I teach in a large secondary academy in Derbyshire. As a safeguarding lead, I receive a high volume of concerns from staff and parents about our students. This can involve anything from feeling low to experiencing family issues, mental ill health and self-harm. To make sure I can do the best for my students, I’m always looking for opportunities to improve my understanding of our young people and how I can improve their life chances.
This is what led me to attend Stonewall’s ‘Creating a trans-inclusive school’ course in Nottingham. I had attended LGBT inclusion courses in the past, but this one was different.
At the time, I felt that it was still quite taboo to talk about LGBT matters in schools, but we were seeing an increasing number of young people struggling with identity, gender and sexuality issues, and feeling that they didn’t have a voice.
I was also struggling to signpost parents and students to appropriate sources of advice and support because we had limited knowledge around what kind of help was out there.
I was anxious prior to the training – I worried about having only basic knowledge and terminology, but I never felt alienated or foolish.
The training helped me reflect on the changes we needed to make at school, and I felt a real buzz as I began to think of practical ways that we could adapt our environment.
When I returned to school, I began by looking at our library. I was surprised to find there were no books focusing on LGBT characters or themes. With help from our LGBT club (Rainbow Alliance), we created a notice board that was displayed centrally in school, which displayed LGBT icons and posters.
I met the headteacher to discuss rolling out assemblies to all students explaining our vision of a school where everyone feels equal and valued. I updated the anti-bullying policy to include homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.
I also trained my colleagues on LGBT inclusion. This was challenging at times, but I always linked it back to the young person, reminding staff that we should be having open and honest conversations with our students and liaising with their parents/carers.
I felt that, due to my training and the extra reading I took on after the course, I was equipped to answer my colleagues’ questions.
It took 6-9 months to make the changes I wanted to make, so I was very proud when our school achieved the Bronze Stonewall Award.
I am happy to say we now have LGBT books and an LGBT section in the library, although it stills needs expanding. Staff now know how to challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic behaviour, and record it as such on monitoring forms.
When I started speaking to my students about LGBT matters, I was surprised to see how much they were already aware of.
We’ve also had some great positive feedback about the fact that we have these conversations in school.
I also took it upon myself to find out what is local to us in terms of LGBTQ support for young people. This meant that when one of my year 11 students was struggling with depression and being accepted as gay in his community, I could seek support from an LGBT youth centre nearby.
There’s still more LGBT inclusion work that I want to do, such as welcoming LGBT guest speakers, ensuring that LGBT resources are being widely incorporated into the curriculum, and sharing my skills and knowledge with other schools.
But thanks to Stonewall’s course, my school is now well on the way towards being an environment where everybody feels free to be themselves.
Harmi's school have benefitted from Stonewall School & College Champion membership, with access to our expert support and advice, a growing library of guidance resources and lesson packs, and discounted training as well as the highly sought after Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards. Find out more about Stonewall's new and improved membership scheme for schools and colleges.
Stonewall have taken our years of experience delivering high quality day courses for education staff and have developed a series of e-learning courses. Designed to fit around your busy schedule, you can complete your course online in a half day sitting or dip in and out when time allows. Just like our popular day courses, Stonewall’s e-learning courses are packed full of essential information, practical advice, and interactive activities. Find out more.