We were recently awarded the Stonewall School Champions Silver award (only 8 schools achieved this recognition in the previous two years). The award is relatively straightforward to apply for and doesn’t require much effort above and beyond what you should be doing already.
The award initially caught my attention working in a school in special measures, thinking it would benchmark the processes we had in place and help direct our efforts to improve. One of the core values of our multi-academy trust is inclusivity and we pride ourselves in encouraging our students to be as inclusive as possible.
To get the Bronze award the main focus was on policies and making sure that HBT bullying was addressed. In addition, we had to make sure that LGBT awareness was incorporated into the curriculum and assembly programme.
The Silver award was a little more demanding and focussed on trans issues, and being prepared to treat trans students appropriately (e.g. asking how they would like to be addressed). There was also a strong emphasis on gender neutrality – we have a gender-neutral uniform for staff and students, and gender-neutral toilets.
One of the most useful strands to come out of the School Champions scheme was the focus on gender equality. Gender bias is embedded in so many aspects of our lives from the UK mainstream media through to Hollywood movies. Stonewall encourages schools to treat all genders equally so that students who don’t identify with their birth gender don’t feel discriminated against or uncomfortable.
Stonewall aren’t the only ones considering how we can encourage gender equality. The IoP has recently published helpful resources on inclusive teaching (inclusive of all genders) shown below, with detailed information for teachers on their website.
The BBC screened an excellent documentary called “No more boys or girls: Can our kids go gender free?” which examined some of the ways we perpetuate gender stereotypes. Stories keep hitting the news related to gender such as Clarks shoes with their ‘Dolly Babe’ shoes for girls whilst boys got tough functional shoes with names like ‘Leader’
Thanks to a focus on gender through the School Champions scheme we no longer have boys throwing like girls and no longer is a woman’s work never done. Instead, we have a level playing field where everyone is treated equally and have the same chances and opportunities.
We have the next generation of students in the palm of our hand. We influence them, nurture them and help to shape their ideas. I’d encourage more schools to sign up for Stonewall School Champions – in doing so you will be helping the next generation reach their potential regardless of gender or sexual identity.