The General Teaching Council for Scotland

6 Mar 2017

Sir Ian McKellen visits Lornshill Academy

Laurie Dodds, Principal Teacher Pupil Support, Lornshill Academy

Lornshill launched its first diversity week on 20 February, a week that aimed to challenge inequality and celebrate diversity in all its forms. Pupils participated in diversity lessons in every faculty, wore rainbow laces with pride and launched the diversity section in the school library.

Sir Ian McKellen visits Lornshill Academy

The highlight of the week was without doubt the Stonewall Scotland Role Model visit on Wednesday 22 February, when Sir Ian McKellen spent the morning in our school. I liaised with Cat Telford at Stonewall over a number of months to organise the top-secret visit. Sir Ian co-founded Stonewall in 1988 and as Lornshill are a Stonewall Champion School he came to talk to pupils and staff about his own experiences growing up as part of the LGBT community, and to support us in challenging homophobia and bullying in our community.

He arrived in his Magneto overcoat from X-men and was an absolute gentleman.

He met with myself, Tom Black (Head Teacher) and the Head Boy and Girl and Deputes, and then had coffee with approximately 30 pupils who make up the LGBT group and the Diversity Committee of the Lornshill Parliament. He spoke openly and honestly with them, answered all of their questions and asked about what we do as a school to create a supportive and inclusive environment for our young people.

As part of our diversity week we have all our staff and pupils signing a ‘No Bystanders’ banner: a pledge that we are making as a school to eradicate bullying of all sorts and to create a community where everyone is respected and we challenge prejudice, discrimination and injustice. Sir Ian McKellen was the first to sign the banner, followed by Cat and Yvonne from Stonewall.

Sir Ian McKellen visits Lornshill Academy

Sir Ian McKellen then spoke to over 500 of our pupils in the assembly hall – there was literally a collective gasp when he was introduced, no-one could believe that he was there in our school. He spoke openly and candidly for over an hour about his experience growing up as part of the LGBT community and how, although attitudes have changed for the better, there is still work to be done to ensure that all schools and communities are truly inclusive. The staff and pupils were entranced.

He then answered questions from the pupils, walking happily amongst the crowd. He ran way over his time and when he was told that he would have to stop he said he was having such a great time that he didn’t want to go. He finished with a Shakespeare recital which was just incredible and he was presented with flowers by two pupils. As he was being escorted out of the hall two S1 pupils ran up to him, he shook their hands and signed his autograph in their jotters. The school was buzzing for the rest of the week and pupils and staff have come away with so many pearls of wisdom from what he said.

One parent said it had changed their child’s attitude completely, and staff have said that it was truly an inspirational visit and a great chance to think about the importance of acceptance and to challenge assumptions.

For information on Stonewall Scotland visit: