Educate and Celebrate: Schools LGBT at the Emirates Stadium

Henry Stewart's picture
It is two years since I wrote about the LGBT celebration at Stoke Newington School. A lot has happened since then and that event seems a long time ago. Ofsted inspected the school's work on homophobia and LGBT equality, pronounced it Outstanding and now promotes the school's work in its best practice section of its web site. Elly Barnes, the teacher responsible, was rated No. 1 on the Independent’s Pink List of the unsung heroes and heroines who make life as a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person better.

This year’s celebration took place at the Emirates Stadium and has expanded to include more secondary schools, a local primary and a Church of England Secondary*. Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, spoke at the event stating “we want as many schools as possible to tackle LGBT equality. We want every student to be proud of who they are.”

The celebration came at the end of LGBT history month, when study of significant LGBT figures is integrated into the curriculum. Year 7 students, for example, from Stoke Newington School explained how they had studied Alan Turing in ICT. Turing, often referred to as the "father of computer science". was prosecuted for being homosexual and subsequently committed suicide.

A year 10 student sang "Dead End Justice" in tribute to the 70s band The Runaways. She explained how lyrics of the band, whose two female singers had a lesbian relationship, had helped her in working out her bisexual identity. Another student moved those around me to tears with the song she wrote herself about dealing with hate.

A group of students from LaSwap repeated the assembly they had done on GenderBread person. This striking visual introduces a different concept of gender identity - that it is not defined by just  your physical attributes but is also based on what you think in your head, what you feel ion your heart and how you express yourself (eg, the clothes that you wear).

Arsenal for EveryoneThat the event took place at the Emirates Stadium felt a significant step, at a time when there are no openly gay professional footballers. Samir Singh from Arsenal in the Community talked of how proud they were to be hosting the LGBT celebration and indeed the club's web site promotes its support for LGBT month. There has even been a 'gay gooners' supporters club formed. Funke Awoderu, from the Football Association suggested that “football needs to come out of the closet on LGBT issues”.

When my previous article was published in 2011 it was mocked by Toby Young in his Spectator and Telegraph blogs. He particularly scorned the idea that there might be students grappling with a transgender identity in a comprehensive school. Since then Ofsted has issued new guidance making clear schools have a responsibility to improve the progress of 'vulnerable' students and that this specifically includes not just lesbian, gay and bisexual students but also transgender students - in line with the new Equalities Act. Britain has come a long way since the days of Clause 28**.

For governors like myself this is an important statement. It means not just that is is fully acceptable to carry out LGBT equalities work but that it is my duty as a governor to make sure such work is taking place in the school. If you are a governor you should ask the school to report on what it is doing to tackle homophobia, to deal with any related bullying and to promote LGBT equality.

Useful resources can be found at Elly Barnes' site, including these lesson plans, and The Classroom.

I am very proud to be Chair of Governors of Stoke Newington School. I am proud that our GCSE results are rated in the top 20%, compared to similar schools, in the new Ofsted dashboard and that our sixth form is in the top 10% in the country for student progress.

But I am as proud, if not more so, that Stoke Newington School puts inclusivity at the top of its priorities and seeks to create a safe and supportive environment for all our students. A huge congratulations to Elly Barnes, to headteacher Annie Gammon and to all the staff and students involved for their great work here.


* The full list of schools involved is Ackland Burghley, Urswick, Willliam Patten, Stoke Newington, Regents and LaSwap.

** Clause 28 was introduced by the Thatcher government in May 1988  and stated that a school "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". It was repealed in Scotland in June 2000 and the rest of Great Britain in November 2003.



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