Out in Education is an organisation founded by Nottingham student Lucy Wake which aims to tackle homophobia in schools. Impact spoke to Bryony Harper, head of the UoN branch, about the work they have done so far.
Tell us about Out in Education and the work that you do.
Out in Education is a not-for-profit that aims to tackle homophobia at primary and secondary schools through workshops, assemblies and lessons. We have talked to children about a variety of topics including healthy relationships, different families, stereotypes and homophobic language. We have bases in different Student Unions across the UK with LGBT students going into their local schools. Out in Education was founded in Nottingham and is our most active branch.
What’s the typical outline of one of your workshops?
It all depends on the age of our pupils. Last week we had a KS1 and reception group where we read them ‘And Tango Makes Three’. If we have KS4 pupils we would speak more frankly about the effects of homophobia.
Out in Education definitely has a ‘celebrate, not tolerate’ message
Out in Education is all about positivity and acceptance – what’s the most positive experience you have achieved so far through work with the organisation?
Out in Education definitely has a ‘celebrate, not tolerate’ message. We have had fantastic response from both young people and teachers. One teacher felt comfortable coming out, a couple of schools have implemented their own LGBT support groups and we have also received comments in the question jar that have thanked us for coming in.
Your website claims that nine in ten teachers hear phrases such as ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ in school’. Have you found it difficult to tackle such attitudes in schools?
This statistic on its own is pretty worrying, but the report also suggests that more than half of secondary school teachers and four out of ten primary school teachers do not challenge homophobic language when they hear it. Many teachers just do not feel confident tackling homophobic language – you look at a report card and you’ll see ‘lack of uniform’ and ‘racism’ but you don’t see ‘homophobia’. Young people do not often realise the implications of what they are saying – particularly in primary schools. Regardless of school, when we go into classrooms it is probably the first time they have heard the word ‘gay’ in an educational classroom context.
Using the word ‘gay’ in a positive educational context will take away the stigma
Arguably, the most effective way we have found of challenging homophobia in schools is surprisingly the simplest – utilising positive LGBTQ education in the curriculum. Using the word ‘gay’ in a positive educational context will take away the stigma. Promoting the ‘celebrate rather than tolerate’ message, using LGBT History Month to celebrate the lives of LGBT people, mentioning that LGBT (or perceived) LGBT lives were lost in the holocaust, Alan Turing, Carol Ann Duffy… There is so much scope for an inclusive curriculum but many schools are frankly afraid of including anything. Recently Ofsted have mandated an LGBT inclusive education so things are slowly changing.
The best kind of recognition is hearing how attitudes are changing in schools
Our workshops have been mentioned in Ofsted reports and in schools we have visited have shown a marked decline in homophobic language. Saying that, we still have had emails from schools that have said: “We don’t have children like that at this school.” That is certainly difficult.
Out in Education and its founder Lucy Wake have received praise both through the press and through awards such as the Nottinghamshire Young Person of the Year Awards 2014. How does it feel for the organisation to receive such recognition?
It is brilliant to get recognition for what we do, but the best kind of recognition is through things like Ofsted reports and hearing how attitudes are changing in schools. Lucy spoke to her local MP, Gloria de Piero, and she has used our experiences when speaking about Labour’s new push to have mandatory LGBT inclusive relationship education in schools. That is exciting.
Finally, if anyone wants to get involved in the organisation, how can they do so?
We always have space for new volunteers. If you are currently a student you can get involved through the Student Volunteer Centre, or you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of http://www.outineducation.org/out-in-education.html