The Scottish Government is to implement full LGBT-inclusive education in Scotland as soon as possible, the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, announced today.
In a ministerial statement to Holyrood, watched by LGBT organisations in the public gallery, Mr Swinney announced proposals described as ‘sweeping changes’ by equality campaigners, including content embedded across the curriculum in all state schools with thematic outcomes; a new LGBTI teacher training programme; the inclusion of new inspection criteria covering inclusive content in schools; and procedures to ensure bullying incidents are recorded properly by all schools.
In announcing the changes today, Mr Swinney paid tribute to the work of the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group, which was formed by the Government in response to the highly successful ‘Time for Inclusive Education’ campaign, run by Liam Stevenson and Jordan Daly.
The Working Group has met since 2017 and includes representatives of LGBT organisations such as Stonewall Scotland, Scottish Trans Alliance and LGBT Youth Scotland, as well as educational partners from the Scottish Catholic Education Service, the EIS and Education Scotland.
Mr Swinney said,
“Scotland is already considered one of the most progressive countries in Europe for LGBTI equality. I am delighted to announce we will be the first country in the world to have LGBTI inclusive education embedded within the curriculum”
“I am proud of this Government’s achievements on LGBTI policy, but we must do more. Exclusion and isolation in our schools, often under reported, are more subtle forms of discrimination. They have no place in our education.”
In response to the statement today, TIE Co-Founders said:
“After three years of campaigning, we are delighted that LGBT-inclusive education will now become a reality in all of Scotland’s state schools. 18 years after Section 28 was repealed in Scotland, we finally have a strong national framework to rectify the long shadow that was cast over our education sector.”
“This means that all young people will learn about the LGBT community; their contributions to our society, the history of our equal rights movements, and the impact of homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic prejudice and bullying.”
“The implementation of LGBT-inclusive education across all state schools is a world first, and in a time of global uncertainty, this sends a strong and clear message to LGBT young people that they are valued here in Scotland.”
“This is a monumental victory for our campaign, and a historic moment which proves that grassroots activism can have lasting change.”
“Education is one the most vital tools we have to tackle bullying, prejudice, and discrimination – and it shapes the fabric of our society. We now look forward to continuing our work with the Scottish Government as we progress towards full implementation.”
The Catholic Church have been active members of the Working Group and released a statement welcoming Mr Swinney’s announcement:
“The Catholic Church welcomes any recommendations that will help to ensure that pupils and school staff are properly equipped to challenge and eradicate prejudiced based bullying within schools and wider society in accordance with the law. The Catholic Education Community have been working to identify professional development opportunities while finding ways to develop appropriate resources for schools which are in line with church teaching.”
“We hope that the impact of these recommendations will be positive for all and that lessons learned from this process can be transferred to tackling similar issues associated with other areas of equalities and inclusion education.”
There has been widespread support for the changes, with a majority of MSPs signing the TIE Campaign pledge and teaching professionals from across the country welcoming the announcements.
Paul Murray is a teacher in Kirkcaldy and told us:
“We’re delighted to hear this news at Kirkcaldy High School. This guarantees that school staff and young people who identify as LGBT+ will never be at risk of having their identity ignored or questioned. It’s great that we can all put Section 28 firmly in the past. This announcement ensures that all are included, all are respected and all can “be as they are”. LGBT+ inclusive education at Kirkcaldy High has had a hugely positive effect on the ethos of the school and has actually boosted support for all forms of diversity. We will ensure this continues and grows.”
Sara Turkington is an Equality Advisor at Ayrshire College and said:
“I am delighted to learn that the Scottish Government continues to show its support to the full inclusion of LGBT+ children, young people and adults learning in many establishments across Scotland. Having experienced a schooling system that didn’t overtly or directly acknowledge my identity and knowing still this is the case for many young people, this step is hugely positive and welcomed. I hope we all continue to play an active role in promoting a culture of inclusion. If we can get this right, we will get it right for everyone.”
Colin Macfarlane, Director of Stonewall Scotland who sit on the Inclusive Education Working Group, said:
“Today’s announcement is a testament to the hard work of young people, teachers, parents and campaigners from across Scotland’s LGBT organisations who have been campaigning for these proposals for years. Without a doubt the TIE Campaign brought a fresh energy and an innovative grass roots movement which refocused minds on the importance of this work. These proposals will change lives for the better.”
The announcement today is the culmination of one of Scotland’s most high profile grass roots political campaigns, run by two enthusiastic and passionate campaigners who refused to give up.
Launched in 2015, co-founders Jordan Daly and Liam Stevenson might have been an unlikely pairing in many ways – Jordan a 19yo gay university student and Liam a 36yo straight truck driver from Cumbernauld, but what they have achieved cannot be overstated.
With a simple brand, a clear objective and speaking passionately at any event they could attend, the campaign gradually built momentum as it tapped into the common negative experiences of LGBT people in education – all too often members of the community were carrying memories of bullying and harassment during their education and wanted change.
But it was also a lack of positive depictions of LGBT lives in education which Liam and Jordan would aim to tackle, seeking commitments on mainstreaming LGBT issues and representation throughout every area of the curriculum, which atlast look like they could come to fruition.
Those in education right now have also reacted positively. Alannah Ferguson is the Chairperson of an LGBT group at her school in Fife and said:
“As a group we think this is the right step forward in helping children receive a modern education. Also, this will reinforce our message that it is OK to be different and to talk about that. This will help people who are part of the LGBT+ community learn about themselves within the school environment.”
You can view the full Inclusive Education Working Group report and recommendations here.