This year we really have been here, there and everywhere! We have travelled across the country from London, to Durham, to Petersfield in Hampshire and it has been a fantastic start to the PRIDE Youth Network programme.
Our New Year’s Resolution was to create a forever-growing network of young people in schools up and down the country, transforming them into LGBT+Friendly places.
Just two weeks into 2017 we got off to a flying start!
Dozens of students from across London and Kent ventured to Westminster just footsteps away from Big Ben to meet us at DLD College. We discussed the importance of LGBT+ education and how together we can make simple changes to transform their own schools and the National Curriculum.
While there were tables full of coffee, cake and cookies; the students aged 14-18 were glued to the screen. Almost every young person in the room offered examples of how their school has moved towards equality, how their school could improve and how they can move forward together as a Pride Youth Network.
One male student said: “I have always played netball, but when I got to secondary school I was no longer allowed to play. All the tournaments were female only.”
This is something we hear far too often. Many LGBT+ identities try and avoid physical education at school altogether as it can promote inequality. There are gendered sports and often teachers can reinforce these ideals by having certain games for the girls, and others for the boys with few and far between.
Another PYN student offered a solution which works in her school to promote gender equality. She said: “My school implement a PE rota. All students learn and play basketball, football, netball, trampolining, and no matter what gender you are, everyone gets a chance at everything!”
The young people passionately got the conversation going about change, but it was the teachers in the room who took on a campaigning role. LGBT+ education would benefit from being a compulsory part of the curriculum, the teachers stressed that it is just as important as Religious Education which is mandatory.
After all, our ethos is intersectionality. We don’t just stress the importance of equality to LGBT+ identities. We thrive for equality for all and we believe it is important to learn about every struggle, whatever age, disability, gender identity, married, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
Jo Thompson, PYN Trainer, said: “We are all about equality. That means treating everyone equally and fairly.” By the end of the session, these were the exact words the group shouted back to Jo.
We visited Horndean Technology College in Hampshire where we were joined by its students and other schools from around Hampshire and Surrey.
Horndean Technology College has already made wonderful steps to creating an LGBT+ friendly school. They have a gender-neutral uniform policy where ALL students have to wear trousers, no skirts allowed for anyone. All students can wear make-up so long as it is subtle.
This really is a wonderful step and has already benefitted so many students. Also at the training session were two students from a state boarding school who were battling against a rigid uniform policy where girls must wear skirts, and boys trousers. The pair are taking back the information from the training with a hope of making change.
Our trainer said “Communication leads to conversation which leads to change such as policies. This is the start of your own Pride Youth Networks, this is where change happens.”
We offer four simple steps to creating your own Pride Youth Network.
1. Find a meeting place. Once you have a place in mind you can promote it and decorate it with our Educate & Celebrate posters.
2. Ground rules. It is important to establish ground rules. These can be typed in an email to all members, or written on a poster on the wall, but it is vital all members understand them to prevent anyone from being hurt or left feeling uncomfortable.
3. Advertise. This can be in the school newsletter, on the website, through Facebook or if you’re feeling brave you can host an assembly!
4. Plan an event. This will not only help make an impact, but it will help you work together towards something. It could be a showcase, a play or a movie screening. We have an amazing collection of LGBT+ focused films such as Milk, Pride and Danish Girl.