LGBT+ Teachers' Conference 2017
I have been a member of the NUT since I started my teaching career at Beauchamp College in 1996. I taught there until 2006 when I moved to Leicester High School. It is perhaps surprising that attending the LGBT+ Conference is my first significant interaction with the NUT in all that time. In hindsight I wish I had attended such an event years ago as the whole experience was empowering and it has given me a something new to focus on as I approach the final stages of my teaching career. Looking back to my teenage years in the 1980s, I had no information or support around issues of sexuality or gender identity, and certainly no role models who were other than heterosexual. I saw the LGBT+ conference as an opportunity find out what I could do to ensure that appropriate support is available to young women at Leicester High School.
The LGBT+ Conference was exceptionally well organised from the moment my place was confirmed to the moment I arrived back at the train station for my journey home. All relevant information was communicated well in advance and nothing was left to chance. The programme of events included workshops (chosen in advance), a panel of activists sharing their local success stories, a regional discussion group (there were 11 of us from the Midlands), a keynote speaker (the amazing Phyll Opoku-Gyimah) and the debate on motion to annual conference. We were also well fed, watered and entertained with a disco on Saturday night (the standard of dancing on the dance floor was impressive).
The first workshop I attended was Exploring good practice in schools led by Tony Fenwick of Schools Out. This focused on useful networks in the LGBT+ community. The ones I noted down were: www.schools-out.org.uk (useful stuff including organisers of LGBT History Month), www.mermaidsuk.org.uk (for parents and young people dealing with gender issues), www.diversityrolemodels.org (workshops feature positive LGBT or straight ally role models who speak directly to young people about their experiences), and the-classroom.org.uk (lots of resources). I also came away with a copy of Outburst, the LGBT History Month magazine and an information flyer from Schools Out.
The second workshop I attended was Tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language in school presented by Leanne Connor from Stonewall. This was a more interactive session and each table was given a card sorting exercise consisting of 18 key words/terms to organise. This highlighted my own ignorance in the understanding of certain terms and I couldn't help thinking that life would be easier if we were all treated equally and that we didn't need to be classified. We then worked on creating a school script for dealing with inappropriate language in school. A suggested format was to question what the student said, ask them to explain what they meant, link to school values and put into personal context. Many shocking stories were shared which highlighted the need to educate both pupils and teachers about tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language in school.
And finally, what am I going to do following the conference? I have already spoken briefly with our PSHE coordinator, school nurse and a sixth form student with a view to promoting a well-being support group within school. This will provide a safe environment for pupils to discuss any issues or worries that are affecting their well-being. LGBT+ issues could be discussed within the group and students could be signposted to additional sources of support. I believe that staff, students and parents at my school would benefit from opportunities to learn more about LBGT+ issues. I think it may be useful to arrange for guest speakers to come in and chat informally with students about their experiences, opening up opportunities for dialogue around LGBT+ issues. The contacts made at the conference will be helpful in finding speakers. Whilst I prefer to protect my privacy at my own school, I would be willing to share my personal experiences with students at other schools. I would be very interested in hearing from other teachers in Leicester who would like to share ideas and collaborate on initiatives to provide support around LGBT+ issues in schools.