A Dundee primary school has become the first in Scotland to achieve the LGBT Charter Mark, awarded by LGBT Youth Scotland.
At a special all-school assembly yesterday, more than 400 pupils, teachers and parents celebrated the success at Downfield Primary School and were described as pioneers of change for inclusive education in Scotland. They received their Silver LGBT Charter Award from Jane Griffin, Senior Fundraising Manager at LGBT Youth.
Headteacher, Karen Emmett, said she was “incredibly proud” of all her pupils and staff for the hard work in achieving the award and said:
“It became clear about a year ago that some of our school community didn’t feel at ease in our school. They didn’t feel entirely included and some children, at times, were hurtful. We decided to do something about that.”
“We now have a school where children are taught to respect difference and be kind to each other, and this anti-bullying aspect to our work has been a real success story for us.”
The Downfield pupils certainly took the lead in celebrating their success at the ceremony, with fantastic dance performances from several year groups to the songs from hit movie “The Greatest Showman”, including a moving all-school rendition of ‘This Is Me’ which had staff, parents and visitors wiping a tear by the end!
Depute Head at Downfield, and a key figure in achieving the LGBT Charter award for Downfield, was Fiona Baillie. She shared her experiences of delivering LGBT awareness training with the full school staff, from the janitor and dinner ladies to the school leadership team. She also congratulated the hard work of the pupil Equality & Diversity Group who had led a number of initiatives in making the changes necessary within the school.
Also present to congratulate the school were Dundee City Council’s Director of Education, Paul Clancy and Education Convener, Cllr Gregor Murray. Paul said he was “so proud” of the achievement and that the whole school should be congratulated for all their efforts.
Speaking to Pink Saltire afterwards, Cllr Murray said:
“Well this is something really special, I don’t think there are enough words to say how proud I am of them. We have a really good level of engagement with parents and schools across Dundee and its so good to see so many parents here today.”
Asked whether other Councils across Scotland could look to Dundee for inspiration, Cllr Murray said:
“I think all schools will get there eventually. The message is don’t do it alone, there are lots of other schools or organisations there to help. It’s the best thing for your children – if you want them to succeed they’ve got to feel included, so do it!”
Graeme Lea-Ross, Educational Capacity Building Officer at LGBT Youth Scotland, told us the school have been something of a guinea pig, with the Charter Mark already well established in high schools across the country, but that Downfield volunteered to be the first primary school to undertake the work necessary. He said:
“The school have done a huge amount of work and were able to evidence much of the change in culture and in policies to embed LGBT-inclusive education at Downfield. For primary schools you really need to be engaging with the parental community so that they know what is really being said – there can be lots of misinformation out there. The school have been really open about some parents having concerns but they recognise those concerns and invited the parents in to see the work they were doing.”
“I hope today promotes an awareness that LGBT inclusive primary schools is important and should be happening. We know that a lot of teachers are still unsure if they’re allowed to talk about LGBT issues, so we hope that events like this can show other schools that it can and should be done.”
“It’s impossible not to feel an immense swell of hope that this will spread everywhere and make the next generation of kids lives easier – they wont have to struggle because ever since nursery its been openly talked about and that everything’s fine.”
You can find out more about the LGBT Charter and the work of LGBT Youth Scotland by visiting their website, here.