LGBT Leaders call for more action at Schools Out 40 Year Conference

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - 11:15

People travelled from across the UK and even as far as Mexico for the Schools Out conference which took place at Manchester University on 10 May 2014.

Teh conference allowed cver 100 attendees to discuss the changes that have affected LGBT people in education over the last 40 years, attendees that included gay teachers involved in challenging homophobia in schools soon after homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967.

Schools Out started as the Gay Teachers’ Group after John Warburton was sacked from his school and banned from working for the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) for being gay.

Sue Sanders, chair of the organisation, opened the event saying ”Since 1974, we have been on an amazing journey, from teachers being sacked for being gay in the 1970s to the present day when the the law recognises equality. The challenge is to translate the law into reality, given that teachers are still not receiving compulsory equality and diversity training unlike staff in other sectors, such as criminal justice.”

Tony Fenwick, CEO stated his ongoing concerns ”We live in a society where I can marry my same sex partner but I still cannot walk down he street holding his hand without receiving abuse. We are here today to celebrate the progress that has been made but more must be done to challenge prejudice.”

Guest speaker, Peter Tatchell said “It has been such an honour and joy to attend the Schools Out 40th anniversary conference – there were great speakers and audience participation. I was inspired to learn of the amazing successes achieved so far and Schools Out’s exciting plans for the future.”

One of the organisers, Amelia Lee from LGBT Youth North West ”The highlight for me has been hearing from the people who 20, 30 and even 40 years ago were breaking new ground by being visible and outspoken. They didn’t believe some things were possible that we have now. Their energy was inspirational to the young and educators at the conference.”

Lena Milosovic, a teacher who came out at the NUT Conference in 1988 whilst speaking on a motion against Section 28 said “Sadly some issues are still relevant today and this is why this work has to continue.”

Elly Barnes, the Director of Education and Training for LGBT History Month spoke about her teacher training programme ‘Educate and Celebrate’ which offers a positive solution to schools and workplaces to enable them to become LGBT-friendly:

“When you walk into a school the first thing you usually see is the performance statistics on a big banner. I encourage schools to also indicate that they are inclusive and recognise everyone in their community. I want to know that the environment is welcoming to me as an out lesbian teacher. Visibility of an LGBT inclusive policy and appropriate use of language create a positive environment in which our students and teachers can thrive; the way we feel about ourselves is fundamental to reaching our potential.”

One of the issues schools face is parents demanding the withdrawal of their children from lessons discussing LGBT issues Julie Neal from the ATL who sponsored the event said “We don’t want another 40 years of having to fight discrimination.”

One delegate Julien Fitzgerald, the Executive Chairperson for International Gender and Sexuality Alliance fed back “It is nice to know there are organisations like you out there – you have inspired me this weekend.”

The organisation committed to continue to combat homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools. To find out more and access resources for schools to challenge homophobia, biphobia or transhobia visit http://lgbthistorymonth.org.uk/ or http://www.ellybarnes.com/


 

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