Schools becoming ‘nervous’ about LGBTQ+ inclusion amid rising hate, charity says

A crowd of people marching with a large trans flag with the words trans inclusion in schools

School staff are becoming increasingly “nervous” about LGBTQ+ inclusion amid rising hate towards the community, a leading young people’s charity told PinkNews.

In recent months, the UK has seen a sharp uptick in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, with protests against Drag Queen Story Hour events (attended by extremist religion, anti-abortion and nationalist groups) as well as continued anti-trans narratives in the press and by politicians.

A marked increase in reported homophobic and transphobic hate crimes has been reported over a number of years, which experts have linked to such rhetoric.

Just Like Us, which works to improve LGBTQ+ pupils’ experiences in schools by running educational talks and providing inclusion resources, told PinkNews it has “recently seen nervousness among some school staff towards LGBT+ inclusion in schools, linked to rising levels of anti-LGBT+ attitudes in the UK”.

Amy Ashenden, the charity’s interim CEO, said that “in a tough climate, the very few anti-LGBT+ voices are sadly always the loudest”.

However, she added, that “doesn’t mean they’re in the majority”. 

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Ashenden cited research by the charity which shows a huge swathe (82 per cent) of parents believe it is important for their children to learn about LGBTQ+ identities. 

Just Like Us’ figures echoed More In Common’s cross-political research, which revealed public attitudes are generally accepting, and not in line with the combative narratives touted in politics. 

A majority of those surveyed (46 per cent) view trans people as their affirmed gender, while there is the belief schools should have policies to tackle homophobia (53 per cent) and transphobia (41 per cent). 

“We hear time and time again from the young LGBT+ people we work with what a hugely positive impact LGBT+ inclusion would have had on them when they were at school, and we also know from our research that LGBT+ inclusion benefits the wellbeing of all pupils, whether or not they are LGBT+,” Ashenden said.

“I am hopeful that teachers and school staff can feel reassured that LGBT+ inclusion is the right thing to do.

“We will always be here to support teachers who feel nervous about supporting LGBT+ young people and teaching a topic that has sometimes been forgotten about or avoided in the past.”

Since September 2020, schools have been instructed to teach LGBTQ-inclusive lessons.

Under the relationships and sex education curriculum, every primary school child should learn about different types of families, including those with same-sex parents, while secondary school students should learn about sexual orientation and gender identity.

MPs voted for the new curriculum 538 to 21 in 2019. It came amid a series of protests against LGBTQ-inclusive education which originated in Birmingham.

The No Outsiders project – created by Parkfield Community School assistant head Andrew Moffat in 2014 – sought to teach children about the Equality Act 2010 and diversity, including LGBTQ+ people.

By 2019, a row erupted over the lessons after one parent started a petition, claiming the subject contradicted the Islamic faith. 

Protests were held daily outside schools in Birmingham where the lessons were taking place, resulting in threats to Moffat. The High Court eventually issued a permanent injunction banning demonstrations outside the school.

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