A Glasgow school is embracing inclusion with pupils leading the charge to make life better for LGBT+ students and staff.

Shawlands Academy, in the city’s southside, have hit the headlines in their attempts to ensure they have a safe and welcoming place to learn. They’ve recently introduced gender neutral spaces around the school, including toilets and changing rooms, and have dropped traditional ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ roles in dancing.

Speaking to the Evening Times, Principal Teacher of pastoral care Kirsty Rodger said,

“Pupils had approached me to say that they were not feeling fully included in school life. If someone comes to me with an issue saying they are not feeling included then I am going to look at ways to fix that.”

A group for LGBT+ students was established in September 2016 and the school have now achieved the Silver Charter Mark Award from LGBT Youth Scotland for their continued efforts.

Sandra Leitch, Principal Teacher of PE at Shawlands, was charged with tackling the reducing number of LGBT pupils taking part in PE and worked with them to remove gender barriers to participation, such as introducing ‘leader’ and ‘follower’ into social dancing instead of ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ roles.

Pupil Theo Pieczka-Garner, 16, said,

“We had a discussion early on in the group and the common theme was that people felt uncomfortable in PE. There was a stigma around changing rooms, a lot of people were feeling exlcuded by their peers and felt they couldn’t discuss it with the teachers. Social dancing was gendered and for pupils who are trans that’s upsetting and distressing.”

The school worked with LEAP Sports to develop an LGBT-inclusive PE manifesto, as reported in 2017, which is now being used in other schools to improve the participation of LGBT young people.

Shawlands have also introduced an LGBT section to their library and are considering other methods to embed LGBT issues as part of the curriculum.

Pic credit: LGBT Youth Scotland

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