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Top tips for colleges to promote LGBT Inclusion

In the light of the Coronavirus pandemic, college life looks very different now to how it looked just a few months ago. In times like these, all young people might feel more anxious or uncertain than usual – and this can be especially hard for vulnerable young people, including young people who are lesbian, gay, bi or trans (LGBT).

Stonewall’s research shows that 45% of LGBT young people at secondary school or college, including 24% of FE students and 15% of sixth form students, have experienced homophobic, biphobic or transphobic (HBT) bullying. Experiencing bullying or isolation or worrying about how others might treat them can place enormous strain on LGBT young people’s emotional well-being, often contributing to poorer mental health outcomes. What’s more, HBT bullying can affect young people’s attendance, attainment and access to education and employment: young people who experience HBT bullying are more likely to skip school or college and less likely to want to go on to Higher Education Stonewall School Report, 2017.

Getting LGBT inclusion right is really important in order to support LGBT young people to thrive. What’s more, this work benefits all students at your college: LGBT inclusion is part and parcel of creating a culture of celebrating and respecting difference across your whole setting – and doing that well helps all students feel accepted as their whole selves.

Below, we’ve included some top tips to help you develop a culture of celebrating difference across your whole college. Got questions? Our expert Education Team are happy to help – drop us an email at education@stonewall.org.uk

Our members are able to access tailored support and resources and benchmark their work through our sector-leading Awards – find out more here.

Top Tips

  1. Be led by your learners: In order to understand what’s working well in your setting and what could be improved, consult with your students. Consider rolling out an anonymous student survey – ask students about their experiences of HBT bullying within the college and ask them to rate different aspects of your LGBT-inclusive work. Ask staff to complete the same survey and compare and contrast results. If a survey’s not right for your setting, consider running focus groups, drop-in sessions or anonymous feedback boxes so that students can share insight.

  2. Take a consistent approach: Ensure all staff know they have a responsibility to challenge HBT bullying and language and feel supported to do so with confidence. Use assemblies, tutor group time or awareness-raising days like International Women’s Day or LGBT History Month to facilitate conversations about celebrating difference across your whole college.

  3. Map staff training needs: All staff want the best for the young people you support, but some staff might feel less confident or knowledgeable than others when it comes to LGBT inclusion. Ask staff to rate their confidence out of 10 and invite them to share the things that give them confidence and the things they need to develop their confidence further. Facilitate peer mentoring, buddy systems or team teaching so that staff can learn from each other’s expertise. Look for training that can help fill any knowledge gaps. Stonewall has affordable e-learning courses that can work around your schedule.

  4. Perfect your policies: Your policies are really important, because they set expectations for your students and staff and let the wider community know how you do things in your setting. Be sure that your anti-bullying policy specifically refers to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. For helpful suggested wording on policies, see our Getting Started toolkit.

  5. Audit your curriculum: Look at where you teach about LGBT people, issues and themes. Explore whether you’re introducing students to a broad and diverse range of LGBT role models, including LGBT people of colour, disabled LGBT people and LGBT people of faith. Look at what’s working well (you could consider involving students and asking them to rate how inclusive your curriculum is) – when you’ve identified areas for improvement, make an action plan to phase any changes over time. Stonewall’s range of resources can help you fill in any gaps.

  6. Ensure the way you teach is LGBT-inclusive, as well as the content: You might not be aware of any openly LGBT students in your classes, but remember that in any class, you may have a student who is LGBT but has not yet come out; a student who is questioning whether they might be LGBT; or a student who has LGBT family members or loved ones. Avoid making assumptions about your students or their family and friends. Include LGBT people in classroom displays, examples, case studies and reading lists. Role model allyship by always challenging HBT language.

  7. Set up an LGBT group: It’s important that LGBT students have access to a safe space where they can socialise, as well as accessing help and support if they need it. Be led by students on how they want this to function and get staff involved in supporting the group and helping it to run smoothly.

  8. Make sure pupils know how to get support: Provide plenty of opportunities for pupils to learn about services to support young LGBT people, including local/regional and national services. Stonewall’s What’s in my Area tool can help you find local services and our Introduction to Supporting LGBT Children and Young People has a great list of national services. Make sure students can access information confidentially or without having to ask or be observed – for example, include posters or directories in student planners or inside toilets or locker doors, as well as on notice boards and in common rooms or canteens.

  9. Make sure your dress code is gender neutral: Your dress code should allow any pupil of any gender to wear any of the permitted items of clothing and not set out different rules for different genders. This is more inclusive for trans and non-binary pupils and it also helps challenge gender stereotypes, helping all students to feel more comfortable at college.

  10. Factor LGBT inclusion into your career services: Help your students enter the world of work with confidence by providing information about inclusive employers. Visit our Proud Employers site to explore our top tips on finding LGBT-inclusive employers and to browse job listings from organisations who are part of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions network.

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