some of the best years of their lives. As previously mentioned in this blog’s 18 April post, “validating the identities of all and understanding that not everyone is the same, making everyone feeling safer and included will help create a more inclusive and accepting society.”
This post contributed by AllInc!’s UK team of Michael and Gemma — thank you team!