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UEL School of Education addresses the importance of LGBTQ in training

In celebrating LGBTQ History Month, the School of Education and Communities at the University of East London share how they ensure that LGBTQ issues are being addressed in their training. 

Schools play an important role in supporting children and tackling LGBTQ issues, particularly homophobia.  It is becoming increasingly clear that support and training for teachers is crucial in not only creating awareness and understanding of LGBTQ realities but also working towards making life easier for LGBTQ pupils who are navigating the education system.

In April 2019, the government announced new regulations for teaching Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in schools. It has now been made compulsory for secondary schools to teach about sexual orientation and gender identities in schools and at a primary level, all schools must teach about different family types, which includes LGBTQ families.

Karen Stephens, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader (Primary PGCE) at UEL, said “Although we have been addressing LGBTQ issues through lectures and seminars for over three years, we feel it is more important than ever to make our trainee teachers aware of teaching children about acceptance in the classroom, which will then infiltrate into society.”

The School of Education and Communities recently held an online Festival of Diversity & Inclusion for their trainee teachers where they introduced fantastic organisations such as as Educate and Celebrate and The Young Black Teachers’ Network (YBTN). These organisations are doing crucial and inspirational work representing the voices of people who are often marginalised in society and are underrepresented in schools.

David Wells, Head of Initial Teacher Education, said, “We are so pleased to have had such high-quality input regarding diverse and inclusive classrooms throughout this inaugural festival. It is vital that we engage our trainee teachers with these debates, to challenge prejudice and stereotypes, and enable the development of the skillsets required to create inclusive learning spaces”.

Samantha-Jane Kelly, PGCE Primary trainee (with SEND), said, “We had a wide range of talks on subjects including creating a LGBTQ and friendly environment in the classroom, creating an inclusive classroom for all students, structural racism in schools and gender stereotyping.  I found it incredibly useful that we were given practical ideas on how to create a more inclusive classroom.”

Moving forward, Karen Stephens, said, “The PGCE Primary Curriculum is also looking at including diversity in science, history and other subjects. It is important that children see and understand that it is not just a certain type of person who becomes a scientist or who contributed to national and internal achievements”.

Further seminars and lectures are being planned and a recent Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) seminar held last week, run by UEL tutors, made additional reference to LGBTQ teaching within the RSE curriculum.

Richard Harty, Dean of the School of Education and Communities, said, “We welcome the involvement of organisations like Educate and Celebrate and The Young Black Teachers’ Network (YBTN) in supporting us to ensure our graduates are equipped to challenge discrimination and LGBTQ issues and creating inclusive classroom”