LGBT inclusion in the curriculum and classroom

Written by: Ashley Lodge | Published:
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Ashley Lodge draws on new guidance to outline how leaders can work to adopt a more LGBT-inclusive approach in their primary curriculum and across their schools

In Britain today, 20,000 young people are thought to be growing up with same-sex parents and many children have lesbian, gay, bi and trans parents or family (Stonewall, 2019). And yet, almost half (45 per cent) of LGBT pupils report being bullied because of who they are and two in five (40 per cent) say they have never been taught anything about LGBT issues (Stonewall, 2017).

Schools have the power to create learning environments that reflect the modern world, not only by helping to build greater tolerance and acceptance among all students, but also by creating safe spaces where every pupil can feel that they belong.

When pupils feel excluded from their education, the impact on their learning, mental health and wellbeing can be profound. So how can primary schools work to build more LGBT-inclusive environments?

Pearson has formed a long-standing relationship with Stonewall, Britain’s leading charity for lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality in order to provide free resources to support schools in building an LGBT-inclusive curriculum. Here we draw on some of the tips and practical considerations in the latest Stonewall guidance and resources, including its 2019 guide Creating an LGBT-inclusive primary curriculum.

A whole-school approach

To successfully build an LGBT-inclusive environment, check your policies to ensure that they make clear reference to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and language, as well as your wider work on LGBT-inclusion.

Materials

Think about the materials and resources you teach. We worked with Stonewall to create a set of principles and examples of how we could make our teaching and learning resources more LGBT-inclusive. These include:

  • Freedom from discrimination and bias around sexual orientation and gender/identity.
  • Creation of content that embeds an awareness for and the promotion of diversity and inclusion around sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Supporting learning which is based on evidence and facts.

With these principles in mind, think about what is being taught and communicated in your school and resources. Consider investing in some new library books that celebrate diversity and highlight different families, such as And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, or take a look at Stonewall’s primary school book and resources list.

Step-by-step

Do not reinvent your curriculum over night. Start with what you are already doing rather than reinventing your whole curriculum to reflect different families and role models. Every half-term, you could choose one subject area for each year group and think about ways to embed LGBT-inclusion within that subject. Look at what you have already got planned and see if you can find places to link in LGBT-inclusion.

Could you focus on an LGBT artist like Frida Kahlo in your art curriculum? Could you highlight LGBT Olympians like Tom Daley in PE? Could you learn about Alan Turing in your science or computing lessons? In the primary curriculum guide mentioned earlier there is a tool to plan this into your existing work.

Lesson examples

Reflect on the examples that are used in lessons. Small changes make a big difference. When your teachers are giving examples in lessons, they can refer to LGBT families. For example: “Mark’s dads increase his pocket money by 10 per cent. If Mark had £2 before the increase, how much pocket money does he have now?”

Get your staff on board

Make sure all staff understand the importance of doing this work. You could use statistics about LGBT bullying and its impact to help other staff understand how much of a difference it can make to all students to create inclusive environments.

Use the right language

It is not surprising for staff to sometimes feel nervous about using the right language when talking to pupils about LGBT-inclusion. Take a look at Stonewall’s child-friendly glossary in the primary curriculum guide, which can help you with age-appropriate and accessible definitions of “gay”, “lesbian”, and “trans” for example.

Harness teachers’ confidence

Different colleagues will have different levels of knowledge and confidence when it comes to LGBT-inclusion. Make use of team-teaching and peer mentoring, and if staff are still feeling less confident, consider some specialist external training.

Engage parent and carers

It is important to communicate with parents and carers and be transparent. You could invite parents into school to have a look at the books and other resources you are using.

Make sure your policies on LGBT-inclusion – from your equality policy to your anti-bullying policy – are clearly available on your website and have an “open door policy” if you can. When you share your curriculum with parents online, try to make the LGBT links clear so that parents and carers can see what you plan to teach and when.

Don’t forget your pupils

Make sure pupil voice comes through in your LGBT-inclusion work. If you have a school council, prefects, or any other pupil leadership group, involve them in surveying other pupils or leading assemblies for their peers. You can celebrate their work through displays – this is a great opportunity to get your pupils involved in making some artwork on the theme of celebrating difference. Invite parents and carers into school to help create work they can display, for example by creating family portraits. 

Ashley Lodge is a senior product manager at Pearson. He is also mindfulness lead and a member of Spectrum UK, Pearson’s LGBT network that champions diversity and inclusion across the company.

Further information & resources


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