Families come in all shapes and sizes. Some children have a mum and a dad, others live with their grandparents and some children have two mums or two dads. There are now almost 19,000 children growing up in same-sex parent families. Children will learn better and will be more engaged if they find their families reflected in class and they will grow up to be more successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens. In order to prepare children for the diverse society they live in and to prevent poor behaviour and bullying, it is important to talk about difference in general and different families in particular.
In 2010 Stonewall published a report on Different Families based on interviews with children of lesbian and gay parents. In this report children explain why they think it is important to talk about these issues in class. In the Teachers' Report (2014), based on a survey with almost 2,000 primary and secondary school staff, teachers explain why they think talking about these issues is important.
Talking about different families doesn’t have to be difficult. Stonewall's Education Guide Including Different Families provides advice on how to address gay and lesbian issues in the classroom which you can put into action with our vast range of innovative primary school resources. It doesn’t require teaching anything special or differently – it simply means being aware that some children have lesbian, gay or bisexual parents, understanding that civil partnerships are a reality and answering questions and challenging assumptions in a language children understand. Books about different relationships and families can be discussed as part of circle time or can be used as part of literacy.
Many primary school teachers are already laying the foundations for a society without discrimination and where everybody can be themselves. The Teachers' Report (2014) features some examples of how to talk about different families and lesbian and gay issues in class. The primary best practice guide is also packed with lots of tanglible good practice from primary schools across the country.
The primary curriculum includes topics like family, relationships, difference and bullying. Especially in SEAL, PSHEE and literacy but also during circle time and in any other subjects, teachers can make clear that everyone is different and talk about civil partnerships, different families and same love.
It is important to work with parents and carers to promote good behaviour and to establish an inclusive learning environment. Most parents are supportive of this kind of work and understand how it relates to creating a society without discrimination; in fact, Stonewall's Living Together research shows 93% of parents of under-18s believe homophobia should be tackled.
Every school has their own way of engaging and communicating with parents and while some schools choose to involve parents in many different aspects of their work, others might have a different approach. It is important that the senior management team is on board and behind the work that the school is prepared to have a dialogue with parents if there are any concerns. You can also direct them to the parent and carer section of our website for more information.
Schools should be aware that some of their pupils will have gay, lesbian and bisexual parents and these parents deserve to feel welcome. The parents should also be reassured that their child is welcome to talk about their family in school, that pupils will be taught about lesbian and gay relationships and that homophobic language and bullying will be tackled, should it arise. There is legislation in place which makes it illegal for schools to discriminate against lesbian, gay and bisexual people.