Governors for Schools is delighted to announce our collaboration with charity ‘Just Like Us’, developed to enhance governors’ confidence and knowledge when discussing LGBT+ inclusion.
School governance plays a crucial role in shaping policies and strategies that promote diversity and inclusion in schools, in turn creating positive learning environments for all students. By addressing issues related to LGBT+ acceptance and inclusion, governors can help foster an environment where pupils feel safe, supported, and respected. This inclusive approach can lead to improved academic performance, as well as greater social and emotional well-being for all students. Governors for Schools has a suite of resources about how governors can support pupil wellbeing within their settings, which you can find here.
Research from the Key and Edurio conducted in 2022 noted that 8% of pupils report not feeling safe in school, and that pupils who do not identify as straight, or have gender identities other than male or female, are much less likely to feel safe in schools than their peers. It also notes that 10% of students miss school due to feeling unsafe, rising to 19% of pupils that identify as Gay, 16% of pupils identifying as Bisexual, and 23% of those with a gender identity other than male or female.
While improvements have been made in recent years to enhance the provision for LGBT+ pupils in schools, many LGBT+ young people and their peers still believe that not enough is being done, with there being a significant difference in their educational experience in comparison to their non-LGBT+ peers. A recent research report released by Just Like Us reflects the lasting impact these negative experiences can have as LGBT+ students enter the world as young adults.
As governance volunteers invested in children and young people’s educational experience, it’s essential we are committed to ensuring this experience is the same for all pupils, regardless of their background. Just Like Us and Governors for Schools have developed the below questions and guidance to help you understand your school’s approach to LGBT+ inclusion and, if necessary, how to improve it.
1) Is there a specific budget allowance for LGBT+ inclusion work? Which budget does it fall under? Who has budgetary responsibility, and how do we understand the impact any targeted spending has?
With school budgets under competing pressures, it’s important to ask school leaders what resources are currently available for LGBT+ inclusion within a school and, if applicable, how the budget is spent. Schools can conduct a needs assessment to determine the specific areas where support is needed for LGBT+ inclusion. Understanding this information can highlight how the school approaches LGBT+ inclusion and help expand work in this area.
In some instances, there may be no specific budget earmarked for LGBT+ inclusion. In this case, governors could ask about the budget for learning resources, and whether more resources need to be allocated to support this area. Approaches could include:
- Ensuring the library has inclusive books readily available
- Ensuring extracurricular activities are inclusive
- Ensuring pastoral care is being referred to pupils in need.
It may also be useful for governors to ask whether there is an allocated training budget for staff to help support teachers to develop best practice in LGBT+ inclusion and bullying.
2) Who is responsible for reviewing the Relationships Education (Primary) or Relationships and Sex Education (Secondary) curriculum?
Current government guidance sets out the requirements for primary and secondary schools for Relationships, and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) provision, and it’s likely that there will be a member of senior leadership responsible for its delivery. Having a point of contact for this work is important to allow follow-up questions when content is reviewed, monitored, and evaluated, and plans developed for schemes of work in the future. Asking how LGBT+ inclusion fits within their provision will ensure there is accountability for high quality LGBT+ inclusion within RSE teaching.
You should also consider:
- Who on your governing board is responsible for supporting the school to ensure RSE is being taught effectively?
- Is the board uniform in its support for this?
- Is the board prepared to visibly support schools teaching LGBT+-inclusive RSE?
3) How is this built into the school timetable?
The current government guidance states that when age appropriate, teaching about LGBT+ identities should be fully integrated into the RSE curriculum, rather than teaching singular lessons. Reviewing the planned timetable for LGBT+ inclusion as part of RSE teaching will determine how the topic is being covered, its frequency, and whether it’s fully integrated throughout all year groups.
Governors can also ask whether LGBT+ inclusion accompanies other curriculum areas, such as Citizenship or Personal Development. Best practice will embed LGBT+ lives and topics amongst daily teaching in all subjects, becoming a part of daily school life. Has the school considered how a diversity of experiences, including LGBT+ identities, are present and taught in the wider curriculum with the school?
4) How are school policies supporting LGBT+ young people?
Decision-making on policies to support LGBT+ pupils and pupils with LGBT+ families are usually at the discretion of school leaders and strategic planning. Sharing best practice amongst partner schools can help avoid duplicating work, reviewing anti-bullying policies, uniform policies, and changing name and pronoun policies, along with how best to communicate to parents. There are lots of useful resources out there such as this student and young person led LGBT+ language toolkit from a school in Suffolk.
Given the concerning statistics highlighted in the beginning of this article, does the school have a well-developed understanding of the experiences of its LGBT+ students at secondary level? Is this captured in anonymous pupil voice surveys to enable young people to share their views with confidence? At primary level, can we see from pupil voice surveys and conversations that our pupils feel safe within the school and feel they are able to be themselves?
5) How does the school foster an environment in which LGBT+ pupils can feel safe and respected and in which intolerance is not acceptable? How does the school ensure this extends to extracurricular activities?
Another way schools can support LGBT+ inclusion is by implementing specific schemes, such as running a Pride Group (an LGBT+ and ally lunchtime club) and/or taking part in School Diversity Week. LGBT+ History Month and Pride are great ways to ensure LGBT+ young people are celebrated alongside their peers. Governors can ask how much support staff are given to run these programmes and, by finding out whether a member of staff has teaching and learning responsibility attached to LGBT+ inclusion, will ensure there are measurable performance management and evaluation processes attached to the work.
These questions are designed to provide governors with an insight into the current best practice to support LGBT+ young people in schools, and to help develop an improved LGBT+ and inclusion strategy. By identifying whether their school is meeting the needs of all their pupils, governors can continue to steer the development of new practices to create and maintain the safe, fun, and educational spaces LGBT+ pupils need to thrive.
If you’d like any further information, or have any more questions, please email: [email protected].
If you would like to take on the challenge of a new governance role, we’re ready to hear from you. Apply today – our friendly team will respond quickly and guide you through the matching process. We also encourage current governors to share the opportunity with their professional networks.