GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Comhairle Choitcheann Teagaisg na h-Alba

Opinion: Blazing a trail for inclusive education

Last year, Scotland became the first country in the world to commit to adopting LGBT-inclusive education in all state schools – a policy package which will be implemented across the nation by 2021.

This followed a three-year campaign by Time for Inclusive Education (TIE), co-founded by Liam Stevenson and myself in 2015, which was set up with one aim: to address homophobic, biphobic and transphobic prejudice and bullying in our schools with an educational approach.

Since then, other parts of the globe have followed suit. Where Scotland stands out, however, is in the detail of the policy proposals accepted in full by the Scottish Government in November 2018. Firstly, this applies to all state schools. Secondly, some may wonder why LGBT-inclusive education is important, or even necessary, and when we are living in an era of misinformation it is important to be clear about its goals. LGBT themes will be affixed against various cross-curricular areas, from Health and Wellbeing to Social Studies, as this isn’t just about relationships education; LGBT-inclusive education is about understanding the impact of prejudice, challenging stereotypes, learning about our diverse society, teaching about our nation’s journey towards equality, acknowledging the history of the LGBT community and discussing their contributions to our society and culture.

Changes will also be made to the national framework – from including new thematic outcomes in fresh statutory guidance, to developing specific curriculum benchmarks and updating course specifications. This will be accompanied by free CLPL opportunities, for teachers and educators on the ground to get a clear grasp of exactly what LGBT-inclusive education is. It will demonstrate how to implement it by incorporating various compatible themes into teaching content without completely overhauling a school’s existing curricula and lesson materials.

The road to change

Until 2000 in Scotland, a piece of legislation called Section 28 (Clause 2A) was in force. In a nutshell, this prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools. This created a culture of silence whereby any issues related to the LGBT community were simply not discussed or taught in schools.
Even after its repeal, the impact of this legislation lived on; I started school in the year that Section 28 was removed from our statute books. As a young gay pupil, I went through my entire 13 years of state education without ever learning a thing about LGBT history or people. I struggled with isolation and felt alienated at school; I experienced homophobia which went unchallenged. I am grateful to have learned a lot about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement; about Emmeline Pankhurst and women’s suffrage campaigns, but I knew nothing about Marsha P. Johnson or Alan Turing; the Stonewall Riots or the work of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and its impact on an already oppressed and stigmatised community, the treatment of gay and bisexual men during the Holocaust.

I wish I had, because perhaps then it wouldn’t have taken me so long to understand that I was not alone, that I was part of a community of people with a strong history of overcoming inequality – that there had been people just like me who had gone on to change our world.

Perhaps, then, my peers would have thought twice before using the word ‘gay’ as a slur; before calling me a ‘poof’ or relentlessly bullying those who didn’t conform to harmful gender stereotypes and whom they labelled ‘lezbos’ or ‘gay-boys’.

Just as an education about the dangerous impact of racism, and the history of the BME community can go a long way in challenging racial prejudice in our school communities, so too can an education which incorporates LGBT themes into classroom content go a long way in de-stigmatising, preventing otherisation, and empowering LGBT pupils.

We live in a wonderfully diverse society; and we have a rich history full of trailblazing icons and teachable moments – it’s only right that young people learn about it. Our work for LGBT-inclusive education in Scotland is about ensuring that no generation of LGBT young people ever again feel that they are alone, or that they cannot achieve whatever they want to achieve, or that they have to hide who they are; because they’ll know about their community, their history, their rights – something I, and so many before me, never experienced at school. What a life-changing impact it would have had.

About the author

Jordan Daly is a Scottish campaigner and co-founder of the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) charity. It works proactively with schools developing resources, engaging directly with young people in school assemblies and workshops, and supporting teachers with training seminars. All services are free.

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