Pupils from three secondary schools in Cardiff have set up Gay-Straight Alliances to educate pupils about the effects of homophobia and create a more inclusive environment for all members of the school community.
Bishop of Llandaff Church in Wales High School, Michaelston Community College and Cantonian High School are all taking part in the project.
The Gay-Straight Alliances are youth-led groups that bring together pupils who may identify as LGBT with their straight counterparts.
The project was developed by a local social enterprise, Full Circle Education Solutions, in partnership with Cardiff Council and the Cardiff and Vale Community Cohesion Team.
Pupils who join the alliances learn about homophobia and stereotypes in a series of interactive workshops. They then chose how to take forward their ideas to share a positive message of equality and inclusion with their peers.
A Gay-Straight Alliance in one school delivered a series of workshops to younger pupils on a variety of themes, including different families, stereotyping and challenging homophobic language like “That’s so gay”. Another GSA developed an assembly and poster campaign, and created a documentary-style video to use in Personal Social Education lessons.
Nikki Giant, the founder of Full Circle, said: “The Gay-Straight Alliance is an American model that is largely unheard of in the UK. It provides a platform for young people to make a difference and tackle issues that are important to them.
“A message delivered by peers is more likely to be heard and understood, and creating an alliance helps young LGBT people or those questioning their sexuality to feel included and safe within their schools.
“Each alliance is a long term project that will grow and develop with the school’s needs. The GSA promotes a message that homophobia will no longer be tolerated, helping young people to feel more confident to reveal their sexuality – if they choose to do so – without fear of bullying or ostracisation.”
She added: “These young people are passionate and keen to make change. They demonstrate inspiring leadership skills and clearly show that using pupil power works.”
A good practice guidance document will be launched by Full Circle and Cardiff Council in the autumn, to support other schools to set up their own Gay-Straight Alliance.
The document will help schools to recruit pupils, deliver introductory workshops exploring the aims of a Gay-Straight Alliance, and provide ideas about how an Alliance might tackle homophobia.
A pupil from the Bishop of Llandaff Gay-Straight Alliance said: “The GSA is a chance to be more open about a key issue in life.” Another pupil said, “We want people to think about why they are homophobic and to encourage people to question their views.”
A Plaid Cymru investigation last year revealed that most Welsh local authorities had no idea of the extent of homophobic bullying in schools across the nation because incidents were not recorded by them.
Cardiff Council’s Education Equality Officer, Shaun Evans-Pask, praised the Gay-Straight Alliance pilot as a model of good practice for schools. “Cardiff Council is committed to promoting equality for all learners, and this project provides a positive, youth-led approach to tackling the key issue of homophobia,” he said.
More information about Full Circle can be found here