by Chloe Cousins, LGBT+ Youth Worker and Coordinator For The Young People Of Colour Project
In our training sessions, teachers tell us often that parents and carers can present a barrier to LGBT+ inclusive education. Many teachers worry about parent/carer reactions to LGBT+ inclusive work in their settings, resulting in them not ending up delivering LGBT+ inclusive work.
We have found that mainly, where parents/ carers object to LGBT+ inclusive education, they have largely been uninformed or misinformed about what the lessons actually look like, and not felt consulted about it before their children engaged with this work.
The more that you can do to set a foundation for this work before parents/ carers apply for places for their children at your school, the more informed parents and carers will be on your school ethos and values from the get go. We advise creating positive opportunities for parents/carers to come in and learn about the work you’re doing. And remember, those loud parents, are often not speaking for the majority.
Things to consider:
Do you have a clear set of policies, or a visible statement, that demonstrates your commitment to challenging all forms of discrimination and celebrating diversity within your school?
Do these include, specific mention of LGBT+ people, in line with the Equality Act 2010? Are these visible somewhere in your building and on your online platforms? This is helpful for setting a precedent for your work, making it clear where the whole school stands on diversity and inclusion.
Do you have information on your online platforms that parents and carers can access?
This might include a glossary of the words you are using, tips for parent/carers having conversations with children to support the work in your curriculum, snippets of lesson plans and materials that parents/carers can see and read through. You might think about holding workshops or a coffee morning for parents/ carers showcasing the resources you are planning to use. Many parents/ carers will have never had any positive LGBT+ inclusive education themselves, and so this is an opportunity to help them learn too.
Do you have clear information regarding your RSE curriculum available?
There is lots of misinformation out in the world about what is being taught in schools. Some of this is misunderstanding, but some of this is written with intention to mislead and agitate. Ensure that information on what you are delivering is clear and available across multiple platforms. You have nothing to hide.
Have you got a resource that pulls together all the reasons you have to do this work?
The more varied reasons you have for doing LGBT+ inclusive work, the harder it is to make a point against it. This might be the moral obligation you have in being responsible for ensuring that all children and families are respected and celebrated. This might be your lawful obligation utilising the Equality Act and your Public Sector Duty to ensure that you are acting to eliminate discrimination. You might use educational guidance from Ofsted and the Department for Education to back up your work. There has also been guidance written by the Church of England, the Catholic Church, and the head Rabbi in the UK about ending LGBTphobia within faith schools that might be helpful to refer to also.
Create opportunities for parents/ carers to come in and see your lesson plans and materials.
We recommend having several different ways that parents and carers can access this information. We suggest having a section on your website to view this content, creating opportunities at parent’s evenings to go through resources, as well as utilising coffee mornings to explore the lesson content. You may want to ensure that you have an interpreter with you in your sessions to ensure that parents/ carers whose first language is not English, or who are hearing impaired, can access the information. This is something to consider for online content too.
Use opportunities where you can to make your whole curriculum diverse.
Having standalone lessons that explore LGBT+ identities are important, but what is equally as important is ensuring that there is LGBT+ representation across the curriculum generally; just as there is representation of straight and cisgender (non-LGBT+) people. Examples of this might include having LGBT+ families in any lesson that explores families, having example of same-gender relationships in the curriculum e.g. ‘Mr and Mrs Smith bought ten apples from the shop and dropped two, how many do they have left?’ – why not use ‘Mrs and Mrs Smith’ instead? Usualising LGBT+ identities and relationships across your curriculum ensures that children understand that LGBT+ people are an everyday part of life, in the same way as non-LGBT+ people are.
Do you have good links with local community and faith leaders?
Allies who are not linked to your school can be helpful in mediating with parents/carers and providing a more neutral platform for your discussions around your curriculum. Having an LGBT+ ally and role model who is part of the same/ similar communities to parents/ carers who have raised concerns about your work, can be useful.
Do you work in partnership with other schools?
Your school is unlikely to be the only one delivering LGBT+ inclusive work in your local area. There may be experiences you can share, to help inform the direction of your work. Partnering up on coffee mornings or training courses might be something to explore together too.
Are you working to a recognised LGBT+ inclusion framework?
Signing up to a LGBT+ quality assurance framework scheme, can really help you shape the direction of this crucial education, giving you access to resources, advice, information and support. The Rainbow Flag Award also – uniquely – links you and your young people back into local services that can help. Go to www.rainbowflagaward.co.uk for more information.