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LGBT plan for faith schools released

15 February 2019


A TEN-POINT plan to help children deal with LGBT issues at faith schools has been released as part of a report into the LGBT charity Educate and Celebrate.

The study, written by Dr Anna Carlile, a researcher in the Department of Education at Goldsmiths, University of London, collected interview and focus-group data from five representative schools where Educate and Celebrate had worked.

Educate and Celebrate works with faith schools and schools that serve faith communities to help them understand the LGBT community. Their ten-step process is: first, to “begin with a one-off anti-bullying assembly, which builds staff confidence”; and, second, to “embed the Educate and Celebrate materials across the curriculum and within the school environment, with full usualising achieved by the end of the school year”.

It continues: “3. Build on existing pastoral care expertise to support their LGBT+ students to come out and be themselves at school. 4. Engage with parents at the school gate through explaining the universal application of the Equality Act 2010, including in relation to religion and by appealing to parents’ religious commitment to kindness to one’s neighbour.

“5. Deconstruct the stereotyped view of a promiscuous ‘LGBT+ lifestyle’ among parents, providing reassurance that the programme is about respecting and accepting differences in people’s relationships and identities. 6. Balance the protected characteristics of religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity in teaching and discussions through a strong commitment to mutual respect.

“7. Improve teacher confidence through engaging with the Educate and Celebrate training on the inclusiveness of the Equality Act 2010. 8. Support teaching staff through inclusive modelling of the programme by senior staff allies and pragmatically accommodate some staff members’ religion-based viewpoints without undermining the programme.”

The plan concludes: “9. Support LGBT+ teachers to come out, if they choose to, by ensuring all staff take responsibility to address homophobic, biphobic and transphobic behaviour. 10.Celebrate the school’s inclusivity with the community through joyful bake-off events, Rainbow Weeks, Colour Runs, and Community Showcases.”

Dr Carlile writes: “Children in the schools we visited at the start of the project all had experiences of homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic (mostly homophobic) bullying in the playground.”

A child at one of the schools said: “On the playground I heard people . . . laughing at others because some other people are transgender, and they are calling other boys and other girls lesbians, gay, and in the class … I don’t even know why they are even saying it, someone’s just playing, say a boy was playing with a friend that is a boy just saying ‘You’re gay, you’re gay’ for some reason, even though they were just playing.”

The report says: “Some parents held a stereotyped view of a promiscuous ‘LGBT+ lifestyle’, and worried that the programme might mitigate against the idea of a committed monogamous relationship. There was a bit of work to do around decoupling the stereotyped concept of promiscuity from the idea of LGBT+ people. Another area of concern was related to parents’ fear that ‘being gay’ is a sin against the tenets of their religion.

“In most cases parents were reassured that the Educate and Celebrate materials were actually about the different kinds of identities and relationships people could have, and the importance of being accepting of differences between people.”

Later it gives an example of this: “Parents at the schools towards the end of the programme were upholding the same compromise. At Iris School, a student explained what happened at home after he was excluded for using homophobic language in the playground.

“This same mother had kept her child home from an Edu-cake and Cel-a-bake event: ‘They said I’m not allowed to play on my Xbox for a month . . . and I had to stay in my room and not allowed to watch TV or play with any of my toys . . . because even though my religion is against it, my mum doesn’t mind anyone who’s around Christianity being gay, or she doesn’t mind as far as Christianity, but when someone, like, if someone in our family says it, she gets very serious about it.’”

“Schools serving faith communities, which seek to usualise LGBT+ people and issues must balance a range of needs and identities. This work brings LGBT+ and non-LGBT+ teachers, parents and students to meet at a place of mutual respect and kindness,” Dr Carlile writes.

The report can be downloaded at www.educateandcelebrate.org.

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