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A third of LGBT teachers stay in the closet

Nick Duffy February 10, 2018

A third of LGBT teachers stay in the closet at school.

The news comes from polling conducted by teachers’ union NASUWT today at its LGBTI Teachers’ Consultation Conference.

The conference raised concerns that progress on tackling discrimination and advancing equality has been rolled back or hampered as a result of changes in the political climate in the last 18 months.

A real-time electronic poll of members attending the Conference found that 30% said they are not out at school.

While out LGBT teachers serve as important role models for pupils, attendees raised fears about homophobic bullying and stereotyping.

Of course, the actual number of LGBT teachers in the closet is likely to be much higher, as the poll only consulted members attending the Conference.

Shockingly, more than a third (38%) said they have experienced discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation in the last 12 months because of their LGBTI identity.

And nearly six in ten (58%) said they have experienced colleagues making stereotypical assumptions about them based on their LGBTI identity.

Meanwhile nearly a third (29%) said that levels of anti LGBTI bullying and language have increased or stayed the same in their school in recent years, and nearly half (49%) say they would not recommend teaching as a career to family or friends.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said: “It is deeply worrying that some LGBTI teachers report experiencing and hearing more homophobic language within schools and that incidents of hate crime and hate speech have increased more generally.

“Being ‘out’ in the workplace is a matter of personal choice, but too many LGBTI teachers tell us they would like to be out but do not feel their school is a safe environment for them to do so.

“Schools which are not inclusive environments for LGBTI staff are unlikely to be supportive environments for LGBTI pupils either.

“It is important that schools take their responsibilities on promoting equality and respect seriously to create an environment where everyone feels valued, respected and safe.”

The government recently confirmed that the new Education Secretary will push ahead with plans to require LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education to be taught in schools.

Former Education Secretary Justine Greening had last year launched a consultation on new guidance for sex and relationship education (SRE) in schools, which will look at compulsory provisions in the subject.

The consultation was aimed at “inviting views on age-appropriate content” that may form part of sex ed guidance – including on LGBT issues, mental wellbeing and staying safe online.

However its future was left up in the air when Theresa May sacked Greening from the Education role – replacing her with Tory MP Damian Hinds, a proponent of Catholic faith schools.

Britain’s Education Secretary Damian Hinds (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

But the department gave assurances to MPs this week that LGBT issues would still be considered.

Labour MP Alex Norris had asked: “May I ask whether the new Secretary of State shares the commitment of his predecessor that relationship and sex education lessons must be lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusive and reflect the needs of all young people?”

Education minister Nick Gibb said: “I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance.

“We are clear that the new subjects should ensure that young people learn that there are different types of relationships. Schools should ensure therefore that RSE is inclusive and meets the needs of all young people.”

Asked how schools will be assessed for teaching on the subject, he added: “These are the issues on which we are engaging with subject experts at the moment.

“We have issued a wide call for evidence from parents, pupils, ​teachers and young people, and we will assess that call for evidence before we issue further guidance on the matter.

“There will be a full debate on the regulations in this House when we draft those regulations.”

Gibb added that the department was “engaging thoroughly with stakeholders to inform the design and content of the curriculum in those subjects, ensuring that they are both high quality and age appropriate”.

The statement may quell some unrest about the departure of Greening, who was one of the strongest proponents of LGBT equality in government.

Greening has urged the government to carry on her equalities work, challenging Home Secretary Amber Rudd in Parliament earlier this month.

The former minister said: “First of all I’d like to congratulate the Home Secretary on her expanded role. I know she will do a brilliant job.”

“She will know that young people, parents and teachers think it’s vital in a modern internet world to see sex and relationship education updated.

“Can she confirm that the government will push ahead with updating the guidance that is now so out of date, and also if she will meet with myself, [Women and Equalities Select Committee chair Maria Miller MP], and also [Labour’s Sarah Champion MP], to make sure we can have a cross party support for the work that is being undertaken?”

Ms Rudd responded: “Can I start by thanking the Rt Hon Lady for the enormous good work that she did in this role, and I will try my best to keep up the momentum that she provided.

“One of the fantastic things that she did was lead on making sure that sex and relationship education is going to be provided in all schools.

“I will be delighted to work with her to make sure that that is the case, and also across the house to make sure the outcome is one that the whole house can support, as I know that everybody believes this is an important issue.”

More: closet, Education, Gay, LGBT, school, teachers, UK

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