LGBT+ and gender: Auditing your school’s curriculum

Written by: Katherine Fowler | Published:
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It is vital that your school curriculum represents the diversity seen in modern Britain. Katherine Fowler outlines what to consider when carrying out a curriculum review focused on gender and LGBT+ and considers how to instil a cross-curricular sense of inclusivity

Embed gender and LGBT+ inclusivity throughout your curriculum

If you want to change your pupils’ understanding and attitudes around gender and LGBT+ inclusivity, you will need to make changes across your whole curriculum. Keeping topics about gender and sexuality confined to a small number of PSHE or RSE lessons is unlikely to have the significant impact you seek.

You should look to question your whole curriculum for gender and LGBT+ inclusivity; then you and your colleagues can pinpoint where the weaknesses or gaps are in each subject and take steps to address them. Using a specialist curriculum audit tool will help provide a framework for thinking about how you can embed these topics across all areas of learning.

When doing this review, take a bit of time to think about LGBT+ in terms of the representation of other minority groups such as black, Asian and minority ethnicities (BAME).

Ask yourself if you are offering a white-centric view of women and people who are LGBT+ and always try to balance examples to include people of colour of all genders and sexualities. It is a good idea to carry out a separate anti-racism curriculum audit – however, we don’t recommend trying to carry out two audits in full at the same time.

Give staff time to educate themselves on gender and LGBT+ issues

Your curriculum review will only work if staff are engaged and believe this work is important. Before carrying out the audit, you will want to improve your staff’s general understanding of gender and LGBT+ issues. This is particularly important for members of staff you want to include in your working group (more on this next), but the more staff that engage with this the better.

Make use of sources such as reading, podcasts, documentaries and television shows for improving your staff’s understanding of gender and LGBT+ issues. Make sure staff have time to reflect and discuss together before jumping into the review.

Create a cross-curricular working group to carry out the audit

This way, staff can share expertise and ideas. This is especially important for primary schools, where subject leaders are not necessarily subject specialists. This is a big piece of work and a whole-school undertaking, so it should not fall to just a few people. You might want to consider inviting the following staff members to get involved:

  • The subject leader/coordinator for each subject.
  • PSHE/RSE leads, who will be most familiar with the content of this audit and are crucial for making sure that LGBT+ and gender inclusion is covered across the entire curriculum, rather than just in PSHE/RSE lessons.
  • Any other members of staff who are interested in this work and want to take part. They do not have to be teachers – they just need to be passionate about improving diversity in your curriculum.

Have your subject leaders/coordinators take the lead in your working group and ask the questions and prompts for their subject in the curriculum audit tool you are using. Even though their subjects are different, the kinds of questions the subject leaders will be asking and their overall aims should be aligned, so encourage them to work together and support each other.

Leads for certain subjects might want to work more closely together where there are more direct links between the subjects, for example English and history, or maths and science.

As a working group, make sure you meet regularly to discuss how the review is going and to share resources and ideas. How often the working group meets is up to you and will depend on how much time your staff have. You should aim for at least once a term, but half-termly would be ideal.

Useful documents to review include curriculum maps, short and long-term plans, individual lesson plans and resources (you will not always need to go into this level of detail, but you might want to look at a few examples of lesson plans or resources per unit to get a good idea of how content is taught). The working group should also take into account cross-curricular events/days, trips and assemblies.

Include the whole school community and let them know what you are doing

You might want to consider running an INSET or CPD session for all staff to kick-off the review. This way, everyone is engaged and feels involved, not just staff in the working group. Encourage all staff to feed in suggestions or ideas of what needs to improve via their subject leader.

Meanwhile, make sure you let parents and pupils know that you are working on this audit and encourage them to share their thoughts and ideas, too.

You should also let governors know you are carrying out this work, especially any curriculum link governors. Tell them how they can get involved with the working group if they want to.

Don’t expect this to be a quick fix

This is not a quick piece of work – it may take up to a year to do the full review and once you have completed it the working group should keep meeting to discuss how it is going and any ways they want to adapt the curriculum further. As with any curriculum work, this will never be finished – it is going to be an on-going process of refinement.

Your cross-curricular working group might want to meet at the end of each term or half-term (depending on how often they are meeting) to review what has been taught that term/half-term and how they want to frame/teach the content differently the following year – this way the whole review will be completed in one year.

Make sure you give staff time to get this right, and don’t expect them to complete the review in their own time. You could consider setting aside all your INSET days for a year for those staff in the working group to dedicate themselves to this work.
You may want to consider including the curriculum audit as part of your school improvement plan, due to its size and scale. This will mean that the work gets tracked and resources can be considered from the very start.

Support your staff to deliver the new curriculum

When you have reviewed and adapted your curriculum, you need to support your teachers to be confident delivering it. The cross-curricular working group should continue to support staff in delivering the curriculum once they have adapted it. As mentioned earlier, use sources such as reading, podcasts and documentaries to help get all teachers up-to-speed. You could also consider staff training – there are many specialist CPD courses available.

Next steps: Go beyond your curriculum

If you want your school to be truly inclusive, you also need to think about the ethos and culture that surrounds your curriculum. This should include a review of:

  • Staff hiring and training.
  • The school environment: Ensuring diversity in your displays and minimising the use of segregated areas such as boys’ library corners, for example.
  • Policies: Include a statement of zero tolerance for harassment and gendered/homophobic language in policies such as your anti-bullying policy, behaviour policy and child protection policy. Also, ensure you are complying with the requirements of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED).
  • The language used across your school: Stonewall’s primary curriculum contains useful glossaries for pupils and staff (2019).
  • Your school’s involvement and engagement with your wider community: For example, inviting female and LGBT+ role models to run assemblies and career events.

  • Katherine Fowler is a content editor at The Key, a provider of intelligence and resources for education leaders. The advice in this article is taken from The Key’s resource Curriculum audit: Gender and LGBTQ+ inclusivity, which includes a curriculum audit tool. The Key worked on this resource with Clive Belgeonne, Gulshan Kayembe, David Lowbridge-Ellis, Daniel Tomlinson-Gray and Shalina Patel. Visit

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