Inclusive education benefits every child and young person.
It plays a central role in helping us understand ourselves, our loved ones, and the world around us. It shapes generations that are understanding and empathetic. It also fosters a culture of respect and belonging, where everyone can feel free to be themselves.
Inclusive education is especially important for young LGBTQ+ people, who may be growing up in communities where they are less likely to see their experiences reflected in the media and the mainstream. Without accurate and age-appropriate information from trusted adults, children and young people can turn to the internet for answers – risking misinformation and potential harm.
Section 28: a generation silenced and living in fear
Our 2020 Shut Out report showed how bullying at school can contribute to a devastating impact on young LGBTQ+ people’s mental health and future prospects. Can you imagine what it must be like to grow up feeling unsafe and alone?
Unfortunately, here in the UK, many LGBTQ+ people don’t have to imagine – in fact, many lived through an era of actively exclusive education.
Section 28, a damaging piece of legislation that prohibited schools and colleges from discussing LGBTQ+ issues and identities in a positive light, was in effect from 1988 until as recently as 2003 in England and Wales, and 2000 in Scotland.
Impacted by homophobic messaging around the AIDS crisis, Section 28-era newspapers featured headlines such as, ‘Gay- and wicked’ (The Sun) and ‘Britain Threatened by Gay Virus Plague’ (The Mail on Sunday).
In effect, an entire generation of LGBTQ+ people had an education scarred by this law. Today, many are still feeling the effects of it, as adults.
20 years on – how much have things changed?
In November 2023, we mark 20 years since this Section 28 was repealed in England and Wales.
Age-appropriate LGBTQ-inclusive education is currently a mandatory part of the Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE), and recent research shows us that most of the British public think it's right for teachers at primary school to talk positively about different families, including LGBTQ+ families.
But how much have things really changed?
Watch the video below to find out more.
In recent years, we’ve seen protests outside schools by those who feel LGBTQ-inclusive teaching goes against parents’ rights to decide what their children learn. And across Europe, we are seeing what happens if these sentiments go unchallenged. In Hungary, a law has been passed banning the teaching of LGBTQ+ content in schools – echoing Section 28.
We’re also seeing deeply misleading headlines that echo the homophobic rhetoric of the 1980s – only, this time, they’re targeting trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people. From claims that young people can be “turned trans” by inclusive education, to spreading misinformation around gender-affirming healthcare, the media and political environment is putting trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming young people at harm of experiencing another Section 28.
This discourse is already having an impact. The Youth Voice Census 2023 revealed that 100% of the trans young people surveyed did not feel welcome at their secondary school.
Inclusive education is central to what we do
Stonewall was formed in 1989 in response to Section 28, and we successfully helped repeal it 20 years ago. However, it’s clear that our work is not yet done.
Support us to keep campaigning for a future where ALL children and young people can be free to be themselves, no matter their sexuality or gender identity. Join us in making sure we #DontRepeatHistory.
Help us protect LGBTQ-inclusive education
Inclusive education benefits every child and young person. We must protect all young people so we don't backslide to a time under Section 28. Support us in making sure we Don't Repeat History.Donate today
Find out more
Read our blog on why, LGBTQ+ or not, a truly inclusive education system benefits everyone.
Our guide is here to help
FAQ about LGBTQ-inclusive education.
Hear from parents, teachers, former students and young people about why LGBTQ-inclusive education changes lives.
A hand-selected list of LGBTQ-inclusive books for children and young people to enjoy.
Find out about our work with schools and colleges.