Young people need to be prepared for life in a diverse society. Stonewall's report on Homophobic hate crime shows that over seven in ten victims of hate incidents aged 18 to 24 say that they were committed by a stranger under the age of 25. Education plays an important part in dispelling stereotypes, myths and prejudices - many of which are perpetuated by the media young people watch.
Stonewall's report Unseen on Screen found that lesbian, gay and bisexual people were presented in a realistic and positive way in just 46 minutes of programming out of 126 hours.
It is also important that the curriculum reflects reality and students' experiences. Young people need to be able to talk about issues which affect them. Pupils in every school will have lesbian, gay or bisexual family members or will know someone who is gay.
There will also be young people who are lesbian, gay and bisexual themselves. The School Report found that one in four young lesbian, gay and bisexual people feel that there is neither an adult at home nor at school who they can talk to about being gay. Stonewall's research, Prescription for Change, found that many lesbian and bisexual women for example have never had a smear test and that half of those under the age of 20 have self-harmed compared to one in fifteen teenagers generally.
School staff should know not to make assumptions and should know how to support lesbian, gay and bisexual young people.
How to talk about lesbian, gay and bisexual issues in class
It isn't difficult to talk about lesbian, gay and bisexual issues in class and there are many opportunities within the curriculum to do so. It isn't about doing anything special or different but to acknowledge that gay people exist, that civil partnerships are a reality and it is about challenging stereotypes. There are some good practice examples from teachers who have talked about these issues in class.
FIT, Stonewall's groundbreaking film about friendship, coming out and fitting in is a teaching resource for Key Stages 3 and 4 and makes it very easy to talk about these issues. 'Oh no! Not the gay thing!', a resource for teachers with lesson ideas for seven curriculum areas and a section on frequently asked questions. There are also a number of books you could read with the class or suggest they be made available in the school library.