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Less than 1 in 3 teachers feel ‘completely comfortable’ teaching LGBTQ topics in schools

"Having silence around LGBT+ topics only results in shame, stigma, and students feeling that they don’t belong in school."

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Unsplash

A third of teachers feel “completely comfortable” discussing LGBTQ topics with pupils, according to a new poll by the LGBTQ charity Just Like Us.

In a survey of over 6,000 primary and secondary school teachers across the UK, the charity found 29 percent of teachers would be ‘completely comfortable’ holding discussions while 17 percent would feel ‘uncomfortable’.

It comes 18 years after Section 28, which prevented schools from discussing homosexuality at all, was repealed in England and Wales. Schools are now required to discuss LGBTQ topics as part of the curriculum.

“We don’t blame teachers”

Just Like US’ chief executive, Dominic Arnall, said the results show despite the repeal of Section 28 things hadn’t changed enough and that “growing up LGBT+ is still unacceptably tough.”

He continued: “We don’t blame teachers for feeling uncomfortable – they may not have had the resources or personal life experiences – but all you need is a willingness to support your pupils and Just Like Us can help provide lesson plans, assemblies, talks, and training so that you feel confident discussing LGBT+ topics with your pupils.”

Arnall added that not including same-sex couples (as an example) in lessons has “serious knock-on effects” on pupils’ wellbeing and mental health noting higher rates of bullying and depression among LGBTQ people.

“Having silence around LGBT+ topics only results in shame, stigma, and students feeling that they don’t belong in school. It is essential the government provide support and clear guidance for schools on supporting LGBT+ young people,” he added.

Commenting on a clip from ITV’s special An Audience with Adele which aired on Sunday 21 November, Just Like Us said having an LGBTQ inclusive teacher is “absolutely life-changing.”

Separately, Alan Valera-Sheppard, a gay primary school teacher in Hampshire, who grew up during Section 28, has spoken to i news about not being open with his pupils.

He’s said realising one of his pupils was embarrassed about having two mums encouraged him to be open and described it as a “freeing experience”.

“I was quite worried about coming out in case the parents reacted badly. Some people confuse learning about LGBT+ families in primary school with LGBT+ sex lives when it just isn’t the case,” he added.

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