What project are you working on at present?
I’m doing some really interesting interviews with teachers and children in primary and secondary schools around the country to look at the impact of the work of a charity called ‘Educate & Celebrate’ (http://www.educateandcelebrate.org/) . They work on challenging homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools and they also help schools to ‘usualise’ LGBT issues by training teachers and updating curriculum and policies. My research with the charity this year is focusing on faith schools and other schools which serve faith communities. I’ve found that when they are willing to take these issues on, faith schools and schools serving faith communities tend to be very successful, as they generally have a well-established focus on pastoral care and inclusion work. I am also interviewing parents and children and writing a book with my colleague Professor Carrie Paechter about LGBT parented families and schools.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for an LGBT parent in the school environment?
The need to stick up for your child if they are experiencing bullying, whilst at the same time respecting their need to only ‘come out’ as the child of LGBT parents when they feel safe to do so (if at all). This often has an impact in secondary school, and because children often have a positive experience in primary school it can come as a bit of a shock. It’s not all challenge, though- our kids tend to be great critical thinkers, politically savvy, and empathetic people.
How can we get rid of the label of being ‘the lesbian mum’ – has this happened to you?
Well that’s an interesting question- LGBT people and the family members of LGBT people I’ve interviewed (adults and children) say they want to be visible, yet accepted. So it’s perhaps not about getting rid of the label but more about getting rid of the stigma.
How best can diversity be taught in schools?
It has to be led and taken seriously by someone in the senior management team, and should take a broad, systemic approach. This might include updating behaviour management, uniform and inclusion policies in line with the Equality Act 2010; embedding all kinds of people and issues across the curriculum; and training all staff members so that they feel comfortable that they are giving the right information on all kinds of diversity issues- from LGBT parenting to Islamophobic media reporting. The best schools don’t treat diversity and inclusion as bolt-on issues to be dealt with just during Black History Month or a special one-off Gay Pride assembly, but as a route towards excellence in everything they do.