Mhairi McMillan, Policy Director of LGBT Youth Scotland discusses Stonewall Scotland’s research findings and offers solutions to tackle school homophobia.
The research published by Stonewall Scotland on Monday further backs up the need for the important work being done to address homophobia and homophobic bullying in Scottish Schools.
LGBT Youth Scotland’s current campaign, ‘Shh! Silence helps homophobia’ gives us all a call to action, to stand up and speak out whenever we see homophobia as this will impact on a young person feeling safe and supported to stay in school.
As part of this campaign our LGBT youth group, flavours of Fife developed a schools based film which shows exactly what impact we can have on a young person when we ignore homophobia and then shows us the flip side of how we can all make a difference by naming and challenging homophobia when we see it.
It ultimately shows us how we can all be part of the solution.
Challenging homophobia and homophobic bullying is just part of the picture though. What is essential is a whole school approach to LGBT inclusion. This means creating a school environment where the lives of LGBT people are talked about and explored across the curriculum in a positive and affirming manner.
LGBT Youth Scotland has created a framework of support to enable schools to achieve the goal of being a truly inclusive and supportive environment for all LGBT young people, we have tailored this support through our LGBT Schools Charter.
As part of this program a school is allocated a long-term support person from our organisation to support them on their journey to achieving the charter that entails a range of standards that must be reached.
We support schools with policy development, including ensuring that their anti-bullying policies name homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
We deliver teacher training, both on a train the trainers model and directly, we do this in whichever way is the best fit for the individual school.
Finally and crucially, we support schools with practice development, an essential element to this is youth involvement, we can deliver work directly to young people on the key issues, we can support youth forums to tackle LGBT inclusion in their school and we can support the development of peer led activities and importantly we provide a referral route for LGBT young people in need of ongoing support.
Another essential element to practice development is in terms of the curriculum, the needs of LGBT young people and the experiences of LGBT people more broadly should not just be covered in personal and social education, although this is important, it should be truly cross curricular.
History should include the experiences of LGBT people, English should include LGBT authors and books with LGBT themes, sexual health should include the needs of LGBT young people and so on.
When this is done effectively we start to both meet the needs of LGBT young people but also frame the world in a way where LGBT people are not seen in a negative manner.
As an organisation LGBT youth Scotland has been working in the area of improving education for LGBT young people and also supporting LGBT young people directly for 25 years, we have also been training teachers and delivering a range of activities in schools for 10 years.
We know these activities have an impact and importantly we know that the whole school approach that our LGBT schools charter provides has the biggest impact on all young people in the school environment.
What we also know, which is again backed up by today’s research, is that we are not working with enough schools and enough education authorities.
We will continue to contact and target schools across the country but we’d also ask that schools get in touch with us directly to take this work forward. We know that all of this work combined and all of us working together truly makes a difference to the lives of LGBT young people.
Mhairi has worked for LGBT Youth Scotland for almost 8 years, initially joining the organisation as the LGBT Domestic Abuse Project Manager before taking on her current role as Policy Director. Mhairi heads up a team which undertakes research, training and policy influencing. Some of the current key issues Mhairi and the Policy and Mainstreaming Team are working on are related to LGBT young people’s experiences of bullying in school, stigma surrounding mental health, Trans* Awareness in Education, Sport and LGBT people’s experiences of domestic abuse. Mhairi leads on the organisations LGBT Charter Mark programme and LGBT Schools Charter Mark Programme, which supports organisations to ensure their services are inclusive of LGBT people.