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Little Ilford School | Chew Valley School | Walthamstow School for Girls | Rossett School

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  • Little Ilford School

Little Ilford’s journey with the support of Stonewall

Little Ilford School

I have taught at Little Ilford School in Newham for 20 years. Situated in the second poorest ward of the second poorest borough in the country, it’s a large, mixed comprehensive secondary school with no sixth form. We have 1350 pupils, most of whom are Muslim. We are an outstanding school and oversubscribed.

In 2010, we joined Stonewall’s School Champions programme and planned assemblies, events and an awareness week on homophobia. We invited in external speakers, displayed Stonewall’s posters and asked all pupils to sign to a pledge to stop homophobic bullying. So far so good, but it was not as simple as that. There was some resistance from staff and pupils, with an uncomfortable tolerance of negative comments - as well as giggling in assemblies and presentations, some of the displays were vandalised.

In 2012, we had staff training for all middle leaders about sexuality and homophobic bullying. Some staff voiced their concern that this should not be part of the school curriculum and that we should not be even mentioning homosexuality to young people as they then might think they could choose to be homosexual. A letter of concern was signed by a few members of staff opposing the training on religious grounds. Some said we were trying to ‘promote homosexuality and lesbianism’ . Some teachers even spoke in oppositional terms in tutor time, urging their pupils to actively oppose the imitative.

As a school we decided to tackle this head on. It was agreed that a member of middle rather than senior management should take over responsibility for this, as it was hoped that a coaching and peer approach would have more impact. I was asked to take up that role and I was really excited by the challenge.

I began by going to Stonewall Education Conference in July 2012, which saw the launch of The School Report. I was shocked but not surprised by the findings of the report, and really inspired by the breakout groups that gave us strategies to use for staff training.

I went back to school, wrote a policy and started a staff group. We came up with a range of approaches. We decided to call the initiative ‘Diversity’ rather than sexuality, as the word ‘sex’ can be a barrier to really thinking about young people properly. Using Stonewall techniques and resources, we organised training for NQTs and SLT. Our key message was that we as a school believe in equality and there can be no exceptions. We are a family that supports each other and helps remove any barriers to success. We shared this message with the pupils through a series of assemblies, with some great YouTube clips about equality and love. We launched a rainbow lanyard for all staff (pictured), to show that those staff would not tolerate any form of bullying, including homophobic comments such as ‘that’s so gay’.

By the end of 2013, we had stopped ‘that’s so gay’ from being an acceptable comment amongst all pupils. The pupils are now able to police themselves and they will correct any mishaps in the same way they challenge racist comments. The school council are leading this project in school and 3 of our pupils attended the Stonewall’s Education Conference in 2013.

We now have the anti-homophobic bullying assembly as part of our new intake induction evening so that parents and carers are clear about our school values. We have also recruited 20 parents by asking at parents evening for volunteers to be part of our diversity group.

There have been very few barriers getting the pupils on board. Teenagers have an in-built sense of justice and fairness and when they understand the importance LGBT issues, they are keen to ask questions and understand more. We have been able to provide them with these opportunities in a series of Citizenship days where all pupils have a chance to discuss issues regarding gender and sexuality that are appropriate for their age group. Again, Stonewall have been crucial in supporting this process by providing free resources that can be easily adapted. We have Stonewall messages on the digital screens around the school. We have a Diversity section in the library and a display outside the library with descriptions of each book.

In February, I took part in a ‘Train the Trainer’ course run by Stonewall. It was really well-resourced and challenging. Since then we have launched bigger lanyards, wrist bands for our champions and created a new system to record homophobic incidents. We have linked up with another Newham school to lead their staff training and to engage our pupils with other Newham learners.

The most powerful impact has of course been on the LGBT young people in our care. They have been able to come out in school and be accepted for who they are. They have had an opportunity to discuss potential concerns with their faiths and to build their support networks outside school. Former pupils who have become Stonewall volunteers have returned to support our journey and share in the screening of ‘Fit’, Stonewall’s feature film for secondary school students.

In the future, we are planning a community conference involving parents, teachers, governors and other stakeholders. We are planning to include Diversity resources across the curriculum so that diverse families can be reflected across the school. We are also planning a Pride event for 2015!

Kate Chadwick

  • Chew Valley School 

About the School

Chew Valley is a performing arts school with a sixth form. The school serves a rural area and challenges its pupils to develop a view of life beyond the valley. The school believes firmly in equality and aims to explore diversity with their pupils.

How has the School Champions Programme benefitted the school?

A role-model visit from Lance Corporal James Wharton set the tone for a brilliant first year of the School Champions Programme for Chew Valley. Stereotypes were challenged and pupils were laughing about how ridiculous their assumptions had been. 

keep calm and don't be homophobicPolicy was changed and publicised, so now pupils know that if they are bullied they will receive support, and incidents will be taken seriously. This push was supported by the school’s Youth Involvement Group, which organised an anti-bullying event in October focusing on verbal bullying and careless language. 

Chew Valley has weaved the themes of diversity, gay equality and homophobic language in the curriculum. There is now a focus on gay equality in the GCSE RE course and PSHE. Other subjects feel willing and confident to include references to gay themes in their lessons.

Imminent whole staff training should bolster awareness raising further, for which they hope to focus on curriculum involvement. 

How have Stonewall resources helped Chew Valley? 

Stonewall’s resources have aided Chew Valley’s work. Guides and training DVDs were used to explain to staff the importance of anti-homophobia work. In one lesson, a boy used the School Report as a basis for an English speaking assignment. Best practice has contributed to the ‘Doodle for Diversity’ and ‘Break down the Wall’ campaigns at the school, which push for respectful language and celebrate diversity. 

chew valley drawingStonewall’s feature film FIT and the associated lesson plans have changed perceptions. One pupil said after seeing it, ‘Really you just shouldn’t make assumptions about people. People are people, black, white, gay, straight, it shouldn’t matter.’ 

What was the biggest achievement since joining? 

Pupils are challenging peers over homophobic language, pupils come back lunchtime after lunchtime to watch instalments of FIT and the Youth Involvement Group acts as a driving force, developing confidence and resilience. In short, young people are leading change and pushing for equality. 

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  • Walthamstow School for Girls 

About the School

Walthamstow School for Girls is an outstanding comprehensive school situated in East London, serving a very diverse community. The school is committed to equality, and has a 100-year-old motto of: “Neglect not the Gift that is in Thee”.

How has the School Champions Programme benefitted the school?

The programme has helped Walthamstow to build on an existing commitment to lesbian and gay equality by identifying areas for improvement. As a result, Walthamstow now stocks a range of books with lesbian and gay themes in their library and LGBT History Month celebrations are now curriculum-wide with all subject areas delivering lessons with an LGBT theme. Being able to draw on Stonewall resources such as the ‘Spell it Out’ guide, ‘The School Report’ and ‘FIT’ DVD has helped the school provide factual information to staff, around which they can then develop lessons. 

With campaigns such as “Think Before You Speak” and extensive staff training on diversity (specifically lesbian, gay and bisexual issues) now embedded in school policies, the whole school has the confidence and tools not only to challenge homophobia but to celebrate diversity 

How have role models benefitted the school?

walthamstow aon pictureStonewall also put Walthamstow in touch with a representative from a Stonewall Diversity Champion, Aon. The representative has so far delivered an assembly, visited the school for International Women’s Day celebrations and delivered a talk to the Student Equal Opportunities Group. The girls in the Equal Opportunities Group gained real value from engaging with such a successful businesswoman, and Walthamstow looks forward to further links with the Aon LGBT group in the future. 

What is the best part of being a School Champion?

Being a School Champion has enabled Walthamstow to become even better at celebrating difference, to share good practice and to help make the school even more inclusive. Having the recognition of Stonewall gives Walthamstow a way of publically demonstrating their commitment to diversity.  

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  • Rossett School 

About the School

Rossett School is an Academy in Harrogate rated 'Outstanding' by Ofsted in 2010, with 1500 pupils. Rossett provides education for all, enriched by diversity.

How has the School Champions Programme benefitted the school?

Rossett’s initial needs assessment highlighted a need for school policy specifically referencing homophobia. Now the school’s leadership has set performance measures which are consistent with the school’s mission statement and equality policy. Staff are now confident in tackling homophobia thanks to whole-school training delivered to all staff. 

A role model visit galvanised pupils, with actor Sir Ian McKellen delivering an assembly which will stay with pupils for many years. This gave pupils the confidence to come out without fear of reproach, and some went further and signed up to Stonewall’s Youth Volunteering Programme.

Stonewall guidance resources have aided policy development, and Rossett has gone on to share this best practice with local schools. This work led one Ofsted inspector to say they 'had never seen any other school tackle homophobic bullying in such an open and positive way'.

What are the top priorities for Rossett School? 

Rossett is developing peer-led workshops, and acquiring gay-themed literature, in order to celebrate difference outside the classroom too. They will also be using Stonewall resources and lesson plans to reference being gay through the curriculum and, with the help of their Stonewall point of contact, identify cross-curricular themes.

What was the biggest achievement since joining the programme? 

Rossett has had a number of achievements that have gone beyond tackling bullying – such as developing a diversity day, appointing ambassadors and establishing an LGBT lunchtime club. 


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Call our education team on 020 7593 1871 or email if you have any questions at all.

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