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Good practice - Effective school leadership

Primary School Headteacher
Cunningham Hill Junior School, St. Albans

Cunningham Hill Junior School has 240 pupils. As headteacher, it is very important to me that we are actively inclusive of all. So, rather than have a large visible campaign to tackle homophobic bullying, we have widened our thinking to look at all areas of inclusion. This term several of our parent questionnaire forms commented on how well we support diversity in our school.

We started by training staff, using Stonewall’s Different families and Celebrating difference materials as a springboard and thought about how we, as role models, demonstrate and encourage inclusivity.

We have looked at the language we use (e.g. ‘netball club’ not ‘girls’ netball club’) and how we celebrate differences within our school, (e.g. encouraging pupils who take part in activities that break down stereotyping, for example boys’ knitting or girls’ judo awards). Library books are on prominent display, which tackle a range of thought-provoking topics within storybooks, such as same-sex families, disability, bereavement and asylum seekers. Extracts of these books have also been read to our Year 6 children to prompt discussions.

Recently, following a spate of ‘that’s really gay’ being used in the playground, I read You are Special and And Tango Makes Three to each class and we talked about why we should accept people’s differences and not use them as insults and also reminded children of our zero-tolerance of racist or homophobic name-calling. Interestingly, we found that a lot of children saw using the word ‘gay’ even in an appropriate manner as taboo, which we then addressed.

Visibility of positive gay role models is also invaluable. If headteachers and governors can support LGB staff in being open about their sexual orientation, it will go a long way to help.

 

Secondary School Headteacher
Perry Beeches School, Birmingham

Perry Beeches is an inner city comprehensive school serving over 890 pupils aged 11-16 from a variety of social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. A ‘failing’ school in 2007, it was given a ‘Notice to Improve’ by Ofsted and deemed ‘National Challenge’. By July 2011 Perry Beeches were awarded the Outstanding Secondary School of the Year 2011/2012 in the TES Awards and then awarded National Overall Outstanding School of the Year 2011/2012.

Perry Beeches recognises and celebrates all festivals with no exception made for LGB issues. Each November, often using Stonewall stimuli, every student is engaged in displays, debates, lessons and assemblies around homophobic bullying. Positive images of LGB people are shared around school such as the Gay Birmingham Remembered history exhibition. Positive gay role models are supported to be ‘out’ and to share their experiences – including students, staff and visitors to the school.

More formally, incidents of homophobia are recorded, reported and dealt with in exactly the same way as incidents of racism, sexism or anti-disability. Everyone who enters Perry Beeches is aware that this is a completely tolerant, supportive, encouraging school where all discrimination, including LGB discrimination, is not acceptable. Reference to this is made clear to all parents/carers at events such as Open Evening for Year 6 students. Policies have been re-written or further endorsed by the governing body.

There have been a limited number of ‘challenges’ to our diversity and equality work which have been dealt with at the highest level using policies to support the position we take. Positive communication with governors and the senior team, and using senior team members to support any colleagues in difficult conversations, is how we tackle challenges. Our policy of ‘open, honest and real’ has meant Perry Beeches is a safe place for all students. Our determination to emphasise LGB issues has meant that everyone is included.

 

Governor
Hotspur Primary School, Newcastle upon Tyne

Hotspur is an urban school with just over 400 pupils. Children come from a diverse range of backgrounds with nearly 40 per cent living in wards that are among the 10 per cent most deprived nationally. One in eight use English as an additional language and 78 per cent of families identify as having no religion or as atheist.

The school’s work on diversity has benefited from genuine ’joint leadership‘ from the headteacher and governors and from a shared understanding and acceptance of the principles of diversity and equality. The school’s governors share a passion with staff for providing equality of opportunity for children from all backgrounds, and our work on sexual orientation has often been proactive rather than just a response to homophobia – we like to celebrate the diversity found at Hotspur. The school’s Diversity Policy was written by a joint staff/governor team chaired by a governor, and the use of positive images in the school is an expectation of the governors.

Openly gay and lesbian parents play a full and active part in school life – as governors, but just as importantly as parents who pick up their children, attend performances and invite other children for tea.

Children and their families know that we have a headteacher who is gay and that some of our children have gay and lesbian parents. The headteacher spoke to the governors prior to his civil partnership to explain that he intended to announce it in the weekly school newsletter (in the same way that a heterosexual marriage would be celebrated). Books with gay characters and themes have been read in classes and assembly – King and King was used to announce the civil partnership of the headteacher and was positively received by pupils.

In 2008 Hotspur ran a whole school literature project about different families, including lesbian, gay and bisexual characters, prior to which governors were consulted and given the opportunity to look at the books being used. More recently, children participated in a film on homophobia.

The only ’concern‘ raised by governors in the last 12 months was about monitoring, after the phrase ’there were no reported incidents of homophobic bullying this term‘ appeared in several consecutive reports from the headteacher to the governing body. Governors suggested this may indicate that children and/or teachers are under-reporting incidents and asked the headteacher to encourage and stress the importance of accurate reporting.

 

Teacher
Ricards Lodge High School, South London

Ricards Lodge is a community school for girls in Wimbledon with over 1,180 pupils and a diverse multicultural intake. The school has a mixed sixth form. Our approach to safeguarding was judged outstanding by Ofsted in 2010 and this was in part due to the fact that the school is an inclusive environment where all are safe to teach and learn. The school’s approach to equality is led by the headteacher, senior leadership team and Equality Working Group (including staff and students) in close partnership with the governing body.

The school has a comprehensive equality policy which is embedded throughout the curriculum. This is complemented by regular training, monitoring, reporting and reviewing procedures. The equality policy, statement and training schedule are published on the school website – initiatives all developed and led by the senior leadership team. The policy explicitly highlights the school’s commitment to sexual orientation equality for all and outlines the strong commitment to preventing homophobic bullying. The senior leadership team have explored these issues in detail with staff through the equality working group and a range of staff training sessions (including hosting two borough-wide conferences for primary and secondary schools). The school equality statement is displayed throughout the school building, website, prospectus and student planners. With the support of the senior leadership team, a range of staff have also attended the annual Stonewall Education for All Conference.

All students have participated in LGBT History Month assemblies, and explored the issue in a range of PSHE and Citizenship lessons (including studying the Stonewall film FIT). In addition, equality is promoted in a central display within the school and this makes prominent use of Stonewall’s ‘Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!’ materials. Crucially, any incidents of homophobic bullying are addressed promptly; students are supported and educated as to why this is not an acceptable form of behaviour; incidents are monitored and homophobic bullying is an explicit element of our anti-bullying policy. As a teacher, it is important to me to know I have the support of the headteacher and senior leadership team to do so.

As a consequence of this work and the ethos set by the school’s senior leadership team our staff and students have felt more able to discuss issues of sexuality openly and with confidence. Furthermore, the school’s approach to this work is monitored and adapted regularly and in the future the school will be working closely with other schools as the London Borough of Merton has recently joined Stonewall’s Education Champions programme.

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