Shropshire Council: supporting schools to be LGBT inclusive

Strategic support for the work has been established and strong partnership working is in place with the voluntary sector. During 2016/17 schools in Shropshire received training on LGBT-inclusive relationships education, relationships and sex education (RSE) delivered by the Sex Education Forum funded by the Government’s Equalities Unit. This case study is an example of the many pro-active and positive approaches which local authorities are taking to support inclusive RSE.


Key points

  • Training provided to schools on lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT)-inclusive RSE.
  • Annual young people’s event as part of LGBT History Month with LGBT young people providing case studies on good and emerging work.
  • Joint leadership statement supporting schools’ work on RSE.
  • Award-winning curriculum programme Respect Yourself supplemented with additional LGBT guidance.

The needs of young LGBT people have been highlighted both nationally and locally. This group are recognised as particularly vulnerable, experiencing bullying, discrimination and prejudice with high levels of self-harm suicidal ideation and attempts. They also have higher rates of non-attendance and under achievement at school and some harmful, risky sexual behaviour and drug and alcohol use.

In Shropshire LGBT-inclusive teaching is core to the Shropshire Respect Yourself curriculum for primary and secondary schools, which is delivered by over 90 per cent of schools, including the independent sector.

What has been done?

Strategic support for the work has been established and strong partnership working is in place with the voluntary sector. During 2016/17 schools in Shropshire received training on LGBT-inclusive RSE delivered by the Sex Education Forum funded by the Government’s Equalities Unit.

A year later funding was provided by the Shropshire Safer Partnership to enable every school to receive a book called ‘How to be a LGBT-friendly school or college’. The book advocates a whole school approach to recognising, celebrating and supporting diversity in relation to sexuality and gender identity.

In 2018 the Shropshire transgender guidance for schools and colleges was developed to complement the Respect Yourself curriculum with the support of national expertise, head teachers, safeguarding and PSHE leads and in consultation with young people and members of the LGBT youth group XYZ, run by the Shropshire Youth Association This year, with reports of protests about RSE teaching, a joint leadership statement of support for the work was sent to all schools from the director of children’s services, lead councillor, Shropshire Safer Communities chair, and chief police inspector. Schools also received information and contacts for staff, pupil and parent support.

Why?

The director of children’s services for Shropshire said the steps have been taken because this group of young people is particularly vulnerable in terms of their emotional mental health and safety – LGBT is the second highest hate crime in areas of the county.

The director says it is also clear that this area of RSE can be controversial.

“Schools have duty of care in terms of safeguarding, equalities and promoting British values. We encourage and support schools to have an on-going dialogue with parents who object to this work and who want to withdraw their children from RSE.

“We know one parent has written to the local MP about the transgender guidance, and there has been an organised protest on the border of Shropshire and meeting called at a local Mosque about RSE.”

What else is happening?

While Shropshire’s existing guidance on curriculum fulfils the DfE guidance, the council is not complacent. Other resources have been developed, including LGBT youth information display boards which tour schools and community venues as part of the Shropshire LGBT History display.

In addition, for three consecutive years a youth/school day has been held as part of LGBT History Month in February. School and college leaders, teachers, parents and members of the LGBT community hear from young people about their experiences, listen to poems, songs and presentations. The young people hand out certificates of recognition for good and emerging practice and workshops are held to identify priorities for the following year.

Training and support for schools continues with help being offered for curriculum implementation, policy development and parental engagement. Every year schools feedback on progress as part of the annual safeguarding audit.

The council works in partnership with their schools to support, inform and challenge.