The Learn Equality, Live Equal (LELE) programme gives schools effective tools to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying.
“Children will, of course, find out about all sorts of things, including the diversity of our society, anyway, – the question is where and how is it best to do so – in class, on the internet, or in the playground…. I would strongly encourage schools to discuss with children in class that there are all sorts of different, strong and loving families, including families with same-sex parents, while they are at primary school.”
Education secretary Damian Hinds, presented this statement at the launch of DfE’s new RSHE guidance last month, reflecting the positive step that schools nationwide are taking in teaching diversity and creating LGBT-inclusive environments.
The Anti-Bullying Alliance and the Sex Education Forum, under the National Children’s Bureau, have been supporting schools in this work since 2015 through the Learn Equality, Live Equal (LELE) programme. LELE is aimed at preventing and tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying in schools and is funded by a Government Equalities Office (GEO) grant.
The programme, so far delivered to nearly 800 schools, has three main aims:
- To support a whole-school approach to preventing and responding to HBT bullying
- To equip teaching and non-teaching staff with the knowledge, skills and confidence to tackle prejudice
- To build inclusive school environments.
As the LELE team at NCB start delivering the programme to another 150 schools across the country throughout the next year, we have also been looking at the lessons learned and the impact the programme has had in schools so far.
Why focus on homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying?
HBT bullying affects pupils and staff in schools across the country. Nine in ten secondary school teachers state that pupils in their schools are bullied or harassed for being – or perceived to be – lesbian, gay or bisexual. Research with trans youth indicates that 28% of trans young people experience physical attacks, 84% have self-harmed and 45% have attempted to take their own life.
But it is not only young people who identify as LGBT+ that experience HBT bullying. Any pupil perceived to be ‘different’, or who does not conform to norms of masculinity or femininity, may experience HBT bullying. Pupils with a special educational need or disability are more vulnerable to HBT bullying, as are pupils with LGBT+ family members.
Teachers can also be subject to HBT bullying, and some still do not feel that they can be open about their identity with their peers. As with all types of bullying, the impacts are far-reaching and can continue well into adulthood.
Working to tackle HBT bullying and promote inclusive school environments benefits everyone. According to NatCen having an ethos of good behaviour, respect for others and respect for diversity, difference and equality in schools is a factor that made it easier for schools to successfully tackle HBT bullying where it arose.. Children who feel safe to learn are happier and healthier, more likely to stay in school and more likely to achieve academically. Schools that work holistically to celebrate diversity and champion equality can transform lives.
For the LELE team it has been great to see the many positive strategies that LELE schools have implemented over the past four years. Pupils have set up LGBT groups, created Pride pledge boards, sourced more inclusive library books, and addressed gender bias in sports and through updating policies and delivering whole-staff CPD.
As a result, schools told us they saw a reduction in HBT bullying over time and felt confident enough to implement a more inclusive curriculum – including in core subjects. Parents were more engaged and pupils reported feeling safer in school.
One primary school leader in Lincolnshire said: “I know the project has been a resounding success in school and we are all very grateful to you for your gentle guidance and advice towards that success. I’m sure the impact of it will be longlasting for each of the year 5s as they grow up – but also and equally important, for our future children here as they participate in elements of the project throughout their time with us.”
You can find real-life examples of LELE schools’ work on anti-bullying strategies in the Learn Equality, Live Equal Virtual Display Board.
We are really excited about the 2019/20 phase of the programme. LELE’s whole-school approach to tackling HBT bullying means that we work closely with schools in the programme to ensure everyone in the school community – staff, pupils and parents – works together to develop a safe, inclusive environment that reflects their school ethos. We recognise how crucial it is for staff to feel comfortable and confident in talking about all kinds of difference, and we provide schools with the training and resources they need. Throughout the programme and with the support of an expert advisor with extensive experience in implementing anti bullying strategies, schools will have the opportunity to audit their practice around HBT bullying, attend CPD sessions covering gender equality, LGBT inclusive RSE, look at how to implement effective consultation procedures to involve staff, pupils and parents in their anti-HBT bullying strategy as well as learn, collaborate, network and share best practice with other participant schools throughout the country.
We look forward to continuing to work with schools and sharing their journeys into creating an environment that celebrates diversity and where pupils feel confident and safe in their own identity – whatever this may be.
To find out how to join the Learn Equality, Live Equal programme contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Learn Equality, Live Equal team
 Lee, Catherine (2019) Fifteen Years on: The Legacy of Section 28 for LGBT+ teachers in English Schools. Sex Education. ISSN 1472-0825