This blog continues from my blog Gay shame – Part 1 where I talk about my experiences as a child at school during the time Section 28 was in force.
My experience as a primary school teacher
From 2004 to 2007 I trained as a primary school teacher in Brighton.
Throughout my training and school placements I don’t remember ever feeling safe to be openly gay.
There were no out gay teachers in any of the 3 schools I taught in.
Being in Brighton I find it hard to believe that no one was gay, but maybe there weren’t many gay people who chose to work in schools back then.
I can certainly say that my sexuality was one of the factors that made me decide not to finish my training and not to work as a full-time primary school teacher.
I wonder how many other student teachers had my experience ...
We are now missing those role models in our schools.
I remember only once hearing the word gay in one of my placements. Sadly it was not in a positive way.
We were on a school trip with year 5 and one of the pupils said to another...
“You're so gay.”
I remember being the only teacher in hearing distance, as we were walking along a road. I remember feeling very scared; I didn’t know what to say or even if I should say something.
None of my lecturers at uni had ever addressed this; in fact Section 28 had never even been mentioned in my uni classes!
I wasn’t quite sure if it was expected that I ignore homophobic bullying!
I decided to say something as I felt too strongly for this to be left unchallenged. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I remember the relief I felt when I challenged this hate speech.
The children seemed to listen to me. Maybe they had never heard anyone challenge that language.
Those children will be about 25 now.
I really hope that whatever I did say helped those children’s experiences in some small way as they grew up in the shadow of Section 28.
My hopes for schools
I am not working in schools today, but almost 20 years on from Section 28 my hopes remain the same:
I HOPE children subjected to homophobic bullying are able to speak up and be taken seriously
I HOPE teachers & children are able to safely come out as gay
I HOPE schools & teachers are better equipped and supported to challenge homophobia
My experience teaching in primary schools in the mid 2000s taught me that so many schools and teachers were continuing to live under the shadow that Section 28 had created.
I learned that schools were scared to challenge homophobia even after Section 28 ended. No guidance or support was given to schools to create anti-discriminatory policies and school staff didn’t have the time or the expertise to make their schools safe, inclusive places for gay children.
This horrific policy caused so much damage not just to the children – like me – who grew up in these times but also to the way schools continued to run in all the many years after.
Fab orgs raising awareness today
Today I’d like to highlight the fantastic organisations who do amazing work to raise awareness of not just gay people but of all LGBTQ people.
Diversity Role Models – Education Services
Allsorts Youth Project – LGBT+ Peer Educators
Stonewall – School and College Champions
From Sept 2020, it is a statutory (legal) requirement as part of the Relationship and Sex and Health Education (RSHE) curriculum that all secondary schools in England are required to teach about sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition to this all primary schools in England are ‘strongly encouraged and enabled’ by the Department for Education (DfE) to teach about LGBT families.
Are you a teacher, parent, student or educator?
Check out my online training available, click here.