Throughout the month of February, since 2005, teachers and members of EI’s British affiliates have taken the opportunity to celebrate LGBT History Month to teach their students and colleagues about the lives, experiences and diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Britain.
The founder of LGBT History Month in Britain, Sue Sanders, is an active member of the National Union of Teachers. She tells Worlds of Education what motivated her to establish this initiative.
Fighting bullying and abuse
“Governments, children’s services, school governors and head teachers have obligations to safeguard the health and safety of their pupils, students and staff who work in schools and college,” she explains, reflecting on a raft of equality legislation that was passed in the UK over recent years.
“However, reports of bullying and abuse in and around educational institutions, was continuous, and it was clear to me, as a teacher, that no one who is subjected to abuse can reasonably be expected to reach their full potential.”
“By only dealing with the bullying and abuse – as important as that is – we were merely putting a sticking plaster on an open wound. My colleagues and I realised that it was vital to tackle the causes of abuse. This meant an overhaul of the way in which women and LGBT people are presented throughout the school curriculum, with zero tolerance of all discriminatory language or actions. Part of this is also about acknowledging that prejudice can often stem from ignorance.”
Sanders is proud of the fact that LGBT History Month is among the fastest growing celebrations in Britain because, she says, “LGBT people are bigger, better, more interesting, more complex and stronger than their oppression and it is our aim to enable discussions about this.”
Lessons plans on LGBT issues
As well as coordinating hundreds of activities in schools across Britain, the LGBT History Month team has been taking statutory bodies to task, to ensure that all teachers understand that learning about LGBT experiences can only take place when the atmosphere is right.
In addition to developing suggested lesson plans that are tailored for LGBT History Month and cover a range of curriculum subjects, Sanders and fellow teachers have developed materials to help schools end the invisibility of LGBT people in many communities. The guidance shows schools how to develop policies that are respectful of LGBT staff and children’s rights, as well as offering practical tips on tackling homophobic bullying, name-calling and abusive language.
A joint EI and PSI LGBT Forum will be held ahead of EI’s sixth World Congress, in Cape Town, South Africa, on 18-19 July.
For details about LGBT History Mont visit: www.lgbthistorymonth.org.uk
By Claude Carroué, Education International