Children are not born racist, sexist or homophobic; this is a fact I say in every training session and staff meeting!
Young people learn negative behaviours very early on from outside influences, therefore it is our job as educators to ensure that all these discriminatory views are challenged and eradicated.
We need to create a safe space for everyone in our school community to ensure LGBT+ students, teachers at school are not bullied or discriminated against.
When I started LGBT+ inclusive work 10 years ago I quickly realised that my students were not the root of this problem, it was us: the adults; the teachers who were simply not referencing LGBT+ people, families and history within the curriculum.
No sooner had I talked about famous LGBT people when hands went up to tell me about LGBT members in their families. This is one of the reasons I founded Educate & Celebrate, an organisation that challenges homophobia, biphobia and transphobia to make all schools LGBT+ friendly.
Our PRIDE in Primary Education resources allow our students to explore diversity and differences through the use of illustrated books, YouTube links, videos, songs, and downloadable MP3s.
We encourage our young people to join us on the journey to institutional change through recognition of discrimination through race, disabilities, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and beliefs.
The key to developing our teaching resources is not to have to create new lessons and schemes of work but to tap into existing frameworks for ease of accessibility for teachers and students, along with dispelling the myth that we are teaching are ‘gay’ lessons.
To clarify: There is no such thing as a ‘gay lesson’, only ‘inclusive’ ones. For example ‘Tango Makes Three’ is used as one of our primary school reading books. It is the story of two male penguins in a New York Zoo who hatched an egg and raised their baby penguin ‘Tango’. Responses to this book from primary school kids included:
‘I like the book because it tells you that your parents don’t just have to be male or female.’
Some responses did not comment on the LGBT content at all: ‘I predict that when Mr. Gramzey thinks Tango is old enough to live in the wild, he will set him free.’
For me, this is the utopia; a classroom, a school, a community, a world where it is a non-issue to read a book about different families and not have to justify the existence of LGBT+ people.
Recently we have received criticism that primary schools are not the right environment for LGBT+Inclusive work. These accusations and misconceptions only prove the continued need for further education in our schools and communities about lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people especially with regard to the Equality Act 2010 and Ofsted briefing criteria which all schools must adhere to.
Therefore, when validation of our work comes through a recent Ofsted report we know we are making institutional change.
The positive impact of the work of teachers at Allens Croft Primary, one of our partner schools, was highlighted in their inspection February 2015: ‘Pupils in Year 5 demonstrated the fine impact of the school’s approach to inclusion and community values through their discussions about the book ‘My Princess Boy’ and the concept of unconditional friendship. Pupils showed true empathy in the ways they talked, for example, about the importance of people having an ‘open heart and being beautiful’.
As one pupil said, ‘We are all human, we are all unique.’
Watch students and teachers using the PRIDE in Primary Education resources in Birmingham:
PRIDE in Primary education resources can be accessed via the Educate & Celebrate website.