Prior to my recent visit to Hungerford Primary School in London I don’t think I had actually set foot in any school for well over 20 years.
The thought of hundreds of children en masse absolutely terrifies me, so when the team in the UK Government Equalities Office responsible for the Sports Charter against Homophobia and Transphobia in Sport asked me whether I’d like to visit one the most ‘diversity’-friendly schools in the country it came as quite a shock at first. So much so, I decided to ask the Gay Star News duck to come with me for moral support. (See if you can spot it in the photo.)
The reason for their request was that in Olympic year the children had requested to meet a ‘real life’ Gay Games athlete. They had heard about the Gay Games through their studies and some of the previous visitors to the school and wanted to find out more about the differences between the Olympics and The Gay Games.
Earlier in the year some of the children had already had the opportunity to meet Team GB Olympic silver medalist rower Quin Baton and also the Team GB Paralympic Sitting Volleyball player Claire Harvey, so I was in good company.
The children of Hungerford Primary School are very special because they were the winners of the UK Government’s Sports Charter against Homophobia and Transphobia in Sport logo competition. However, their participation in this competition is only a small part of their diversity programme, which is one of the most advanced of its kind in the UK.
For those that are unaware The Sports Charter was launched in March 2011 with the aim of further tackling homophobia and transphobia and making sport equal for all and to spread the message far and wide that there is no room for hate on or off the playing field. The charter promotes the belief that everyone should be able to participate in and enjoy sport – whoever they are and whatever their background.
So far nearly all of the major UK Sports governing bodies and professional UK sports clubs have signed up to the Charter including The Football Association, The Rugby Football Union, The Lawn Tennis Association, The Rugby Football League and the English and Wales Cricket Board. The rate at which the message has spread has been a massive achievement for all involved.
To say the children of Hungerford Primary School understand the values of the Sports Charter is an understatement. During my visit I met around 60 children between the ages of six and 11 and all of them could not only quote the school’s core values and genuinely know their meaning, they also had a good idea of the sports charter and its meaning.
We spent time discussing the school values ‘Caring, Honesty, Trustworthiness, Respect and Fairness’ and how these could not only be connected with the UK Government’s Sports Charter, but also the Gay Games principals of ‘Participation, Inclusion and Pursuit of Personal Best’.
The children were very interested to see a collection of both Gay Games and World Championship Gold Medals. They had great fun (and difficulty) guessing the difference and which gold medals were in fact gay and which were straight. Their conclusion was that there was no difference in the medals and that there should not be any difference between people who play sports.
One of things I hadn’t prepared for was that 60 children means at least 60 questions fired at you. The variety and detail and of what they wanted to know about truly amazed me and completely show that the schools core values are not only written on paper, but are in action around the school every single day.
I can only conclude Hungerford Primary School is indeed a very special place, with children encouraged to express themselves, celebrate differences and treat their peers with respect and dignity no matter where they come from, the colour of their skin, or their sexuality.
I’m very grateful to Sports Charter team for asking me to undertake this visit and very grateful for their work for equality within all sports in the United Kingdom. I’d also like to thank the children and staff of Hungerford Primary School for their commitment to diversity and equality.
Together we can achieve equality and acceptance in sports for all!
Chris Morgan is a five-time World Champion, seven-time British Champion and six-time Gay Games Gold Medalist in powerlifting. He is also a Global Ambassador to the Federation of Gay Games and Gay Games Cleveland 2014.