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Fostering respect is key to ending anti-LGBTI views at religious schools

Fostering respect is key to ending anti-LGBTI views at religious schools

Students at St Michael's College School

Using the principles of religion is vital for challenging anti-LGBT+ prejudice in faith schools. Some of those principles include, commitment to be kind and respect one’s neighbor.

A report from Goldsmiths, University of London found that all children had heard transphobic or homophobic bullying in the playground.

Goldsmiths’ Dr Anna Carlile’s evaluated Educate & Celebrate’s year-long work in faith schools. Educate & Celebrate is a charity employing qualified teachers and youth workers.

The charity spent a year working at faith schools and secular schools serving faith communities.

Carlile visited each school at the start and end of the school year to conduct interviews and focus groups, following Educate & Celebrate’s programme of activities and looking at changes in the schools over time.

Carlile published her findings on 1 February to mark the start of LGBT History Month.

Before the programme, all children across reported direct or overheard experiences of homophobic or transphobic bullying. By the end of the programme, the culture had changed. The report found pupils across the schools could agree that no religion condones bullying.

The programme also had a tangible impact on teacher confidence. Many teachers had expressed anxiety about ‘saying the wrong thing’. They also felt worried about balancing teaching with their own faith, or thought that students would not take the programme seriously or be unkind.

LGBTI teachers felt more comfortable

The report also offers ten steps of guidance for schools serving faith communities, based on successful initiatives for pupils, parents and teachers introduced by Educate & Celebrate.

‘It was clear from the research that most children and parents in families where faith is important were already respectful and kind to people that are LGBT+,’ Carlile said.

‘The Educate & Celebrate programme consolidated that approach and helped school staff to feel more confident in their work.

‘Families also often recognised that it was important for people who are LGBT+ to ‘come out’ because being honest, generally, was important in their religion. Other students had become comfortable that they could accommodate their own LGBT+ identity within their faith.’

After the programme LGBT+ staff also reported they felt safer being ‘out’ at school.

Dr Elly Barnes founded Educate & Celebrate and welcomed the findings.

‘This much needed report is very timely as we enter into LGBT History Month 2019 with this year’s theme of Peace and Reconciliation,’ Barnes said.

‘Our goal at Educate & Celebrate is to give teachers in all schools the confidence and knowledge to successfully provide an LGBT+ inclusive education by eradicating any perceived barriers.

‘This report succinctly demonstrates how through tried and tested strategies we can all successfully create cohesive communities.’