Posted in bullying, education, Gender stereotypes, relationships, sex and relationship education, Uncategorized

‘It’s okay to be gay’

Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you.

This is what many of us grew up being told, but the reality of the matter is far different. What may seem like playful jibes and youthful banter can actually have a dark and damaging effect on the person at the receiving end.

Schools are hotspots for bullying, in particular for homophobic, transphobic and biphobic abuse; with 95 percent of pupils reporting that they hear the word ‘gay’ being used as an insult or with negative connotations.[1]

In this modern age, you would have thought that homophobic slurs died out with the dinosaurs and that it is only the people living in the past who share these views – but the truth is startling. In fact, in the three months following the Brexit vote, the number of homophobic attacks in the UK actually rose by 147 percent.[2] To say we are a modernised country living in the 21st century, the number of hate crimes which occur due to society’s attitude towards people who do not conform to gender norms is shockingly high.

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Always at the forefront of a battle, teachers are often tasked with the challenge of addressing homophobic bullying amongst young people, with the aim of reducing the number of gender-related hate crimes which occur in future years.

One man who has been a victim of homophobic abuse himself, and is now trying to tackle the problem amongst children, is openly gay primary school teacher, Kai Fison.

Growing up, Kai was like many young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people – confused, embarrassed and harassed, with no one to turn to. The Derbyshire-based Reception teacher explained that: “I was bullied severely at school, and for a long time I felt ashamed of who I was and that I was gay…these experiences impacted my relationships with friends. I wasn’t able to be honest with them and I felt like I had to hide who I was.

“I think if I had received support when I was younger and was shown that I had someone fighting for me, and showing me that I wasn’t alone or I wasn’t strange, things may have been different.”

Using his personal experiences with coming to terms with his sexuality, Kai can relate to what many youngsters may be going through and he uses this insight to help support pupils who are questioning their sexuality or gender identity.

“I feel that teachers being open and honest about their sexuality allows children to see that it’s okay to be gay…by having that open dialogue with children and allowing them to see that gay people are all around, and actually people that you may not suspect, is vital to their wellbeing.

“It allows LGBT pupils to have a voice and a person to turn to who may have been in a similar situation, and most importantly provides healthy role models.”

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Nonetheless, Kai further explained that many teachers are not able to act as positive role models for LGBT pupils as they are not appropriately equipped with knowledge regarding LGBT issues. This could be the reason that only 28 percent of pupils feel that homophobic language and abuse is dealt with well in their school, with as little as 13 percent saying that reporting homophobic bullying actually resulted in any actions being taken to prevent future incidents (LGBT Foundation, 2017).

Research undertaken by Stonewall, a leading organisation campaigning for the equality of LGBT people in Britain, supports this view – revealing that 80 percent of secondary school teachers have not received specific training on how to tackle homophobic bullying.[3]

Kai added: “I think that teachers need to be able to deal with children who may be having a hard time coming to terms with their sexuality. They need to have an understanding of the types of feelings children may be going through.”

So, how are teachers expected to reduce instances of homophobic, transphobic and biphobic abuse and offer effective support for LGBT pupils if they do not fully understand the problem themselves?

Organisations such as the Proud Trust have been trying to improve this, through working with young people and schools to raise awareness of the LGBT community, in order to create a more accepting and open environment.

We spoke to the Strategic Director of the Proud Trust, Amelia Lee, who said: “The Proud Trust, along with colleagues at Schools OUT, are very much about working towards whole school approaches of LGBT inclusion, which prevent bullying and negative attitudes from taking root in schools.

“Based on the NatCen research into combating homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools, we have created, in partnership with DISC, Allsorts and The Kite Trust, a robust and comprehensive quality assurance scheme for schools to support their whole school approach. This is known as the Rainbow Flag Award.”

The Rainbow Flag Award provides schools with a process for measuring how well they are providing a safe and supportive environment for LGBT pupils, raising awareness of how a whole school approach can be taken.

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The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, coming up on the 17th May, provides schools with a perfect opportunity to implement a whole school approach and raise awareness of the kind of abuse that many members of the LGBT community experience on a day-to-day basis.

With 53 percent of young LGBT people saying they are not taught anything about LGBT issues at school (Stonewall, 2015), it is not really surprising that homophobic language is rife amongst young people. Therefore, the dedicated day on the 17th May can be utilised to ensure that pupils are aware that whatever sexuality or gender they identify with, it is acceptable; as well as reinforcing that judging someone and bullying them based on their sexuality or gender identity is not acceptable.

Kai explains that he is “constantly reinforcing the view that it is okay to be different” by challenging anything he hears that “promotes negative stereotypes about LGBT people or gender itself”, and he urges other teachers to do the same.

Talking of the importance of teaching children about not having to conform to gender norms, Kai said: “I feel that children are socialised into believing that being gay is wrong or unnatural. They should be given all the facts and then allowed to form an opinion based on that.

“I think in terms oNoHomoGlo3f bullying there should be a no tolerance policy – bullying of any kind is wrong and needs to be stopped. Children need to learn that being unkind to anyone for any reason is not right.”

The fact that 58 percent of pupils believe that their school is not a safe and welcoming place for LGBT pupils (LGBT Foundation, 2017) is a sad statistic in this day and age. It only highlights the current problem within schools and the importance of utilising the 17th May to not only raise awareness of LGBT issues, but to also ensure pupils are aware of the support available to them.

To help schools better understand the experiences of LGBT pupils and help them to provide effective support to pupils questioning their sexuality or gender identity, we have created a LGBT Policy which can be utilised in order to create an accepting and welcoming environment for young LGBT people.

[1] LGBT Foundation (2017) ‘Facts and figures’, <http://lgbt.foundation/About-us/media/facts-and-figures/> [Accessed: 19 April 2017]

[2] The Guardian (2016) ‘Homophobic attacks in UK rose 147% in three months after Brexit vote’, <https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/08/homophobic-attacks-double-after-brexit-vote> [Accessed: 27 April 2017]

[3] Stonewall (2015) ‘Secondary schools’, <http://www.stonewall.org.uk/get-involved/education/secondary-schools> [Accessed: 2 May 2017]

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Posted in Assessment, curriculum, education, Government stragegy, leadership, National Curriculum, policy, politics

What we learned about Pupil Premium at the Inside Government conference

At the end of January, we attended the Inside Government conference, ‘Pupil Premium: Ensuring the Best Educational Outcomes in Secondary Schools’, to see what we could learn about Pupil Premium strategy from the experts.

We heard keynote speeches from Sonia Blandford, Founder and Chief Executive of Achievement for All, and Thomas Martell from the Education Endowment Fund (EEF), as well as a talk on ‘Establishing a Comprehensive Pupil Premium Strategy’ from the Deputy Director of the National Education Trust, Marc Rowland.

On top of that, we also heard from a collection of Pupil Premium Award winning schools presenting case studies of what has worked in their settings, but more importantly, how and why it worked for their particular setting. Continue reading “What we learned about Pupil Premium at the Inside Government conference”

Posted in curriculum, education, Government stragegy, parents, Uncategorized

Can grammar schools really improve social mobility?

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Image credit: Pixabay

Within hours of its publication on 12 September 2016, the DfE’s consultation document ‘Schools that work for everyone’ was at the centre of a political storm regarding its aims to “relax the restrictions on selective education”.

The opening sentence of the Green Paper sets out “the government’s ambition to create an education system that extends opportunity to everyone, not just the privileged few”. Can the grammar school renaissance really improve social mobility for all? Continue reading “Can grammar schools really improve social mobility?”

Posted in education, relationships

Sex and relationship ed: do we need to grow up?

According to a Commons Women and Equalities Committee report, sexual harassment and abuse of girls are too often accepted as part of daily life. The report has warned that some pupils, including those in primary school, are being exposed to hardcore pornography, and that the images they see are affecting their views of sex and relationships. Continue reading “Sex and relationship ed: do we need to grow up?”

Posted in communication, education, leadership, parents, social media, training

How to help pupils with eating disorders

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The number of people in the UK battling eating disorders is rising, resulting in many children, young people and adults being admitted to hospital, or at increased risk of suicide. While recovery rates are optimistic, if young people do not overcome an eating disorder, it can stay with them into adult life, at which point it becomes much more difficult to cure. Continue reading “How to help pupils with eating disorders”

Posted in education, Free School Meals, Uncategorized

When does punishing children go too far?

Pupils are now being punished if their parents/carers fail to pay lunch bills.

Well-known Conservative supporter, and self-titled superhead, Katharine Birbalsingh is the headteacher of Michaela Community School, a free school in the London Borough of Brent. Ms Birbalsingh originally gained attention as the anonymous blogger To Miss With Love, in which she wrote about her experiences teaching at an inner-city secondary school. She then came to national prominence after she spoke at the 2010 Conservative Party conference in support of the party’s education and policies, criticising the state of the British education system. Ms Birbalsingh sent a letter home to parents/carers to inform them that if they did not pay their fines, then their children would be punished as a consequence. Continue reading “When does punishing children go too far?”

Posted in education, parents, policy, schools, Secondary, Uncategorized

The rise of free schools?

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Could Theresa May’s government herald the rise of free schools and a return to widespread selective education?

Since the Prime Minister’s inaugural speech, delivered outside Downing Street on 13 July 2016, speculation in relation to the role of free schools and the return of grammar schools has swept through the sector, prompting emotive statements such as: “If you’re a white, working-class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately”, it is unsurprising. Continue reading “The rise of free schools?”