The curriculum aims to help children be successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens. Talking about different families is very important in order to achieve these aims. Children will learn better and will be more engaged if they find their experiences and their family reflected in class and they will grow up to be more confident if they feel included. 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 of children with 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, based on a survey with over 2,000 primary and secondary school staff, teachers explain why they think talking about these issues is important.
Talking about different families, including those with lesbian and gay parents, 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, and how to ensure your teaching reflects the reality of life in the 21st century. In fact talking about different relationships is part of the curriculum. It also doesn’t require teaching anything special or differently – it simply means being aware that some children have lesbian, gay or bisexual parents, accepting 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 features some good practice examples on how to talk about different families or lesbian and gay issues in class.
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 the fact that civil partnership is marriage between two men or two women.
It is important to work with parents and carers to promote good behaviour and to establish an inclusive learning environment. Many parents are supportive of this kind of work and understand how it relates to creating a society without discrimination. 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 and 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.