On the 3 July, the Government Equalities Office launched a new action plan to advance inclusion for people who identify as LGBT.
The report cites research from the largest global national survey of LGBT people. Key findings from the survey indicate that:
- In the last academic year, 21% of respondents in education had experienced a negative reaction involving someone disclosing their LGBT identity without their permission;
- Only 21% of respondents recalled discussion of sexual orientation, gender identity or both at school;
- 83% of the most serious incidents experienced by respondents within educational institutions in the last academic year were not reported, primarily because they considered them too minor, not serious enough or that they ‘happen all the time’.
The government plan to continue to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools and the wider education system. A £3 million programme will reach more than 1,200 schools in England by March 2019.
The Government plan to update Sex and Relationships Education guidance to support the Government’s reforms to this subject. In addition, the Government will ensure that schools have access to the guidance they need to support LGBT pupils.
Support will be provided to LGBT teachers to be themselves at work and commitment is given to improving the diversity of the teaching profession. The Department for Education is investing £2 million to establish regional hubs to support teachers from under-represented groups, including those teachers who are LGBT, to progress into leadership. The Government will ensure that support is available for LGBT students who are victims of hate crime and online harassment.
The Centre for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Education welcomes these proposals and we are particularly pleased with the commitment towards supporting LGBT teachers to progress to leadership positions. However, it is disappointing that a lack of emphasis is given to the role of teacher training in preparing new teachers to facilitate LGBTQ+ inclusion.
We know that not all trainee teachers receive comprehensive training on how to support students who identify as transgender. Whilst some teacher training courses address LGB inclusion, trainee teachers need further guidance on transgender so that students who identify as transgender do not become marginalised.
Additionally, it is disappointing that the action plan does not address the challenges associated with teaching students about diverse sexualities in faith schools. Our own research in this area demonstrates that LGBT staff who work in faith schools may be worried about being themselves at work. Additionally, our research also demonstrates that there are specific challenges associated with teaching students about LGBT issues in faith schools.
It is also disappointing that the action plan does not address parental backlash as a barrier that prevents schools from addressing LGBT inclusion. Our research demonstrates that fear of parental objections to work on LGBT inclusion can prevent schools from addressing LGBT inclusion in a proactive way.
Whilst the action plan is a positive step forward, there are still unresolved issues in schools that must be addressed before all schools can confidently address LGBT inclusion.