Good practice - Supporting lesbian, gay and bisexual young people

Allsorts Youth Project – lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans Youth Peer Education Project,
Brighton & Hove

Allsorts provides a range of support services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans young people living in Brighton & Hove. Since 2005, Allsorts has also developed a lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans (LGBT) Youth Peer Education Project. This involves trained LGBT youth peer educators going into local secondary schools, colleges and youth projects and  unning ‘Sexuality and Gender Identity Awareness’ workshops for their peers.

With the support of Allsorts' staff, the peer educators lead a range of workshop activities exploring the impact that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language and bullying has on LGBT youth. The peer educators also talk about their personal experiences of growing up as an LGBT young person. This is particularly powerful: hearing the young people’s personal stories encourages the workshop participants to empathise with their LGBT peers.

The peer educators have also helped to run ‘Challenging Homophobic Language’ training for staff at local secondary and primary schools. Run in partnership with Brighton & Hove Healthy Schools Team, the training aims to provide staff with practical guidance on how homophobic language can be challenged. From April 2008 to March 2009, the peer educators helped to run 45 training sessions to six schools, nine colleges, one youth project and two conferences, reaching over 481 young people and 52 teachers and other staff.

The peer education project has been very well received by young people and staff. Feedback suggests that the training has greatly helped schools to challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language and bullying. Response from one teacher is typical: ‘I wanted to feedback to you what one of our students said after you had gone. She said that she’d no longer use the word 'gay' to describe things that she didn't like as she now understood the impact it could have on other people and how unfair it was. I think it is brilliant that you were able to change her attitude towards the language that she spoke.’

Farlingaye High School,

At Farlingaye, we’ve always believed it’s essential to promote equality of opportunity and for everyone to actively engage in strategies that promote this. Fundamental to this is our Rights and Responsibilities approach – ask any student and they’ll tell you that they have the right to be safe, to learn and to be treated with respect; and thus they have the responsibility to treat others with respect, to allow others to learn and ensure others are safe. With this as our ‘backbone’ it’s easy to reward and recognise positive behaviour and to challenge unpleasant or damaging behaviour.

Supporting our lesbian, gay and bisexual students is very much part of our Equal Opportunities Policy. The School Council, staff and governors wanted to recognise that everyone has the right to be different and to be an individual. For some students this can be difficult, especially due to peer pressure and/or traditional attitudes in their local community. We therefore believe in building up students’ self-esteem and confidence as this provides them with the confidence to stand up for their values and beliefs. We achieve this through initiatives such as Our Student Voice through which students are essentially involved in school life – they interview prospective staff, are on working parties, advise the governing body, provide feedback on lessons and are represented on all our various Councils. We also have a varied and vast system of peer and adult mentoring and a huge range of extracurricular activities ensures students can find things they enjoy and new friends who have similar interests. Support with problems including a Student Support Centre, a Relationships Clinic, a counsellor, a Self Esteem Group, support for Young Carers and Anger Management all help students know we’re on their side.

We believe in zero tolerance of negative and bullying remarks, not only supporting the victim but challenging and working with the instigator to try to change their behaviour, and we are currently working hard to stop the negative use of the word ‘gay’ – the highly motivational and inspirational visit by Sir Ian McKellen, organised by Stonewall, has significantly advanced this agenda.

Much of our work on gay and lesbian rights is currently led by an amazing Year 12 student, who also works closely with Suffolk County Council. Her current project is to develop and facilitate a Continuing Professional Development session for our staff to help them understand the needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual students and how we should challenge negative images and language. Other students and a couple of teachers support her with this project. She is also really pushing us to consider the needs of transgender students – something I’d never thought about before – and as a result we’re re-writing our Equal Opportunities Policy to include this important area.

Wisewood School and Community Sports College,

Wisewood School and Community Sports College has a well established approach in supporting young lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Our approach has been led by the specialist PSHE Co-ordinator who has been fully supported by the School’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and our governing body.

Over the last five years our PSHE work has significantly contributed to normalising diversity work around sexuality within the school. We teach a specific unit on sexuality in PSHE.

Stonewall’s Some people are gay. Get over it! posters have been placed throughout the school including inside and outside our PSHE rooms. In addition, publicity including posters from the local organisation working with lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) young people Fruitbowl, have been extensively circulated within school.

If a young person tells us about their sexuality, we always take a welcoming, friendly and inclusive approach and ask the young person about the information that they would like to receive. We give a leaflet on Fruitbowl and offer support, for example if the young person wants to tell their friends, we advise them on how to come out. We also tell them how to tell their parents about coming out.

We have run an LGB group which meets once or twice a term within a safe environment and invitations to the meetings are sent by the young people. We have ensured that all Year Heads have information on Fruitbowl and all school staff receive copies of Stonewall guidance. We always challenge any homophobic language that we come across and provide support to any LGB young person experiencing bullying. Our approach through having specialist PSHE teachers which have been supported by SLT and our governors have significantly contributed towards making Wisewood an inclusive school for our LGB young people.

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