My four year old goes to school this September. Will he be bullied for having two mums?

What school did you get for your child? What are your hopes and fears for your child as they go into Reception?

I am a lesbian mum. And my fear is whether my four year old will feel safe to talk about his family at school.

After weeks of silence, Labour MP Roger Godsiff, the MP for Hall Green, the area in Birmingham where Muslim parents have been protesting about LGBT inclusive education in school, has spoken. And he has decided, based on his professional experience in school (none, except for being a school student in the 50s), that children aged four and five are ‘too young’ to be taught about LGBT relationships.

The problem with MPs talking about education is that they often don’t really know much about it. Roger Godsiff has no background in education, having been a bank clerk before he was an MP. Children are vulnerable to the whims of politicians, as they can’t vote. And anything done in schools has the effect of making a government’s policies last long into the future, so children become repositories for tomorrow’s results of today’s political whim. Roger Godsiff – known as ‘Britain’s laziest MP’ for his failure to engage consistently in Parliamentary activity-  and the second highest claimant in the 2009 MP’s expenses scandal – claims to have voted in favour of LGBT equalities issues. But in fact, he voted against the Same-Sex Marriage Amendment in 2013 on the grounds that us gays already had civil partnership and it would be unequal if we had two options. Separate, but ‘equal’, apparently.

I wrote a book about LGBTQI parented families and schools last year with Professor Carrie Paechter. We found that children and parents in these families want schools to step up and not just deal with bullying, but ensure that diverse family structures are ‘usualised’- made ubiquitous. If they are usual, they can’t be taboo. But is four too young, as Roger Gidsiff claims, to read a story book about two mums?  What if it ‘confuses’ them? What if they can’t understand?

Let me tell you a story. When our youngest was about 18 months old, he was really starting to get to grips with his language. My wife and I were sitting on his bed one evening, getting him ready to go to sleep. He was practising his counting. Holding up his chubby fingers, he said, ‘One!’ ‘One!’ we said, smiling at him. ‘Two!’ he said, trying hard to hold up just one of the fingers on his other hand, and getting tangled up with his thumb. ‘Two!’ we responded, in pleased voices. Then he pointed at me. ‘One Mummy!’ he said, grinning. And then he suddenly had a realisation. He pointed at my wife. ‘Two Mummies!’ he said, laughing out loud. Two Mummies. Two parents who happen to be women. Two parents who were at his birth, who have changed his nappies, held his hand as he took his first steps, built his train sets, cooked his first foods, chosen his first nursery. Chosen his first school. Will he be safe there?

Between us, my wife and I have four children. The older three are 26, 23 and 15 years old. They are openminded, caring, politically aware young people. School wasn’t easy for any of them because they were all bullied for having lesbian mums. They’ve survived, and are young people I am very proud of. But all three of them had to move schools at least once because of homophobic bullying. One never, ever brought friends home, in case they found out about the two mums. One hid in the toilets to avoid the stares and whispers. One told their friends that my female partner was the lodger.

I do not want this to happen to my four year old.

Every year as part of my job as a university lecturer, I interview around 180 students. About a third of them are Muslim, and many of the others are Christian evangelist. As part of the interview, I give applicants a choice of readings to look at and comment on, to assess their academic ability. One is about student voice. And the other is about LGBT parented families and schools. Most of the students pick the second one, and I hear the same thing time after time: That since gay people can get married, one must be inclusive, as they have the same rights. And I would never say this at my place of worship or my home, but I don’t have a problem with gay people. And no God condones bullying. And our God says we must love our neighbours. When my wife became pregnant with our fourth child, these students threw a surprise baby shower in the classroom for us.

What’s the point of this story? Well, with institutional validity, same-sex relationships have attained a good deal of acceptance. And valuing all the kinds of families children in a school might have- two mums, two dads, just an aunty, a grandmother, a mum and a dad, just a dad- will do the same thing.

We don’t have to set respect for Muslim families against LGBT inclusion. The Equality Act 2010 is clever. It states that no protected characteristic should be held over another. To paraphrase, three of the protected characteristics relate to gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion. Part of the Act states that publicly funded institutions like schools have a Public Duty. This duty is to address discrimination, for sure, but also to develop tolerance and understanding between people with different protected characteristics.

My wife spent the last two weeks helping our fifteen year old to revise for his RE exam. As part of his revision he read to us about all the key elements of Islam. Our four year old has Bengali dress in his nursery’s dressing up box, and is cared for by a smiley young Somali woman in a hijab. We live in an area where around us are a Sikh Gurdwara, several mosques and madrassas, churches, Buddhist temples, and a synagogue. A few months ago we had a street party, and shared food from all over the world with our neighbours. We aren’t worried that our children will somehow become unduly influenced. If they want to choose another religion, fine! We understand that they are just learning that there are people in the world who are different to them, and that we should be nice to each other no matter what our differences are.

So, if the Equality Act provides for this kind of thing, then why are we in this mess? The Government Equalities Office and the Department For Education are just coming to the end of a several £millions project on LGBT inclusion in schools. I know about this, as I wrote one of their pilot reports. And yet they have been silent. Silent on the Gender Recognition Act consultation. Silent on the long awaited guidance for trans children. Silent on the hate speech and the parental fear unfolding outside Parkfield School in Birmingham. The result is that our schools and head teachers don’t feel supported. Letters are being written to heads in schools all over the country. Without a steer from government, local authorities are refusing to give firm guidance. And my four year old is about to go to a school where he will be, as a non-Muslim, very much in the minority. Should we have to worry about his emotional wellbeing? Should we have to plan for an incident of playground homophobia? Is this all happening because the government is scared of looking unpopular in the polls?

I have worked for my whole career on inclusive education. I have worked as a teacher and then as a researcher to support children to be included and schools to be inclusive on issues of race, religion, sex, gender and sexual orientation, disability and SEN, and social class. I have written a research report on LGBT inclusive education in schools serving faith communities with the charity Educate & Celebrate. There are ten evidence-based suggestions in that report.

Please share them.







An analysis of the Government Equality Office LGBT Action Plan

2016-03-24 14.00.37Yesterday I was asked to give my response to the Government Equality Office’s  LGBT Action Plan on London Live TV. I was grateful for the opportunity and I thought that reporter Ellie Cunningham did a great job of ensuring fair and open reporting without dumbing down the issue or trying for a ‘debate’ on allowable identities (a trap many have fallen into).

However, I had only 90 seconds to speak, and being an educationalist, I could only really focus on education… so here are my more complete thoughts on the Action Plan.

The Equality Act 2010 has not been effectively implemented

An area of deep concern for me was the fact that the Action Plan is promising things which should have been enacted when the Equality Act came out in 2010. The Equality Act mandates a public duty for any publicly funded organisation to not only deal with bullying and discrimination, but also to ‘foster good relations’ between people with the various protected characteristics (for example, age, faith, race, gender identity, and sexual orientation). Have we really, up until now, not had any guidance around LGBT+ issues for inspectors of social care or for Home Office employees and contractors? We have had it for Ofsted inspectors, so it’s not as if nobody noticed that it might be a good idea.

A Very English Proposal

The UK is in a good position to be able to critique and push for other countries to improve LGBT+ rights, and makes a commitment to do so in the Action Plan. But as Peter Tatchell has noted, the Plan is very inward-looking towards Westminster and England. Northern Ireland, for example, still doesn’t allow for same-sex marriage. The Action Plan makes no mention of this beyond the fact that some devolved powers will make it difficult to enact all the promises everywhere in the UK. However, the way this is written was a political decision. The GEO could have chosen to make a statement of intent to encourage and support the devolved powers to join in delivering all the promises in the Plan, just as it has for Commonwealth countries.

The experiences of BAME and faith communities

An enormous gap in the data, and therefore in the Action Plan, concerns the experiences of BAME LGBT+ people in the UK. The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group was consulted, and as a result there is a paragraph about supporting the specific needs of all LGBT asylum seekers, whether their gender identity/sexual orientation is a feature of their claim or not (and much work needs to be done here, particularly in educating tribunal judges, some of whom don’t believe someone is a lesbian unless they are sufficiently ‘mannish’) .

However, the proportion of respondents from BAME communities more generally was pitifully small, begging the question: to what extent did the GEO actually try and reach out? Did they talk to UK Black Pride organizers? Did they get in touch with the UK LGBT+ Jewish organisation, Keshet UK, or Imaan, the organisation for LGBT+ Muslim people? My own research and reams of academic literature on this issue reveals that people who are BAME are more likely to be ostracised and bullied within their own communities (probably due to the need for oppressed peoples to be as ‘normal’ as possible to survive: the blame for this is on the oppressor majority), and that they are likely to experience racism within the LGBT+ community. They are less likely to be included in research, too, which seems to focus mainly on white middle class urban people.

The lack of an intersectional analysis could also set groups up against each other. As Ruth Pearce, author of Understanding Trans Health, says on Twitter, ‘…in breaking down *only* conversion therapy by ethnicity/race and faith, the findings may be weaponised in a racist way against the very LGBTQIA+ people who need solidarity and support within our communities (e.g. by portraying some groups as “more homophobic”)’. In fact we have already seen this strategy happening in some Ofsted inspections, where Muslim kids are aggressively asked about their views on homophobia and then written up as verging on extremism if they give the wrong answers. There is a need to acknowledge the fact that faith communities and services addressing the needs of faith communities are often very inclusive. For example, many of the faith schools and schools serving faith communities (including Christian, Muslim and Jewish students) I have visited and conducted research in are excellent at pastoral care, and very effectively deliver changes to make their teaching and learning environments LGBT friendly.

Improvements in trans health services, but only if you’re over 18

Gender identity clinics for adults are going to be made more accessible and inspected, and healthcare professionals will be trained to support LGBT+ people. Young people’s ‘body image pressures’ will also be addressed. That’s all good- but why aren’t young transgender people getting more support? Mermaids, the charity for families with transgender young people, supports hundreds of families where young people are experiencing extreme distress. One of the main sources of this distress is related to the fact that the waiting list for treatment is so long that they are at risk of entering a puberty they don’t want before hormone blockers can be prescribed.

Education: it’s about time

In education, there is an ongoing commitment to tackling bullying and making the curriculum more inclusive. This continuation of existing work by organisations such as LGBTEd (namechecked in the document), the education charity Educate&Celebrate, and Olly Pike is welcomed, and must be embedded throughout all teacher education programmes including initial teacher education, into the NQT years and beyond- as we do at Goldsmiths.  However, the GEO has known about this need for a long time. For example, I was involved in pilot work with Educate&Celebrate funded by the DfE back in 2014 which very clearly demonstrated the efficacy of usualising LGBT+ people and issues across the curriculum as a way to constructively tackle bullying in schools. The Action Plan offers this as if it’s new.

The Plan also promised guidance to schools on supporting LGBT students- this has been a long time coming, and a long time promised. Politically, there has been a decision made as to when the news can be buried so as not to attract negative press, and the losers in that calculation are the students.

Consultation on the Gender Recognition Act

The Gender Recognition Act consultation is an opportunity, but still telegraphs an intention to keep changes applicable to over-18s only and to sideline the needs of non-binary people. A large element of the GRA consultation concerns data protection and the fact that it’s hard to apply for a job if the reference you need will come from a workplace where your name and gender was different. For under 18s, this will be problematic where students can only provide exam transcripts or school references in their deadname.

Better Representation in Sport

Promises to improve representation across the board are welcomed, including in sport. However, it would be good to see this extended into schools. Physical Education can be an excruciating place for any young person tackling issues with their bodies or with self-esteem. Ideas of masculinity and femininity often coalesce around PE in schools, and much needs to be done to audit school sports provision and make it more inclusive.

This is an example of where the UK could offer international leadership. The European Gay and Lesbian Sports Foundation is finding it very difficult to persuade international professional sports federations to even consider making their policies more inclusive. But what if we worked with schools to trial the categorisation of sports teams and participants by things like running speed, height jumped or weight lifted rather than by gender? If we can show that the kids can cope with an alternative system of categorisation, the international sports organisations might be more willing to make their own policies more inclusive.

Finally, I don’t want to seem churlish: it is wonderful and amazing and lovely that the government is trying to gather its own evidence about LGBT people in the UK. However, the National LGBT Survey revealed very little that we in the LGBT+ communities didn’t already know, and have been trying to tell the government for years. For example, the decision to find out more about what non-binary people need sounds a bit like a stalling mechanism: there is plenty of research already out there. So don’t relax yet! We need to keep pushing, amplifying, speaking and voicing our concerns.

Let me know what you think: leave a comment below

‘Wow, it’s really true, you do have two mums!’ When the children of lesbian mothers go to school

I have to be up front here. I am an academic, mainly looking at inclusive education and “youth voice”, and have always wanted to avoid being pigeonholed as the lesbian academic who talks about lesbian things.

But I am also a parent. As the debate around Putin’s homophobic stance rages around the World Cup; as gay people in Nigeria are beaten to death in the streets as the police stand by; and with the first same-sex marriages in England and Wales only a few brief years ago, I feel the need to talk about how my family, and other families with lesbian mums, experience school. The fact is, things are better in the UK than they are in many other places around the world, but there is still a long way to go.

At the age of 14, my daughter had to decide when and to whom she would “come out” as the child of a gay parent. Sometimes she did not want to bring friends home in case they noticed.  And she had to hear “that’s so gay” being used in place of “that’s so stupid” hundreds of times a week.

But the moment she went to college she had to call me to talk to her new friends because “they didn’t believe me – it was too cool!” She also feels that her experience has made her more politically aware; she is certainly oriented towards social justice, and truly empathic about people who experience prejudice of all kinds, such as on the basis of disability or appearance.

It’s not all bad. Stonewall has been working incredibly hard over the last few years to support schools and families to work constructively together.

Other activists and organisations have been creating a step-change in the visibility of families with LGBT parents and LGBT children. For instance Elly Barnes, who works to “usualise” LGBT identities and eradicate homophobia across schools from Durham to to Guernsey through her Educate&Celebrate project; or the Schools Out campaigns for inclusivity; or Mermaids, which works to support transgender kids and their families.

All of this hard work does seem to be affecting change, and my research has shown that there are some amazing staff-members in our schools.

Faith is often a pressure-point when we discuss schools and sexuality, but Clare and Tessa, from Lancashire, told me that they had experienced “unexpectedly brilliant support, acceptance and encouragement from a small town Catholic school community.”

Recently when there was a spate of “you’re gay because your mums are” at the school that Alex (aged 8) attends, Clare told a teaching assistant and it was dealt with that day. She went on to say that  the teaching assistant “took Alex to one side and told him she thought his family was brilliant, that her best friend is gay and that he can always talk to her about anything.”

Keisha, from Liverpool, explains that her child’s teachers “have always made an effort to understand Tommy’s roots. Not once has it been an issue. The pastoral care teacher has a poster in her office that explains the different make-ups of families, ours being one of them.”

We need to work out whether and how to give our children the language and the option to ‘come out’ as the children of lesbian parents when and where they feel comfortable, and to work out if this strategy needs to change from primary to secondary school. It is important that this starts at an early age, as children, especially younger children, can be very accepting. Many of the lesbian parents of primary aged children I have spoken to have described their children’s classmates’ envious responses upon finding out that they had not one but two mothers, with one child exclaiming:  “wow, it’s really true you do have two mums!”

Sometimes it is the expectation of a negative response which can be worse than the actual experience.  Helen told me: “My biggest anxiety came when Daisy made best friends with a girl in the class whose family were strict Muslims. I was concerned that our family make-up would be a problem. It turns out that it was! Nothing to do with having two mums – the family turned out to be very accepting of this – but they really didn’t like us having a dog in the house!”

Beyond our relationships with other families at the school gate, we need to hold schools to account. If things are not going well, we can write to our head teachers and school governors, and to the local authority, if necessary. The law is on our side, and our children have the right to feel safe, accepted, and taken seriously at school. Stacey, who lives with Beth in South East London reports that when she approached the school’s Inclusion Manager to talk about their child, Stanley, hearing homophobic language in the playground, she was told “don’t worry, I’m ok with gays because my son works for the airline industry!” This was followed by a week long standoff with the school’s head teacher who was concerned that acting to combat the homophobic language might “upset other parents”.

Everyone I spoke to described experiencing these kinds of microaggressions. Microaggressions  were  developed in Critical Race Theory, as those things which alone might make you question whether you’re being too sensitive, but become stressful because of their frequency. They are the things which, as Wendy put it, “make you growl under your breath”.

Part of this seems to do with the visibility – or more aptly, invisibility – of lesbian-parented families in schools. The picture is one of an improving school system, but one which needs a more consistent application of the public duty element of the Equality Act 2010, which requires schools to not only combat homophobia but to support positive relationships between people of different ethnicities, genders, abilities, sexualities and faiths.

Most lesbian mums report that, despite repeatedly informing schools about their families, there are still Father’s Day card-making incidents with their children. Sharon and Rhona, also in London, report their “partners being wilfully read as sisters, mothers – anything but partners”. Aliyah told me that her partner was told at a parents’ evening, “we don’t talk to the childminder- only the parent”. Clearly, this issue doesn’t just relate to the children of lesbian parents – what about those in foster care, or with single parents, or who live with aunties or granddads?

To combat this invisibility, we need books in our classrooms like Prince Henry, a gay prince, or  Spacegirl Pukes, a story about a space girl who just happens to have two mums. And we need all kinds of families to be what SchoolsOut describes as ‘usualised’ in our school curricula. But we don’t generally experience this enlightened approach as the norm. Many of the parents I spoke with felt that they had to be more proactive than would usually be the case in order to pre-empt problems before they occurred. Clare, whose children are at a Catholic school, explained: “I think that we have to make a huge effort. Every autumn term I go and see the new teacher to introduce myself and make sure they are aware of our ‘un-usual’ family.”

There is a constant process of coming out to other parents, too. This is important not just to avoid problems but to provide our children with a template for the way they discuss their families or deal with comments from other people. Wendy told me: “I would probably naturally avoid chatting in the playground, but make myself be proactive. We can’t be shrinking violets if we don’t expect our child to be. It is a constant round of coming out, but with tender young ears listening and taking their cue of pride rather than shame in their family from us.”

All of this means that families with lesbian parents can experience a notoriety which is not particularly welcomed. Helen explains: “One of the things I find is that people often know us, and about us, when we don’t know them.” I hope that by starting this conversation, perhaps we can all get to know each other a little better, and in the process, our families will become ‘usualised’.

 (Names have been changed)

Can you make your school LGBT+ Friendly?

An External Evaluation Report for Educate&Celebrate

 Educate & Celebrate: a programme designed to challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools

Author: Dr Anna Carlile

Affiliation: Department of Educational Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London

June 2016


Executive Summary

Funded by to challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying, the Educate & Celebrate project was delivered in 60 schools across England. The project worked with schools in five key areas:

  • Whole-school training on the legal mandate for this work; understanding key terms and key issues in relation to LGBT people; dealing with HBT bullying; and developing policy and curriculum
  • The creation of a visibly inclusive school environment
  • Updating school policies in line with the Equality Act 2010
  • The usualising of LGBT people and issues across the curriculum
  • Pride Youth Networks, community music performances, bake-offs and other celebrations

This evaluation collected interview and focus group data from thirteen representative schools, and survey and documentary data from all sixty schools. It found that the methodology:

  • was successful in challenging HBT bullying in the partner schools, with greatly increased confidence amongst teaching staff and an improved LGBT inclusivity rating for both staff and students in schools across the project
  • had far reaching effects, including improved Ofsted findings; more effective teaching; and positive impacts across the wider remit of equalities and community cohesion- both in the schools, and in the families and communities around them
  • could be recognized as a template for the development of a range of areas in the task of school improvement

The training was found to have effectively addressed teachers’ concerns about how to approach HBT language. Changing a school environment so that it is visibly welcoming of people with all the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 served to give the project the validity it needed when teachers in the Educate & Celebrate Coordinator (ECCO) role began to address the need for policy change. This was a powerful step. For example, where policies were changed so that HBT language (such as ‘that’s so gay’, meaning ‘that’s rubbish’) was approached with the same disciplinary policy as racist language, it reduced dramatically. This led teachers and students to feel more confident in challenging HBT language and behavior; to be open about their own identities and their family make-up; to discuss LGBT people and issues across the curriculum; and to engage in community celebrations around the theme of equality.


HBT bullying is frequently the focus of work around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues in schools. However, whilst it is important that inclusion work operates to address situations where individuals have experienced negative consequences as a result of their ‘protected characteristics’, a deeper, more sustainable and preventative approach might be suggested to have further reaching effects. Educate & Celebrate takes this approach, seeking to make LGBT people and issues a usual, regular element of school experience and to celebrate diversity. In doing so, it places LGBT issues within the wider remit of the Equality Act 2010.

Evaluation Team

The Goldsmiths Department of Educational Studies has a well-established record of research and research-informed teacher education programmes. This work focuses on teaching excellence through attention to issues of student voice and creative expression, social justice, inclusion, equalities and community cohesion in schools. The external evaluator and author of this report is experienced in working with schools, originally working as a secondary school teacher of both mainstream students and those with special educational needs- particularly those at risk of permanent exclusion. Her research has been focused particularly around inclusion in relation to discipline and behavior management; ethnicity, faith and culture; socio-economic class; gender, gender identity and sexual orientation; and special educational needs. This has included close analysis of the process through which school policies are created, discussed, and applied, and the ways in which this intersects with or challenges the inclusion of student voice in schools’ organizational planning and development.

The first survey was initially drawn up by the CEO of Educate & Celebrate. The exit survey was draw up by the CEO and partially edited by the external evaluator. The editing process was informed in part by the young people involved in the first two focus groups.

The documentary Evidence Portfolios were requested by the external evaluator and solicited by the CEO of Educate & Celebrate. Paper samples were sent to the Educate & Celebrate office. Other examples were uploaded to the Educate & Celebrate website by the project administrator, who also sent out the survey and organized school visits.

Description of the project

Educate & Celebrate consists of a small group of dedicated trainers and specialists. Most share a history of work as school teachers. Their roles in the project include teacher educators, children’s book specialists, and youth voice workers.

The project under evaluation was developed following eight years of fine-tuning, first in the founder/CEO’s original school, where she was a music teacher, and then in other schools and local authorities, including a large tranche of work conducted in schools across one city in the Midlands and a local authority area in the North of England. The current project represented a significant scaling-up exercise, working in around five times the numbers of schools previously involved.

The current project under evaluation operated in thirty primary and thirty secondary schools in regions across all corners of England.

The model involves certain key elements, designed to challenge prejudice, and, crucially, to ‘usualise’ LGBT people and issues in a sustainable way, and at all levels of the school. These are illustrated in the table below:

Key element Examples of activities Key exemplification emerging from the evaluation
Training Whole-school training sessions, including management, teaching, support, administration and maintenance staff Teachers said that as a result of the training they felt better able to address HBT comments in class and to usualise LGBT people and issues across the curriculum
Environment Welcome notices in school foyers, explaining that the school celebrates diversity according to all the characteristics in the Equality Act


Posters and displays around the school

Many electronic sign-in protocols required school visitors to agree to uphold the commitment to value everyone regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age, and pregnancy before they could enter the school
Policy Audit and updating of school policies to ensure inclusion on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, including those relating to bullying, uniform, behaviour, and equalities Schools often changed their discipline policies so that the consequences for saying ‘that’s so gay’ as a negative comment in class received the same consequence as if students had used a racist word, and this resulted in teachers and students feeling able to come out at school as LGBT
Curriculum What is learned through training is embedded into curriculum through curriculum reviews and the ‘usualising’ of LGBT people and issues throughout updated schemes of learning


The PRIDE in Primary Education resources and training enabled teachers and pupils to engage in an LGBT+ inclusive curriculum through the book collection, the language and literacy strategy and arts and subject specific lessons. The project was funded to provide the book collection to every school involved.

School libraries dismantled ‘girls’ books’ and ‘boys’ books’ displays to encourage flexibility in students’ book choices.


Books used in English and Literacy classes often featured LGBT characters.



Celebration and community Community celebrations including Rainbow Bake-offs and musical performances


Pride Youth Networks: school-based youth groups for young people who are LGBT or who are allies. The groups socialise, discuss issues, go on trips, support each other, and campaign on LGBT and gender equality issues

300 parents attended a multi-school music and drama competition in one area, around the theme of LGBT equality, and there were only positive comments in the feedback



School contexts

The breadth of school-types visited meant that the evaluator was able to compare discourses across a wide variety of school contexts. These included schools where  100% of the students population had a Pakistani Muslim heritage; those in which all students were White working-class and first-language English speakers; and schools in diverse areas where up to 24 languages were spoken in any one classroom. Some schools were already well versed in addressing specific equalities issues other than those related to LGBT people. These included racist attitudes deriving from locally popular White supremacy movements such as the British National Party (the BNP); pressures on Muslim communities deriving from global conflicts which have led to Islamophobia in some areas; and resourcing issues related to the need to educate students from many parts of the world with a wide range of linguistic competencies. Most of the schools visited were also working hard to address the effects of poverty and deprivation and lack of local employment.

Policy context

There is a history of UK government policy, notably ‘Section 28’ (of the Local Government Act 1988), which traditionally made it difficult for some teachers to feel able to speak of, acknowledge, or address LGBT issues. The law prohibited local authorities from seeking to ‘intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’. Although Section 28 was repealed on 18 November 2003 in England and Wales, its legacy has far-reaching effects, and the language of the warning against ‘promoting homosexuality’ is still evident in many current school policies. It is against this background that the Equality Act 2010 emerged, requiring publicly funded institutions (such as schools) to adhere to a ‘public duty’. This duty applies a legal mandate to the requirement for institutions to not only eliminate direct and indirect discrimination and harassment on the basis of a list of ‘protected characteristics’ (including ethnicity, disability, age, religion, gender and identity, and sexual orientation), but to actively advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between groups. Ofsted guidelines also seek to inspect schools for their work in these areas. The result is that LGBT people’s rights are protected in law, but are still subject to both direct and institutional prejudice deriving from a school culture currently in a state of emergence from the preceding policy context.

Evaluation Purpose and Methodology


This evaluation was designed to find out whether the Educate & Celebrate project had changed schools’ approaches to HBT bullying and reduced incidents of it. It also sought evidence that the project effectively delivered the key e Ethical considerations

lements described above: training, environment, policy, curriculum, and community. Finally, the evaluation was looking for examples of the outcomes and impacts of the key elements described.


The evaluation drew on a range of data: around forty hours of recorded focus groups and interviews at thirteen of the schools; portfolios of evidence from all sixty ECCOs; and a survey sent out to all staff and students at the sixty participating schools.

School visits

Before the project started, in June 2015, the evaluator visited twelve of the sixty participation schools, to establish a baseline analysis. The schools visited included six primary schools and six secondary schools – one for students with moderate learning difficulties (MLD)- and were spread across the geographical range. During each of these visits the evaluator held a recorded focus group discussion of about sixty minutes with between two and fifteen students (usually five or six), and a sixty minute recorded interview with a staff member, usually the ECCO. School environments were also noted, including images and welcome messages in school foyers, posters in classrooms, and displays of work in the corridors.

The evaluation plan also involved visits to the sample schools at the end of the project, to establish details of any changes which had occurred. Due to management staff turnover, we were able to visit eight of the original schools, and two replacement schools. The end-of-project visits involved follow-up focus group discussions with students, and sixty minute interviews with seven ECCOs, a local authority Equality and Inclusion Officer, one head teacher, two deputy head teachers, and two learning mentors. As well as observing school foyers and welcome messages, the follow-up visits also involved three school tours to look at library book and wall displays, and at work students had created around the project.

Before each visit at both the start and end of the project, ECCOs were asked to select around five students for a focus group. We asked ECCOs to use their own judgment in selecting these students, so some of them were already in Pride Youth Networks (that is, they were themselves LGBT or allies); in other schools, staff selected particularly articulate students; and in others, ECCOs sought to provide a good cross-section of age, ability and ethnicity in the focus group members. The students selected by ECCOs in the second round of visits were, in two of the schools, qualitatively different: they were those who had been particularly involved in the project and who were eager to tell the evaluator about their experiences. Often (but not always) these groups included students who had either come out as LGBT- or who had become very interested in continuing the equalities work started in the interim – or both.

In total, around eighty students and sixteen staff members participated in the recorded discussions across the focus groups and interviews. The students in the focus groups ranged from Year 2 (aged 6-7) to Year 13 (aged 17-18). The second round was undertaken in April 2016, which meant that some Year 6, 11, 12 and 13 students were in SATs and mock exams and so were unable to attend the focus group discussions. Year 6 and 13 students who had been in the June focus groups had left the schools involved. However, there was a significant cross-over in the membership of the focus groups and they usually contained at least three of the original students.

In mixed-gender secondary schools, the majority of students in the focus groups tended to be identified as female, usually with one or two male identified students. In primary schools the focus groups tended to consist of a relatively even gender split.

In terms of ethnicity, faith and cultural background, some of the schools were monocultural. In those which were more mixed, the focus groups represented the range of backgrounds. The whole data-set draws on input from students and teachers whose families originated in Somalia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Poland, and England, and whose faith systems included Christianity and Islam.

The questions to both focus groups and staff members were generally open and designed to generate discussion. In order to find out about general attitudes towards gender and to break the ice, it was usually helpful to begin by asking students to say a bit about their school uniform, and then whether anything related to LGBT people or issues ever came up at school. In the one-to-one interviews with teaching staff, the first question sought to discover how they had become involved with the project. The discussions were semi-structured, allowing participants to raise issues as they felt comfortable. Prompting questions were used to elicit specific information where it had not already emerged in the discussions.

Evidence portfolios

Each of the sixty schools involved in the project were asked to submit evidence portfolios. Schools were asked to include the following:

  • Evidence of the impact of the training sessions
  • Photographs of the school environment, including wall displays
  • Updated policies
  • Samples of new lesson plans and schemes of learning
  • Photographs and leaflets relating to celebration and community events

Schools were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze awards depending on how comprehensively they had achieved the goals of the project as evidenced in these portfolios and through visits made by the project staff.

For this report, the evaluator looked at the portfolios sent in by the twelve sample schools, as well as a random selection of six others.


Educate & Celebrate sent a survey out to all staff and students in the schools involved. The survey questions were written by project staff with some input from students in the first two focus groups.

Ethical considerations

The research/evaluation plan was ratified by the Goldsmiths, University of London Ethics Committee. It addressed issues of sensitivity and emotional wellbeing, confidentiality, and informed consent.

Without wishing to pathologise LGBT issues, it is important to acknowledge that a project addressing this subject matter has the potential to raise sensitive issues with school students and teachers: people who, because of the particular context of a school, may be particularly anxious to maintain their anonymity. Schools in past iterations of work on LGBT issues (for example, No Outsiders) have received very negative press coverage. In addition, because the project was aimed towards a reduction in bullying, the team was careful to put safeguards in place to avoid any exacerbation of the risk. Confidentiality for all parties concerned had to be assured. All names of people, schools, and places have therefore been changed in this report.

The evaluation had also to be designed to be sensitive to the emotional wellbeing needs of all participants. The potential for respondents to discuss their own gender identity and sexual orientation was inherent in the subject matter: these issues can raise concerns related to acceptance or rejection by friends, families, and employers. Further, the history of school-related policy around LGBT issues (especially Section 28) has generated a level of anxiety amongst some school staff, and this had to be taken into account. Taking account of this potential anxiety, the evaluator used open questions in focus groups and interviews. These invited respondents to volunteer only that information which they felt comfortable volunteering.

Because of the issues relating to confidentiality and sensitivity, it was especially important that respondents from Key Stage 1 upwards, and with a range of cognitive abilities (including those with MLD), had to be able to give informed consent.

In order to address the need for informed consent, a Respondent Information Sheet and Consent Form were produced (see Appendix 1 and 2). These was given to participants at each focus group and interview. Depending on the age and cognitive abilities of the respondents, the evaluator either gave them time to read the documents, read them out loud, or summarized them in language appropriate for the level of the participants. The evaluator’s background as a teacher of children and young people with special educational needs informed an opinion as to the best approach in each case.


The evaluation looked at how the project had changed schools’ approaches to HBT bullying, and whether incidents of HBT bullying had been reduced.

Other questions sought to describe processes, outcomes and impacts related to the following components:

  • Training
  • Environment
  • Policies
  • Curriculum
  • Celebration and community

The evaluation looked at impacts and outcomes for staff, students, and in some cases, parents, in relation to these areas.

The specific questions asked in focus groups and interviews are listed in Appendix 3 below.


As described above, the evaluator was not able to visit exactly the same twelve schools or interview the same selection of students before and after the project was delivered. It would have been useful to have been able to compare all the students’ responses. However, around half the schools and perhaps three quarters of the focus group and interview respondents were the same. There was also some value in talking to people who had new ideas and narratives, and who had not had the questions flagged up in the earlier focus groups.

Although time and other constraints made it impossible, it might have been helpful to have spoken with students and staff at all sixty schools involved. The schools visited must therefore only be taken as a potentially representative sample. Schools vary so much in terms of demographics, management style, location, and philosophy. However, the sample does have some validity as it represents more than 10% of the schools involved; and schools across the country do share some similar characteristics.

Respondents were selected by teachers. This way of identifying focus group participants was deliberately chosen in order to accommodate the complex timetabling, pedagogical and other responsibilities which schools and teachers labour under. The selection process was interesting in itself, and produced a good mix of participants across the range of sample schools.

The evidence portfolios contained information selected by the ECCOs. Schools were motivated to achieve a ‘Gold’ Educate & Celebrate status, so this may have influenced the selection of materials for the portfolios.

The baseline and exit surveys are not completely comparable. The baseline survey was sent out before the official evaluation began, and some of the questions do not have matching comparators across the two surveys. Survey questions in both iterations were originally formatted by the project staff to inform project design rather than as an evaluation tool, and so they are at times promotional rather than non-directive.

Government data suggests an average of about 1100 students in secondary schools and 250 students in primary schools in England. Potentially, then, the project worked with 33,000 secondary school and 7500 primary school students. Because the surveys drew on around 2000 student respondents in the first round and 1000 in the second, they can be described as statistically significant. However, they were not representative, as they were completed by secondary schools and those mainly in London, the South East and the Midlands, with primary schools and those in the North and East of England less likely to complete them. In addition, the anonymity available to survey respondents led some student respondents to take the survey less seriously than might have been useful. However, those questions which were quantitative, comparable and nondirective did provide some useful data.

It is also important to note that the schools had experienced slightly varying levels of prior engagement with Educate & Celebrate. Three of the sample schools had already undertaken some work with the organization, although they had not delivered the full model. This work usually consisted of the attendance of an ECCO at a training session and the running of a Pride Youth Network or similar.

Qualitative judgments made on the basis of the samples used in this evaluation should therefore be understood within these contexts.

About this report: analyzing and reporting the evidence

The evaluator took thematic notes throughout the school visits; undertook document collation development and review; and engaged in quantitative survey development and analysis. In other words, she looked for common themes which were emerging from the data. For example, over the life of the project, ECCOs in the majority of the schools visits, evidence portfolios, and survey responses talked about their developing expertise in dealing with HBT bullying and language. Evidence of students’ confidence in reporting HBT bullying also emerged in the focus groups, portfolios and surveys between the initial and end-point evaluation visits.

In writing this report, the evaluator looked for indicative quotes from ECCOs, other staff, and students in order to illustrate and evidence each point. There were many, many quotes which could have been used which addressed the same themes and which said similar things. The quotes chosen for the report were those which best expressed the ideas and thoughts arising in relation to each theme. They were selected to represent the ideas of as many of the staff and student respondents as possible.

Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations

School visits

Initial impressions

The evaluator was often the first person to mention Educate & Celebrate to students at eleven of the twelve schools in the initial sample- or indeed to mention anything to do with LGBT people.  At first this was understood to be a feature of the timing of the school visits. In June, it was thought, perhaps schools have been busy with the examinations period and ECCOs have not had time to start the Educate & Celebrate programme. Indeed some ECCOs had not yet been to the training sessions. However, it soon became apparent that most of the ECCOs saw the external evaluator as a member of the Educate & Celebrate team. Often the evaluator tried to sign in at reception as an employee of the university, only to have to add that she was connected with Educate & Celebrate in order to gain entry. ECCOs seemed to be awaiting her arrival to ‘break the ice’ with the students. The ECCO was usually present for the initial focus group conversations, and as the group seated themselves around a table, it became clear that perhaps the using of the words ‘lesbian’, ‘gay’, bisexual’ and ‘transgender’ in conversations with students was a point of anxiety for many of the teachers involved. During the ‘baseline’ focus group period, before the project had been delivered, the evaluator began directly asking ECCOs in subsequent schools whether they had ever used these words with their students, and found confirmation that they had not, and that this was indeed a point of some anxiety to many of them.

It might be suggested that the hesitation to talk about LGBT people and related issues at the beginning of the project was an interesting benchmark. Whilst the numbers of schools involved in the visits after the project dropped, the quality of the data collected improved. The fact that such a range of staff members wanted to be interviewed after the project demonstrated the fact that the project was familiar to staff across the schools, not just the ECCOs. Other school staff had become involved and were eager to demonstrate their involvement and to show what they had achieved. The words ‘lesbian’, ‘gay’, bisexual’ and ‘transgender’ were freely used by staff and students in schools visited at the end of the project. This suggests a reduction in the stigma attached to these words and the development of confidence amongst staff and students in using them.


The training developed teachers’ confidence in dealing with HBT bullying, improved their interactions with students in discussing LGBT issues, and impacted positively on their careers. One of the reasons that the Educate & Celebrate training was well-received seemed to be because adequate input on equalities, particularly relating to LGBT people, was felt to be missing from some teachers’ initial training programmes. One secondary school ECCO explained of input on equalities issues:

…even as a teacher I think I wasn’t very well educated.

Perhaps in filling this gap, the Educate & Celebrate training helped many teachers in developing their confidence. A secondary school ECCO explained:

…it’s the realization for me that its ok. And somebody coming and speaking to our staff and saying that its ok. Its something that’s quite a taboo subject and for them to come in and say its fine… and I’m thinking [surprised voice] ‘oh right, this is ok’… I wasn’t confident at being able to stand up and talk about LGBT because I felt a little bit ignorant to it.

This has meant that at the end of the project, teachers feel more able to help students who approach them to discuss bullying related to HBT issues, or to come out as LGBT The ECCO went on to explain:

So if a student comes and talks to me in the past, I don’t think I would have known how to deal with that. And it’s my general understanding that’s really helped… so I feel more equipped.

The training has also impacted on teachers’ own skillsets and career trajectories. One ECCO said:

… I’ve had a lot of: ‘You’re our equalities person now, so what about this and what about that?’ So it’s quite nice and … it’s a different string to my bow, and it’s given me a different experience as well so it’s definitely had an impact.

The ECCOs interviewed all said that they enjoyed their training sessions. They greatly appreciated the opportunity to connect with colleagues from other institutions at training days conducted outside of their schools. In terms of those conducted in schools, teachers repeatedly praised the visit of the Educate & Celebrate trainer. They felt supported and that the trainers’ enthusiasm and knowledge helped to galvanise their efforts and the validity of the project.


The evaluator found that changes to the physical environment at the project schools influenced how comfortable, accepted and safe people felt after the project. This included LGBT staff members and students and their ECCOS and staff and student allies. The environment influenced how confident ECCOs felt in carrying out their roles, and how able students felt to challenge HBT bullying and homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language. Frequently reported HBT language used in schools at the beginning of the project included the common phrase ‘that’s so gay!’, meaning ‘that’s really rubbish’ and or the use of the words ‘he-she’ or ‘faggot’ as an insult. By the end of the project, use of this language was reported to have fallen dramatically in the visited schools.

To investigate evidence relating to school environments, ECCOs were asked how LGBT people and their families would know they were welcome when they entered the school. Careful note was made of the physical environment- for example, of notices in the reception areas and foyers of the schools and the displays in classrooms and corridors.

At the beginning of the project, only two of the twelve schools visited had evidence of welcoming people who had the ‘protected characteristics’ in foyers and on noticeboards, and one of these schools, Mikey Academy, was noted as probably the least supportive environment for an ECCO carrying out work on the Educate & Celebrate project, out of the twelve schools visited at the beginning. Use of welcoming notices at the beginning of the project was not therefore necessarily evidence that a school was already delivering inclusive practice. Eleven of the ECCOs at the beginning answered the question with surprise, as if they had not considered the possible impact of the physical environment on visiting parents and students. By the end of the project, in all of the schools visited, ECCOs had worked with students to post welcoming notices in foyers, put up wall displays in corridors and build eye-catching library displays.

By the end of the project, the environment was particularly impacted where foyers and electronic sign-in systems were called into action to support the development of a warm and welcoming environment. The text used in these displays often drew on the ‘protected characteristics’ detailed in the Equality Act 2010. For example, one primary school displayed a rainbow-coloured laminated poster, explaining:

At Sierra Primary School we respect each other’s age, disabilities, gender, identity, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy, religion and sexual orientation.

Many secondary schools required visitors to accept and commit to this idea via the electronic sign-in system. In order to be given a visitor’s pass at one school, visitors had to choose ‘I agree’ to the following statement:

Visitor Agreement: By signing in to Alpha Academy, you agree to treat everyone fairly and equally, regardless of age, disability, gender, race and nationality, religion, belief, pregnancy, marriage, transgender identity, and sexual orientation. Our academy welcomes everyone from all walks of life. Everyone must welcome and celebrate all others in our academy.

Corridor wall displays were often referred to proudly in interviews and focus groups conducted at the end of the project. At Hotel Primary School, the ECCO showed the evaluator a noticeboard full of photographs and items created as part of the school’s community celebrations. These included t-shirts inscribed with rainbows and the text ‘Be true to yourself’ and ‘Be kind to each other- no bullying’; photographs of rainbow cakes and a poster made by the Reception and Year One class consisting of a giant mosaic rainbow; Educate & Celebrate posters; and the text ‘Our strength is in valuing our difference’. Sierra Primary School displayed a large mobile in the middle of their foyer. From rainbows and clouds were strung laminated cards with a protected characteristic written on each one of them, together with a larger card proclaiming: ‘Inclusion creates unity. We are Sierra United!’

Both staff and students in the schools visited at the end of the project explained how they were encouraged by the displays to challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language. Mikey Academy- mentioned above as a difficult environment for an ECCO, at the beginning of the project- had one of the strongest Pride Youth Networks amongst the schools in the after-project sample. Its ECCO described how she had taken strength from the changed environment and had managed to change policies and come out herself as a result of the project. Students (especially girls) also felt safer in the more friendly environment and were able to come out as LGBT. In the follow-up focus group, students explained:

Student 1: My mate Charlie’s just come out and I came out a few weeks ago.

Student 2: … I know quite a few people. And me. But there’s quite a few people in my classes.

Evaluator: OK. So- is that a change?

Student 3: Usually you’d see it not until Key Stage 4- but even Key Stage 3’s all into saying what they like, what they’re into if you know what I mean. Because they’re feeling more confident about it, because the school have put such a- have put their foot down about it- they feel safe saying it

Student 1: Yeah my friend, when he came out, he said ‘I was scared of what everybody would think’, and he said now we’re really supportive, like year 8 aren’t judging now, we’re so open and accepting.

Evaluator: So the year group has changed over a year?

Student 1: Yeah completely.

Student 2: … I came out to my best mate and she was like, ‘I’m so proud of you for coming out to me … I’m not gonna judge you’.


ECCOs were supported to develop their school policies in line with the Equality Act 2010, in order to include all the protected characteristics. Policies which were changed in the sample schools included those relating to equalities, behavior and discipline, uniform, and staff dress code. The act of updating the policies meant that ECCOs’ work came to the attention of the head teacher and governors, and embedded a key element of sustainability into the project. This all had a powerful impact on many areas of school life, particularly on student and staff willingness and ability to challenge HBT language and bullying; but also on the success, quality and authenticity of teachers’ own pedagogical practice and careers.

The evaluator listened for evidence relating to how ECCOs thought about which policies might address the inclusion and needs of LGBT staff, parents and students both at the start and at the end of the project. At the beginning, most ECCOs were unaware of the policies and protocols, and had made assumptions that they were up to date. At William Secondary School, the evaluator had asked the ECCO about policies and forms relating to new parents. The discussion had been around students with LGBT parents, and whether they would feel open to discussing their families at the school. The ECCO explained:

I’m not even sure whether in the new admissions pack, whether there are any questions that would allow people to answer in that sort of way. I mean presumably that should be addressed…

By the end of the project, ECCOs were able to talk in detail about those policies which had been updated, and the process through which this happened. The ease with which ECCOs were able to update policies was often dependent on the support available to them from senior management. Some ECCOS were senior managers themselves. The Alpha Secondary Academy ECCO explained:

I’m a director. One of the senior management team… I said I’ll push this through on a senior level and I’ll make sure it happens in terms of policy procedure and all of that… I’ll make sure everything’s going to happen and move forward. And I think you have to have that. You’ve got to have somebody who is at senior management level… otherwise it’s … tokenistic.

Occasionally an ECCO who did not hold a senior management position struggled to push through the policy changes needed. This seemed to have something to do with a perception about how Educate & Celebrate could be a distraction from the work required following a difficult Ofsted inspection (although this attitude changed after the project). At Delta Secondary School, the evaluator asked about what she had done over the previous few months as part of the Educate & Celebrate programme. The ECCO described:

… a lot of chasing after the senior management team- I mean what has happened, or rather what hasn’t happened in the last year, is the staff training, that’s what hasn’t happened. And that’s because … since we came onto this programme … we have been meant to be having this full staff training … I spoke to the new SMT and they said we’re going to do it … and since then it’s been put off and it’s been put off and it’s been put off. To the point where last week, [the Educate & Celebrate trainer] was meant to be coming in and doing it … the head teacher asked me to give him her phone number so he could phone and say we’ve just had Ofsted in, I’m afraid this is not going to happen.

However, this was a very small exception. Most of the ECCOs who were not senior managers had, through the activities of the project, established themselves as important stakeholders and knowledgeable advisors in the work of policy development. Success in policy development was often underpinned by good relationships with staff in the senior management team. At Mikey Secondary Academy, the ECCO was asked about who their ‘go-to’ person was in SMT. She answered:

… the head of this school really does listen out for me so I know that if I have issues I know I can actually go to him and he will actually listen to what I’ve got to say… I can go to one above my line manager … with issues or problems and say help… and she will listen to me…

Once this ECCO (who described herself as ‘just the head of RE’) had successfully changed the school’s uniform and behaviour policy, she started to be asked by her head teacher and governors to be an independent reviewer of policy. She had a particular role in developing the bullying policy at the school, and said that the experience had definitely enhanced her career opportunities.

The policy development process had impact beyond the simple development of new documents. School uniform was the subject of some illuminating examples of this. The evaluator often began focus group conversations by asking about the uniform. This gave students a chance to raise issues about gender normativity and expectations of binary gender representations, and gave way to further discussions about expectations for gendered behavior. For example, William Girls School requires the students to wear a very distinctive kilt. It is a specific length and this makes it difficult for students to buy or create shorter versions of the school uniform skirt. Skirt length is thus regulated via the specific brand and pattern of the kilt. But this means that gender non-normative students at William Girls School would be forced to wear a piece of clothing which clearly gendered them in a way counter to their identity. At the beginning of the project, it was clear that the uniform was a key element of school identity and perhaps even the school ethos. It was unsurprising therefore that the governors’ discourse on the William Girls School uniform was a non-negotiable issue. At the beginning of the project, the ECCO explained:

I don’t know how to tackle this  …  the idea of uniform. Because all the girls wear skirts. There’s no trouser option at all … But that would be an interesting one to tackle. If we ever needed to tackle it. Because I think that would be met with resistance.

Some schools were able to make this change. At Mikey Secondary Academy, the students’ uniform policy was changed to make it gender-neutral, and following this, the staff dress code came under similar scrutiny. At the beginning of the project, the policy required female staff members to wear skirts and heels. The ECCO, encouraged by the process and power of policy change, took the issue on, explaining:

…for staff there was this whole thing about how women had to wear blouses and skirts; men had to wear blazers and ties. And I took it to my line manager, just one above me and I said, ‘that’s ridiculous. You’re basically saying to me that I have to come into work in a dress or a skirt… I don’t feel comfortable coming into work in a dress or a skirt’… And she sort of said, ‘I see what you mean’… so when that kind of went up [to SMT]…they were quite surprised, I don’t think they’d looked at it in years and years and years, and they sort of said ‘yeah that is old fashioned, that is outdated’.

As a result of these discussions, this ECCO was able to come out as bisexual to her colleagues and students, to wear trousers, and to request that her shorter, less gendered name be used at school. The evaluator asked her if this had impacted on her teaching:

Because I was ‘allowed’ to talk about issues more … with the Year 7s, we did a unit on love and relationships… and I felt that the conversations were richer, deeper … because I was more honest with them, I got more out of them. Because that’s what students are like, aren’t they, they want you to be real with them. And I was able to be real with them, and they were able to respect that.

This sense of safety to ‘be oneself’ was very significantly assisted by changes to behavior policies. In particular, key changes were made to the ways in which teachers were required to respond to HBT bullying language. Focus group discussions looked at the difference between the way in which racist and HBT bullying language were responded to. In most of the schools visited, the difference before and after the project was stark, and had far reaching effects for both students and teachers. For example, at Mikey Secondary Academy, by the end of the project, a student who said ‘that’s so gay’ could be ‘sent to isolation’ in the same way as if they had used a racist word. This gave teachers the clarity and confidence to respond to these incidents in an unequivocal way. The ECCO explained how this change came about:

I remember having a conversation with one of our senior leaders about policies… and I said … ‘we don’t appear to have a policy around homophobic language’ … and he said to me, ‘if it was a racist remark, they would be excluded’. And I said, ‘what if it was a homophobic remark’? And he said, ‘then it would be isolation’. And I said,  ‘umm…why?… either they’ve both got to be isolation or they’ve both got to be exclusion but they can’t be different’… a new policy developed out of it when we realized how ridiculous it was to have two different policies. And then when we put it into force, the kids’ reaction at first when we said ‘if you say ‘that’s so gay’, if you use ‘faggot’- anything like that- you’re going to isolation. That’s it’. It was kind of a shock for them…all of a sudden it was being taken seriously…and in December the senior leaders were coming back to me and saying ‘it’s ridiculous – we can’t have this many kids in isolation’, and I said ‘I know it’s really bad now but it’ll be so much better in January when they just don’t do it any more’. And I started to hear less and less and less of it in the corridors, in my lessons, it just wasn’t a terminology which was used, to describe, any more, … they were going, ‘that language is unacceptable, it’s not tolerated, so we just don’t use it’.

Students were also empowered to respond to their peers. In the focus group conducted at the end of the project, Year 9 Mikey Secondary Academy students explained:

Where there’s so many people who … aren’t straight, we’ve just got used to it, we’re so accepting of it now. And we’re just there for everybody, for all of them, for everybody. Sometimes you’ll have the odd [HBT] word but then you’ll have the few people that’ll go and sort it out cos they don’t agree with it, and then it’ll just get sorted.

[Student 1]

Or like they’ll say something that they don’t realize can be offensive. And you have to try and talk to them. Sometimes they’ll … be like ‘ok, I didn’t realize I was being horrible’. And most of the time they are very natural kind of like ‘oh, ok sorry I didn’t mean to offend you’.

[Student 2]

Most students and teachers across the schools visited, when they are initially asked about the use of the phrase ‘that’s so gay’ will say that it is used in fun; that students, especially young children, do not know what it really means; and that people do not intend it to be bullying or damaging. However, the impact of such a policy change makes it clear that attention to these perceived low-level incidents can lead to wide-ranging positive change.


Educate & Celebrate recommends that LGBT people and issues should be embedded across the curriculum in such a way as to make them as ubiquitous as heterosexual and cisgendered people and issues. The Educate & Celebrate project was found to have successfully embedded LGBT people and issues across the curriculum in most of the schools surveyed, to the point at which students were sometimes unable to recall the detail of lessons where the people and issues discussed happened to be LGBT. In becoming visible, and then familiar and average, LGBT people and issues had become incorporated into the usual social landscape of the school. This impacts on HBT bullying because it depathologises LGBT people and LGBT issues.

Before the project had been delivered, most students and teachers said that they only heard about LGBT people or issues in the very occasional assembly, or sometimes as part of PHSCE or RE lessons. The Mikey Secondary Academy students interviewed at the beginning of the programme told us:

We dropped PHSE in year 9. But we only used to talk about friendships and healthy relationships but not … never anything other than heterosexual relationships.

[Year 10 student]

We don’t discuss any of it… we don’t discuss anything like that … In science, we only learn about straight sexual contact. We don’t learn about … lesbians or anything like that … just how straight sexual activity occurs.

[Year 9 student]

We’ve had [assemblies] about bullying but not specifically about this. When they talk about [healthy relationships] you know they are assuming that everybody in the room is heterosexual.

[Year 10 student]

The project asked ECCOs to work with curriculum leaders to develop lessons and schemes of learning which incorporated LGBT people and issues. ECCOs interviewed at the end of the project described multiple and comprehensive examples of relevant curriculum. Teachers were talking about LGBT victims of the Nazi holocaust in History; teaching LGBT poets and writers in English or Literacy, and LGBT artists in Art. They were discussing LGBT issues in relation to marriage in RE, refugees from HBT regimes in Geography, and statistics relating to LGBT issues in Maths.

This kind of work does not have to directly address LGBT people specifically: disrupting heteronormative assumptions about what jobs women can have, or what hobbies men and boys can enjoy, for example, works to remove stigma from the outer reaches of gender expression, thereby removing targets for bullying. Word problems in maths lessons were particularly fruitful areas for change, as teachers were able to change characters’ names to challenge heteronormative assumptions about who can be friends with who, and what kinds of jobs girls and boys can have.

The curriculum work was greatly assisted by the introduction of the Educate & Celebrate book package. At Hotel Primary School, Year 5 was reading David Walliams’ book The Boy in the Dress. The dressing-up box in that particular classroom is liberally used during teaching, and boys who put on dresses often walked in a stereotypically flamboyant way across the room in their dresses. The learning mentor interviewed at this school (who has been helping the ECCO) explained how she challenged this:

In our Literacy lessons, as much as we can, we get the children to dress up. And boys absolutely love dressing up. One of the things I have changed about the ways that boys perceive women, is as soon as a boy puts a wig on and a handbag, he walks across the floor, wiggling, like there’s no tomorrow! I don’t know where they get that perception… I say [to them] actually, I don’t walk like that. Do I walk like that?… Why do women have to walk across wiggling?!

On World Book Day, the class’s male teacher came to school wearing a dress, and the learning mentor explained:

It was brilliant … and the children just literally went ‘Oh I know what book that is! It’s our book that we’re reading! So you know [the teacher was] very brave and very daring, and, didn’t meet with no ‘Ooh look at him’, none of that! It was lovely. It was just lovely.

It was of note that most of the end-of-project focus group students (and those who answered the survey- see below) could not remember much about any of this happening. That the curriculum was not especially LGBT-focused in their memories suggests a successful embedding and usualising process. Nevertheless, there was a clear impact. Once LGBT issues and people were embedded across the curriculum, the students themselves began to question HBT and heteronormative assumptions, and to bring it into classes which had not ostensibly been set up to address these issues. At Bravo Primary Academy, some Year 5 children were writing a newspaper report about the Three Little Pigs, and began to ask some searching questions. Their class teacher (the ECCO) explained:

… some of the children said to me, ‘why are the Three Pigs always male?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know why we’ve made that assumption’. And one of the children said, ‘well, we could have one male, one female, and one transgender!’ And then in the same lesson one of the children said ‘I think it’s a shame that everyone says the wolf is bad- I think he’s just stereotyped, because other wolves are bad!’

At Sierra Primary School, in an RE lesson about Easter, the children in Year 5 initiated a discussion about gender in relation to Christian ideas of God. The ECCO described the lesson:

… somebody had said, ‘God’s only son came down from Heaven to save us from our sins’. Fair enough- good comment. And um so [the student said] ‘God’s son is a boy?’ I said ‘Well, yeah, Jesus was a boy, He was human. But God isn’t human, unless you think of Him as God the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit’. So we dissected that a bit. And they said, ‘Well we always say ‘He’ about God. Is he ‘a he’?’ And I said, ‘Well, what do you think?’ And there was a bit of banter. And somebody said, ‘Well, He’s omnipresent!’ And I said, ‘Yeah that’s excellent- He’s omnipresent. But what is He?’ I said, ‘We say ‘he’. We can’t call Him an ‘it’’. And somebody [asked]- ‘He’s not gender specific?’ And then somebody said- ‘D’you mean gender fluid?!’ …out of a year 5 class! They’ll all be ten [years old] now.

It is of note that children who raised these kinds of questions were often at those primary schools which also delivered the P4C (Philosophy for Children) programme.

Focal points in the curriculum calendar helped to demonstrate the possibilities for curriculum development to staff across the schools and even into other schools outside the project. At one school, in preparation for a special ‘creative day’, students had created dioramas about a hedgehog who wanted to be included; written a book about a butterfly and its changing identity which the school is now planning to be published; and delivered lessons on equality to children from feeder primary schools. Two boys in year 8 had decided that they wanted to develop a lesson plan about diversity for primary school children visiting the school in preparation for their transition into Year 7. They put so much work into the project that they are now planning to tour the lesson around four more feeder primary schools.


The Pride Youth Networks (YPNs) resulted in several students in secondary schools coming out as LGBT in what they felt to be the safe space of the YPN. Community drama and music performances, ‘Cel-a-bakes’ (baking competitions), and celebrations drew whole schools together with local parents. The Community events meant that the children of LGBT people felt able to be open about their families, and broadened the learning out to parents and governors. The nature of ‘celebration’ directly challenged the stigma attached to LGBT people and issues, transforming the narrative from the risk of HBT bullying to pride in diversity, and developing everyone’s vocabulary, knowledge, and understanding. It was after a large, successful multi-school Educate & Celebrate community event that the Sierra Primary School 10-year-olds were able to ask whether God was ‘gender fluid’.

The YPNs are lunchtime clubs where young people who are LGBT or allies can come and talk, support each other, and plan campaigns and celebration activities. This mainly happened in secondary schools. YPNs often participated as the end-of-project focus groups. In order to find out about the environment in a school in relation to LGBT people, the evaluator asked each focus group at the beginning and end of the project whether there were any LGBT people at the school (making it clear that answers should be anonymized). At the beginning of the project, participants often mentioned people who had left the school, or who were in other classes.

It was therefore noted as a clear difference when in the end-of-project focus groups, around twenty secondary school students felt comfortable enough to come out across the seven recorded discussions (mainly as bisexual, but often as lesbian or gay).

The community celebrations also impacted on children whose parents who were LGBT, helping them to feel accepted and included at school. The ECCO at Sierra Primary School explained about how one of her Year 4 students (aged 9) had written a poem about her family and read it out at the large community celebration in front of all the children, parents, teachers and governors from a number of local schools. Kerry had written the poem as part of a Literacy class. In the poem, the ECCO explained, Kerry had

… outed her mam who was called Sally and she outed her mam’s partner who’s also called Sally which was quite weird. So she outed Sally and Sally. I did ask Sally and Sally if they were alright about [Kerry reading the poem at the community celebration] and her mam said she was fine as long as Kerry didn’t have any backlash, which she hasn’t. She stood up and read what you’ll see on the wall out there.

The poem read:

My Family

My family is the best thing ever. I have my lovely, pretty Mam who means the world to me. I’ve got my twin sister Rosie but I’m older than her by 3 minutes 16 seconds. Also my sister (well kind of) because she’s my stepsister. Well I have my Mam’s partner Sally, she is very pretty and awesome she takes me to fairs and goes on the rollercoasters with me. Then I have my older sister Tara, she is 16 and I love her. She has a lovely social life with her friends. I love my family to the moon and back!

My name is Kerry and this is my family! I am in Year 4.

In the focus group, Kerry told us:

It’s alright to be different. It’s good to be different.

Parents became involved in the learning from the project at the celebrations. One of the (heterosexual) fathers had videoed it for the school, and on their way out of the event several fed back to the ECCO that they had learned some new words and about how LGBT people experience prejudice.

Through attending the celebration events, governors also developed their knowledge and understanding of LGBT people and issues. At Foxtrot Academy, one of the staff members working on the project, in conversation with the ECCO, recalled a governor’s meeting the week after a very large Educate & Celebrate showcase event:

Staff member: I thought, ooh, I wonder what’s going to be said here!

ECCO: You were gonna be in bother!

Staff member: Yeah! And they said: ‘Oh, I went home; I went on the internet; and I Googled a few words I learned about the other night. And it was really interesting!’ And they were telling me what they’d learnt on the internet. It was absolutely great!

ECCO: …and our governors are sort of…

Staff member: Well, it was Edith, so well retired- [she is in her] 70s.

The community celebration events also gave schools focal points around which to develop curriculum and learning. Students developed performances in their Music and Drama classes, and baked cakes for the Cel-a-Bakes in their Food Tech classes. Evaluation visits to schools often involved enthusiastic descriptions of these events.

Other impacts: wider equalities work in communities and schools

As well as discovering evidence that Educate & Celebrate had helped to reduce HBT bullying and achieved positive outcomes and impacts related to the five main aims, other interesting findings were made during the evaluation. These may be useful in informing further work on HBT bullying and on removing stigma from LGBT people and issues in schools, as well as on wider equalities and community cohesion work. The evaluation found these discoveries in two main areas. The first addresses the ways in which children’s open-mindedness, often informed by internet media, lent itself to change within communities in many areas of equalities, beyond LGBT issues, as students and families started talking together about their experiences with the project. The second is the extent to which school staff felt empowered to share their work across networks of local schools as a sustainable model not just for dealing with HBT bullying but as an effective approach to wider school improvement.

Equalities work in communities

The evaluation found that children and young people were often very open minded, sometimes in ways which surprised their teachers or enabled their teachers to feel more comfortable about talking about LGBT people and issues in school. One of the focus group questions addressed which famous LGBT people the students and teachers had heard of. Teachers often mentioned Elton John and Ellen Degeneres, but then struggled to think of others. The students were able to reel off lists of names; many had seen reality TV series featuring lesbian and gay people and documentaries about people who were transgendered.

There were two recent significant media events which had impacted on the visibility of LGBT people, and which showed that impact in the data. During the project period, the reality TV star Kim Kardashian’s step parent Caitlyn Jenner came out as a transgender woman; all the students had heard of her and had a generally positive view of her decision to transition. Conchita Wurst had also recently won the Eurovision Song Contest. As a genderqueer person who presents as a stereotypically ‘media-beautiful’ woman with a neatly trimmed beard, Conchita Wurst provides an interesting discussion point to find out what children and young people think about gender identity issues. Children in Year 6 at Charlie Primary School remembered seeing her win the competition:

Kelly: yeah, she was really good, didn’t she sing ‘Rise of the Phoenix’ or something? She was really good … she’s like famous, and everyone’s just taken her for who she is because she’s famous.

Caz: she’s put herself out there.

Kelly: Mm-hm, instead of just keeping to the shadows.

This kind of narrative of fame, positivity and courage was typical of students’ descriptions of media representations of transgender people, in particular.

The children’s and young people’s open-mindedness impacted on discussions at home, too, and these discussions were often within the context of the family’s religion. Hotel Primary School had a particularly well-developed curriculum centred around the PRIDE in Primary Education resources, especially the Primary Educate & Celebrate book collection. A Year 5 class is described above, where the children had been reading David Walliams’ The Boy in the Dress and their male teacher had come to school in a dress on World Book Day and, as the learning mentor said, ‘nobody batted an eyelid’. One of the students, Ahmad, from a Somali Muslim family, explained in a focus group that his father had called a family meeting with Ahmad’s adult brothers and sister in response to all of this. In the meeting, their father questioned the school’s motives. Ahmad and his siblings explained that the school was just teaching the children about people ‘out there in the world’ and that the school’s motive was the same as that which underpinned the acceptance of Muslim families in their community. Ahmed explained:

We believe that God made us perfect so when I told my mum and dad my dad was like ‘Oh!’ and he got the whole family involved … but then again my mum was really calm about it and then my three brothers were telling my dad ‘they’re not telling him to change, they’re just educating him so he is aware’ … and the next day he was alright.

Ahmad’s father felt more comfortable after this discussion to allow his son to attend the school and learn about LGBT people and issues. He could see that the programme was part of a wider equalities policy which also included a more general focus on community cohesion and, of particular relevance to his own situation, tolerance towards and celebration of his religion.

Ahmad and his siblings had made the link to other equalities issues independently in their family meeting. However, the Educate & Celebrate methodology meant that schools often very deliberately approached the celebration of diversity in the context of the Equality Act’s full range of protected characteristics. This facilitated a wider impact on communities relating to equalities more generally. At two of the schools visited- one in the North of England; the other in the South- ECCOs and other staff described the racism embedded in their local areas. Both schools were dealing with families where parents were members of the right-wing, White supremacist British National Party (BNP). However, students involved with the Educate & Celebrate programme were able to extrapolate from equalities work related to LGBT people, and apply the ideas to people with other protected characteristics. At Foxtrot Secondary School, which consisted of an all-White British population, two Year 8 boys had developed an interactive lesson which they were touring around the school’s feeder primary schools. The lesson was about equalities in general, and featured people with the full range of protected characteristics. In their lesson, they addressed HBT bullying, but they also addressed bullying on the basis of racism. They had written a song about equalities as well, and were enthusiastically discussing advertising it through social media and getting it onto local radio. They had an impressive array of plans to take their work forward. In a focus group discussion, the evaluator asked them why they in particular had become so engaged with equalities work. They responded with some frustration. One of their uncles was black; the other had a gay brother, and they said they were ‘sick’ of what people said about them. However, the Educate & Celebrate work had encouraged them to carry on and broaden their work out to other equalities issues.

Monocultural schools, then, were able to develop their approaches to other pressing equalities issues because of the work carried out with Educate & Celebrate- and this work was often generated both formally and informally by students. At the same time, the more diverse schools were, the more practice they had already had with equalities work, and this meant that they embraced the Educate & Celebrate project as part of their inherent mission. For example, at Hotel Primary School, which Ahmad (see above) attended, and where a learning mentor reported that there were ‘24 languages spoken in one class’, the Year 5 children in the focus group were well-versed in the language of equalities and community cohesion. During the discussion, several of them explained in chorus: ‘if everyone was the same, life would be boring!

The evaluation also found that through thinking and talking about treating people equally in the context of work on HBT bullying, students were able to come to their own conclusions about other issues of fairness and social justice- even those not featured in the Equality Act’s protected characteristics. At Bravo Primary Academy, the children were reading King and King (by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland) in class. The book features a king who turns down a procession of princesses to eventually marry his male servant. This led the children to discuss issues around socio-economic class, wealth and social status. Their teachers explained that they had picked up on the class prejudice intrinsic to the story.

The way in which the Educate & Celebrate model can be seen to have impacted positively on the wider context of equalities work in schools points towards its wider applicability as a schools improvement methodology.

An effective approach to wider school improvement

Perhaps because of its broad approach to equalities and community cohesion, pedagogy, and school environment, Educate & Celebrate was found to have positive effects on schools’ wider school improvement work. The evaluation showed a series of sustainable impacts which established schools as expert centres of inclusion within their local networks. Related to this, there was evidence that the project had helped to enhanced schools’ Ofsted ratings.

Educate & Celebrate embeds sustainable change into schools through its focus on policy and curriculum. Policies are a way to establish an aim across a period of time. They are different to ‘projects’ or ‘pilots’, as they are intended to last for some time. Schemes of learning, too, are not rewritten annually. They are developed with a view to educating students in developing progression from Year 1 to Year 6, or from Year 7 to Year 11. This means that embedding material across the curriculum can produce a lasting impact. Secondary schools (such as Foxtrot Secondary School and Mikey Secondary Academy) were conscious of the need to work with their feeder primary schools and with their Year 7 groups to establish far-reaching changes in their school cultures- particularly to make it clear that HBT language is unacceptable from the very beginning of a student’s secondary school career. Conversely, primary schools such as Sierra Primary School were conscious of the need to collaborate with their colleague feeder primary schools and the secondary schools into which they fed in order to maintain the impacts of the project. Curriculum is usually designed to support learning throughout a student’s school career, so staff attempt to make it cohesive across time. At Foxtrot Secondary school, staff told us:

For me we need a couple of years of doing this. The showcase had a really positive impact- for our community, it really opened their eyes, I think … in order for this to make an impact we would like to do this a little bit longer. I think we’ll do this next year as well …

(ECCO, Foxtrot Secondary School)

We want to continue it on, to make sure it’s not just a one off thing, to continue the programme throughout the year.

(Learning Mentor, Foxtrot Secondary School)

ECCOs reported evidence that their schools had developed areas of expertise. They often offered their materials- policies, schemes of learning, and lesson plans, for example- to Educate & Celebrate. The organization encourages schools to send in their best examples and has developed a large bank of good models which other schools can draw on (see ‘Evidence Portfolios’, below).

Almost all of the ECCOs at schools visited at the end of the project expressed a wish to establish and lead a local school network on the basis of the inclusion work they carried out as part of Educate & Celebrate. Some had already started building networks: for example, Bravo Primary Academy had given out leaflets at a table at a local school network event and had drawn plenty of interest from other local primary schools; and Foxtrot Secondary School had the ‘Equalities’ lesson designed and facilitated by two year 8 students and which was touring their four feeder primary schools. Winning a Bronze, Silver or Gold Educate & Celebrate Award (see ‘Evidence Portfolios’ and Appendix 4, below) means that participating schools stay members of the project and are able to access all the materials; in this way the project can continue to support those schools which are developing local networks.

One way to establish the veracity of ECCOs’ claims of sustainability and expertise was to look at the way in which school senior management teams considered the relationship between Educate & Celebrate activities and preparations for Ofsted inspections. The evaluation needed to establish whether the project disrupted or enhanced a school’s chances of gaining a good Ofsted rating. One of the ECCOs visited did experience difficulties in obtaining the time and resources which she needed to carry out her work. Perhaps because the school was, at the time, subject to a ‘Requires Improvement’ rating, this was related to the way in which her head teacher viewed the Educate & Celebrate work in relation to Ofsted. However, the majority of head teachers embraced the project and the need to challenge HBT bullying as part of their overarching ethos of inclusion. Many of these schools did not see the project as in opposition to the work needed to attain a good Ofsted grading. In an interview at the end of the project, the head teacher at Bravo Primary Academy was asked about how the work fitted in with the imperatives of Ofsted. He responded:

But it’s the core of our school. It’s who we are. We are a totally inclusive school … It’s the lifeblood of our school. The safeguarding work; Educate & Celebrate- all those things that some people would see as tick boxes for Ofsted, it’s our lifeblood.

Other schools reported recent Ofsted inspections during which inspectors had praised the Educate & Celebrate work as example of excellent practice. This was the case regardless as to whether schools had recently struggled with their Ofsted rating. At Romeo Secondary Academy, the interview turned to Ofsted, and the ECCO explained:

Obviously, there’s government requirements we have to fulfill. It’s our duty of care. I think this comes under that banner. It’s not separate. I would never call it a distraction. That would be wrong because it’s not. Because there are people in every community for whom this is an issue. We can’t forget that. Say for example there was someone in the Muslim Asian community who came out you can’t … make them feel bad  …  I championed it myself. I was in [an Ofsted] meeting … yeah they were really pleased … it was on the long term plans, how we’ve embedded it, we’ve got schemes for learning, lots of things …

Ofsted reports have noted Educate & Celebrate’s work as a positive and effective approach to delivering their statutory responsibilities. One Educate & Celebrate school’s report said:

Innovative project work and initiatives … have enabled pupils to explore in-depth such issues as … equal opportunities, including those related to sexuality and gender … Pupils are taught about the importance of having tolerant attitudes towards different cultures, races and sexualities … Leaders ensure that difficult and sensitive issues are tackled ‘head-on’… Pupils were seen relishing opportunities to debate such issues with maturity, demonstrating respectful attitudes towards different faiths and cultures.

Evidence portfolios

The Evidence Portfolios support the findings derived from focus groups and interviews. Evidence from schools outside those visited for interviews mirrored the approaches of those in the interview sample. 56 of the 50 schools involved schools achieved Gold, Silver or Bronze status. This was achieved by following the Best Practice Programme (see ), which is divided into the five pillars: training, environment, policy, curriculum, celebration and community. For ‘Gold’, schools must achieve every action point in the plan; for Silver, they must achieve six points within each section; and for Bronze, three points.

Every school in the Programme was required to provide exemplifications of their work through their Evidence Portfolio. As a result, Educate & Celebrate now has an impressive archive of feedback on staff training sessions; redrafted policies; updated lesson plans and schemes of work; images from community celebrations, welcome posters and wall displays; and evidence of key ‘Moments of Change’.


The Portfolios included feedback from staff and senior management following ECCO-led training sessions. These pieces of evidence showed an overwhelming sense of gratitude that someone was taking the issues on and further demonstrate that involvement in the programme was a positive career move for the ECCO involved. One ECCO included an email from her head teacher:

Just a quick note to thank you for leading yesterday’s excellent CPD. I think that this was further evidence that you are one of the most powerful teacher educators in our school, and, from my point of view, it is refreshing that so much careful thought is being invested to further the ends of social justice within our institution. It is because of such clarity of thought that this initiative is bound to have a successful impact in and on our school community.

Another ECCO, at William Secondary School, had sent in a screenshot of her school’s staff training and resources web page. Alongside links to resources for Math, English, EPQ and Learning Support was a dedicated Educate & Celebrate tab.

The Evidence Portfolios reflected the survey and teacher interview data, showing that the training had been successfully embedded across the schools.


The portfolios also reaffirmed the impact of the requirement to make the school environment visibly welcoming. A perceptible change in a school’s environment is evidence that the school is not ashamed to be open about challenging HBT bullying and celebrating difference. As the portfolio evidence showed, a school’s environment is evident on its website and in its newsletters, as well as on its walls.

One good example of this came from a Church of England Secondary school newsletter to all parents, in which the Rainbow Bakeoff judge was quoted as saying ‘(a)ll children have the right to the playground and the classroom being safe places, ones free from prejudice of sexuality, race or religion’.

Another ECCO sent in a primary school display entitled ‘Keep Calm and Think For Yourself’. This included pictures of people with questions underneath. There was one asking ‘Why do women wear the hijab?’, another which questioned ‘To what extent do animals have rights?’, and a third, above a picture of two women in wedding dresses, asking ‘What is love?’

The requirement for an Evidence Portfolio meant that the evaluator could see a broader sample of newsletters, websites and displays than those seen in the school visits. ECCO’s creativity in embedding images, ideas and welcome messages across the range of schools’ environmental media demonstrated a holistic acceptance of the principles of the Educate & Celebrate and the commitment to challenge and eradicate HBT bullying.


ECCOs sent in copies of policies which they had updated in line with the Equality Act 2010. Hotel Primary School, for example, provided their ‘Behaviour and Discipline Policy’ which stated: ‘Children have the right to… (b)e respected and valued regardless of age, disability, gender, race and nationality, religion or belief, pregnancy, marriage, gender [identity] or sexual orientation’. Their section on ‘Reasons to send children to their Phase Leader/Head Teacher’ included ‘racism, sexism, homophobia and discrimination against disability’ alongside ‘a physical fight where children have physically hurt each other’, ‘vandalism’ and ‘theft’. This demonstrates the seriousness with which HBT bullying has been taken, and the value inherent in Educate & Celebrate’s requirement that policies be redrafted in line with the Equality Act 2010. The policies sent via the Evidence Portfolios confirm interviewed teachers’ thoughts on how effective policy change could be. They also demonstrated that updating policies in line with the Equality Act 2010 was less onerous than initially feared by some schools, and impacted on all of the protected characteristics.


The surveys and focus group interviews with students suggested that students had not always noticed the significant amount of work staff had put in to developing their curricula to be inclusive of LGBT people. This was perhaps evidence that LGBT people and issues had become so ubiquitous to be less of note to students. However, the Evidence Portfolios reflected the hard work ECCOs had been describing in their interviews.

In the Portfolio guidance, ECCOs were asked to provide evidence of curriculum change, and impact on students was evidenced through samples of their work. There were hundreds of pages of this evidence in the Portfolios. One ECCO had sent in the school’s schemes of learning for English. Under the heading ‘Gothic Writing’, there were guidance notes on teaching ‘Frankenstein’ to year 8 students which explained, ‘the study of ‘Frankenstein’ offers up rich opportunities to consider gender roles, the subversion of the female role of ‘creator’ of life and other aspects of identity’. At the same school, Year 9 were to study WWI poetry. The guidance notes suggested: ‘…you could consider the belief that Wilfred Owen was homosexual, and how this was evident in his poetry. You could also explore the writings of WWI female poets/the role of women during the period’. A Year 9 Art and Design Scheme of Learning in another school focused on ‘Great British Values’ included Grayson Perry, the well-known artist who often performs his art as a female character.

The portfolios also included evidence that curriculum changes were having a positive impact on students. For example, in one school, Year 8 students had watched the film ‘Ma Vie en Rose’. A worksheet for students included the question ‘What advice would you give to a friend who was unsure about their gender’? A student had written, ‘Don’t worry what other people think of you. If you want to be a girl/boy then be one’.

Another ECCO included an email from a colleague in which she described a successful lesson:

…Year 10 had to write imaginary budgets for case studies of family people… [one case study] told us that the main character was a woman (Miss Jones), but only referred to her ‘partner’… For about five minutes, I constantly and deliberately referred to Miss Jones’ partner as ‘she’ or ‘her’. Eventually one girl picked up on this and asked how I knew that Miss Jones had a girlfriend. Before I could respond, at least two people jumped in with comments along the lines of: ‘well, why not? The other case studies are men and women, why shouldn’t this be two women?’ [and] ‘if Sir doesn’t know whether she or he is male or female, why assume male?’… Cue general murmurs of assent, but basically nobody batted an eyelid at the idea, including the girl who’d originally asked the question, and we all moved on…

Well-trained staff delivering a well-developed curriculum, then, has been shown to have impacted on students’ knowledge and understanding of LGBT people and issues. Removing the stigma in this way undermines HBT bullying and creates an environment in which it can be more readily challenged.

Celebration and community

Illustrating further what ECCOs had said in their interviews, they provided Portfolio evidence of multiple community celebrations where their students, families and staff sang, baked, acted, and painted about LGBT issues and other areas of equality. Eastchurch Secondary School (for young people with moderate learning disabilities) provided a copy of a post made on the school’s Facebook page, inviting families to get involved in a song competition:

Here it is- our own [Eastchurch] pop song to promote equality for all regardless of gender or sexual preference. ‘Be the star you are’ was written and performed by our own students and they need your vote!! Simply click on the link below and get voting. You can only vote once so don’t forget to share with all your friends!

This post demonstrates the school’s absence of shame or embarrassment in discussing issues of gender and sexuality. The fact that its students have moderate learning disabilities is significant since students with disabilities are often considered to be absent of any sexuality (as evidenced by teacher interviews carried out at the beginning of the project). Educate & Celebrate can be said to have changed this perception. The school went on to win the Equality Song competition for the whole project.

Moments of Change

‘Moments of Change’ are key incidents which ECCOs have noticed as evidence that the programme is working. For example, at Delta Secondary School, the ECCO reported:

A student who had been a regular attendee at a PYN meeting has been talking more and more to me and his friends about being trans. With the help of [a transgender member of the Educate & Celebrate team] I have informed myself more and felt able to support the boy and advise him and his teachers on next steps.

Some of these ‘Moments of Change’ happened within the focus groups with this evaluator and were later sent in by the ECCO as part of the Evidence Portfolio. One ECCO wrote, ‘During the second discussion session… a Year 9 girl, quite unexpectedly, came out. I felt so proud that she felt safe and happy to do this’.

Other incidents demonstrated a school environment and a student body more conducive to open, thoughtful discussion around homophobic language. As one secondary school ECCO explained:

A boy called another boy ‘gay’. As I opened my mouth to challenge this, a third boy said, ‘you can’t say that’. The first boy claimed ‘it’s banter’ and the third asked, ‘what does that even mean’? A mixed but worthwhile discussion ensued.

Another ECCO sent in an email she has received from a colleague:

During my year 8 lesson on Tuesday, I told two girls to ‘stop staring at each other and get on with your work’. Admittedly this was not a wise choice of words and caused a couple of ‘ooohs’ and I distinctly heard someone say ‘lez’. I called the class to order and said ‘did I hear someone say ‘lez’? Because if I did can I remind you all that this is an equal opportunities school’. At this point Chrissy … said ‘yes, and this is a safe space for lesbians, gays and bisexuals’… to my surprise several other students then said, ‘and transsexuals’ and the whole class then burst into spontaneous applause!

Primary school children were also shown to have broadened their understanding of gender and identity and their open-minded approach to people who present as a variation of the binary. One ECCO wrote that

…[a] Year 3 child mentioned that she noticed that the cleaner of the school looked like a man but she has a woman’s voice. She mentioned that she understands the cleaner chooses to dress differently even though she was a woman. She just wanted to mention that she had noticed it.

As in the interviews, the Portfolios evidenced school governors discussing Educate & Celebrate in their meetings and expressing positive feedback about it. In one Portfolio, the ECCO had included some Governors’ Meeting minutes. The governors had been discussing the school’s ‘Rainbow Cake Competition’ (names have been changed):

Mrs S states that this is very good practice and other schools would benefit from this.

Mrs K asks if being a Christian school has anyone taken offence to this. Mr R responds the aim is to educate, there have been two homophobic incidents which have been dealt with. There has been no vandalism on displays and the response in assembly has been very positive.

The Evidence Portfolios can be seen to demonstrate that there have been advancements in governor, staff and student knowledge, understanding and commitment to eradicating HBT bullying and celebrating all the protected characteristics across the cohort of Educate & Celebrate schools.


The survey was sent to all 60 Educate & Celebrate schools with the intention that every member of staff and every student complete it. It found a general trend of support for the programme, with teachers expressing their newfound confidence in dealing with HBT bullying and expressing this through feedback which was generally more supportive than that of students. Response rates are in the table below:

Numbers of survey respondents Baseline survey Exit survey
Students 1652 606
Members of staff 1116 580
Parents 41 2
Governors 36 10
Other 7 9
Total 2872 1213


Respondents were situated in all areas of England, with the majority in London, the South and the Midlands. 39 of the schools answered the baseline survey, and 38 answered the exit survey. About 70% were secondary schools. The baseline and exit surveys are not exactly the same due to the editing process they went through, but there are some interesting findings.

Respondents were asked: ‘do you ever use the word ‘gay’ as a put down to other people or to describe something negatively?’

% who answered ‘never’ Baseline Survey Exit Survey
Staff 91.20 95.12
Students 60.17 66.45
All 72.42 79.77


The data shows that those who never use the word ‘gay’ as a put down has fallen by about 7% across staff and students.

Respondents who never ‘heard people or things being called ‘gay’, ‘lezzer’, or ‘lesbian’ as a put down inside of school’ rose slightly overall, but for students this fell a percentage point. It is possible that the more frequent discussion of LGBT people and issues may have given students more opportunities to use the word ‘gay’ as a negative, but this can provide opportunities for teachers to work through the issue openly.


% who answered ‘never’ Baseline Survey Exit Survey
Staff 23.40 38.37
Students 18.68 17.69
All 21.80 28.06


Respondents were also asked: ‘When the word ‘gay’ is used as a put down or to describe something negatively in your school, how often does a teacher or other adult challenge it?’ Again, answers varied between staff and students:

% who answered ‘never’ Baseline Survey Exit Survey
Staff 2.67 0.87
Students 23.83 22.95
All 15.45 12.66


% who answered ‘Every time’ Baseline Survey Exit Survey
Staff 57.07 69.34
Students 23.03 14.92
All 34.98 41.36


The data suggests that staff are 11% more likely to challenge homophobic language  ‘every time’ after the programme.

Students and staff also did not agree when asked: ‘Are people (students or teachers) made fun of or targeted in your school when they do not confirm to stereotypes of gender and sexual orientation?’


% who answered ‘often’ Baseline Survey Exit Survey
Staff 6.74 2.62
Students 16.38 13.51
All 12.28 8.05


Again, teachers seem to be developing in confidence, whilst students are reporting more bullying as a result of the increase in discussions about LGBT issues. It is suggested that there will be a period of transition whilst schools address these issues. In the focus group discussion with Mikey Secondary Academy, students talked about how people were very open-minded and accepting in Years 8 and 9 but that it was less easy to come out in Years 10 and 11. They speculated that this was because LGBT issues were in the Key Stage 3 curriculum but not yet embedded through the Ley Stage 4 curriculum, and that the Key Stage 4 students had already been in the school for three years before the behavior policy on homophobic language had changed. So these statistics need to be taken within the context of this period of transition.

The survey showed that staff training and changes to curriculum had had an effect. There was a 34% increase in respondents who agreed that definitions of the words ‘lesbian’, ‘gay’, ‘bisexual’ and ‘trans’ were now taught in their school, and a 33% increase in those who agreed that all types of relationships, including those of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people were learned about.

Respondents were asked: ‘How much are LGBT+ issues present within your curriculum?’


% who answered Baseline Survey


Exit Survey
In at least two or all subject areas In no subject areas In assemblies In some, most or all subject areas In no subject areas In assemblies
Staff 38.64 32.74 28.62 86.79 1.61 9.64
Students 28.65 41.27 30.08 39.24 9.11 43.38
All 32.34 38.29 29.37 61.54 6.20 27.08


Around 30% of respondents saw a difference across at least some of their subject areas. Again, teachers were more confident about this that students. This reflects the interview data, where teachers were more aware of changes to curriculum and students had perhaps felt the benefits of a ‘usualising’ approach, and so had not noticed the changes as clearly.

Between baseline and exit surveys, data showed a decrease in LGBT+ content in PHSCE lessons and an increase across all other subjects, including maths (up 1.62%), English (up 4%), Geography (up 1.17%) and languages (up 1.1%).

Staff and student answers differed too when they were asked: ‘Do you think homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are a problem in your school?’

% who answered ‘yes’ Baseline Survey Exit Survey
Staff 26.45 22.30
Students 32.86 47.07
All 29.83 34.83


There is a potential bias in responses here, as it is possible that respondents are more aware of LGBT issues. These data reflect people’s perceptions, not necessarily actual changes in numbers of incidents.

Before the programme, only 24.24 of respondents said that staff had experienced training specifically about LGBT+ issues. At all 60 of the schools involved, all staff were invited to Educate & Celebrate training. At the exit survey, respondents said that the training they had experienced resulted in the following:

  • Less homophobic language being used
  • Students being ‘more accepting and open to different ideas’
  • Less people using ‘the word gay in the wrong way’
  • Teachers ‘challenging the use of the word gay more’
  • ‘Language is LGBT friendly now between students’


Despite the sense that students were noticing more LGBT bullying and perhaps because teachers were demonstrated a heightened awareness, both groups of respondents felt ‘confident that teachers in your school would deal with a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying incident’:


% who answered ‘yes’ Baseline Survey Exit Survey
Staff 78.75 94.78
Students 66.69 68.80
All 71.72 81.18


Perhaps even more significant was the fact that 17.13% of respondents in the exit survey said that more staff and students had come out during the year the project was running.

Finally, respondents were asked to give their school a star rating for its LGBT+ ‘inclusivity’ (baseline survey) or ‘friendliness’ (exit survey).


% who answered 8 or more out of 10 Baseline Survey Exit Survey
Staff 26.44 69.12
Students 26.62 34.88
All 26.94 51.76


Students, although more reserved in calculating their star rating, were still in agreement with staff that their schools’ approach to LGBT+ issues had improved.


The Educate & Celebrate training appeared to address a gap in teachers’ initial education. It served to develop their confidence both around dealing with HBT bullying and more broadly in relation to their practice. This impacted positively on their careers.

Posters, wall displays, and equality statements in foyers all served powerfully to develop an environment in which both staff and students felt safe to challenge HBT language and bullying. Changing school policies to bring them into line with the Equality Act 2010 also impacted powerfully and sustainably on many areas of school life, particularly in relation to behavior management related to HBT bullying. In addition, it meant that the Educate & Celebrate project became visible at all levels of school management. The survey found a general trend of support for the programme, with teachers expressing their newfound confidence in dealing with HBT bullying and expressing this through feedback which was slightly more supportive than that of students.

Educate & Celebrate’s ‘usualising’ approach to curriculum development also improved visibility amongst teaching staff. The curriculum worked well to depathologise LGBT people and issues. This helped to take the stigma out of being LGBT, and so worked to combat HBT bullying. As well as this, community celebrations and Pride Youth Networks helped to transform schools into places where LGBT students and parents felt safe to be open about themselves. They helped to educate local communities; and celebrating LGBT diversity helped to undermine the problem of HBT bullying.

The evaluation also found that whilst the focus of Educate & Celebrate’s work was on challenging HBT bullying and usualising LGBT people and issues, it had a wider impact, led by students, on challenging other areas of prejudice and celebrating wider diversity in their schools, families and communities. Students’ open-mindedness- usually more well-developed than that of parents and teachers- was partially due to their consumption of online media and reality TV.

Finally, the project can be seen to have impacted on schools’ capacity as centres of excellence in relation to inclusion work. This has enhanced Ofsted ratings and established many ECCOs as local experts, ready to advise networks of schools in their areas.

Further recommendations

It is recommended that Educate & Celebrate make connections with initial teacher training and further teacher development programmes in order to incorporate the approaches used into teacher education. Teacher education programmes might also usefully address the informal learning children and young people engage in through internet media.

In order to address the barriers to the safety of boys who want to talk about LGBT families, issues, and identities, consider more specific mention of their needs and strategies which may serve to include them more thoroughly. This could mean working with more male ECCOs, or perhaps supporting ECCOs of different genders to collaborate on an Educate & Celebrate programme of work. Primary school boys were far more likely to participate confidently in discussions about LGBT people and issues. Secondary schools recognized this and worked closely with their feeder primary schools and with their Year 7 cohorts in order to begin changing their school cultures in a sustainable way- this is recommended as a sustainable approach.

The programme has generated a comprehensive bank of lesson plans, schemes of work, and policies. Together with expert schools, Educate & Celebrate could add to these resources by also developing standard form letters for parents- for example, in order to support schools where there is a high proportion of religious parents. More generally, there could be a ‘next steps’ programme which enables schools to develop networks, where Educate & Celebrate schools become centres of local excellence. This would enable schools to work with their local knowledge and to develop approaches specific to their local contexts.



  1. Respondent Information Sheet

Educate & Celebrate and LGBTQ-Parented Families and Schools Projects

You are being invited to take part in a research study. Before you decide whether or not to take part, it is important for you to understand why the research is being done and what it will involve. Please take time to read the following information carefully. Ask the researcher if you have any questions about what this information means.

What is the purpose of the study? This research study is looking at Educate & Celebrate project and at the experiences of LGBTQ parents, their children, and schools.

Why have I been invited to participate? The researchers are gathering information from people who they feel can help them answer their research questions. These are:

– What are the experiences of people in schools in relation to LGBTQ issues, including LGBTQ parents?

– How can we use all of this information to improve things for all involved?

– How does Educate & Celebrate fit into this picture?

Do I have to take part? It is up to you to decide whether or not to take part. If you do decide to take part you will be given this information sheet to keep and be asked to sign a consent form. If you decide to take part you are still free to withdraw at any time and without giving a reason.

What will happen to me if I take part? You will be asked to take part in an interview or focus group discussion. It will take about 30-120 minutes. The interview or focus group will be audio-taped.

Will what I say in this study be kept confidential? All information collected about you will be kept strictly confidential (subject to legal limitations). Confidentiality, privacy and anonymity will be ensured in the collection, storage and publication of research material. Data generated by the study will be retained in accordance with the University’s policy on Academic Integrity. The data generated in the course of the research must be kept securely in paper or electronic form for a period of five years after the completion of a research project.

What should I do if I want to take part? If you would like to take part, please sign the form.

What will happen to the results of the research study? The results of the study will inform the development and feedback about the Educate & Celebrate project. It may also form part of one or possibly two books about LGBTQ-parented families and schools. The information may be presented to researchers at academic conferences and may be described in an academic or newspaper article. Your name and any identifying information will be kept anonymous.

Who is organising and funding the research? The Educate & Celebrate research is funded by the Department for Education and the Government Equalities Office. The LGBTQ-parented families part of the research is also part of the Centre for Inclusion and Social Justice, part of the Department of Educational Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Thank you

Contact for further information:

Your research contact is:

Dr Anna Carlile

Department of Educational Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London SE14 6NW

020 7717 2296







  1. Consent Form



Full title of project(s):

Educate & Celebrate and

LGBTQ-Parented Families and Schools Project


Name, position and contact address of research supervisor:

Dr Anna Carlile, Senior Lecturer

Department of Educational Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London SE14 6NW



Please initial box


1.            I confirm that I have read and understand the information sheet for the above study and have had the opportunity to ask questions.




2.            I understand that my participation is voluntary and that I

am free to withdraw at any time, without giving reason.


3.         I agree to take part in the above study.  



Please tick box


   Yes            No


4.         I agree to the interview / focus group discussion being audio recorded


5.         I agree to the use of anonymised quotes in publications
I would like my/our pesudonym(s) to be:





Name of Participant                                        Date                                        Signature




Name of Researcher                                      Date                                        Signature



This document will be kept securely in a locked office.



  1. Focus group and interview questions and prompts


  • These were semi-structured interviews so not all questions were used if discussions produced the necessary material.
  • The questions were the same before and after the project, but there are a few added for the after-project follow-up sessions (indicated below).
  • Questions listed here were used as prompts for the interviewer rather than asked verbatim.


Student focus groups

Tell me about the school uniform (lead to gender discussion).

Does LGBTQ information or related teaching and learning ever come up here?

Where have you heard about it? Assemblies, PHSCE, curriculum?

You don’t need to name anyone for this question- just in general terms, is there anyone here who is LGBTQ or is there anyone here whose parents are?

Does anyone say ‘that’s gay’? In class? In the playground?

What do you do if there is bullying here?

Should teachers come out?

Name a famous LGBTQ person/parent.

What have you seen in the media about LGBTQ parents? (If the interviewee needs prompting, say: For example, newspaper, reality TV, films?) (If any)- what do you think of these?

What other questions should we be asking students?


After the project:

How did Educate & Celebrate go? Which bit worked best?

Have things changed?


Staff interviews

How did you get involved with the project?

How would a LGBTQ student or parent know from the website or foyer that they are welcome?

You don’t need to name anyone for this question- just in general terms, are there any out LGBTQ teachers here?

You don’t need to name anyone for this question- just in general terms, are there any out LGBTQ parents here?

Does anyone say ‘that’s gay’? In class? In the playground?

What do you do if there is bullying here?

Where do you talk about it? Assemblies, PHSCE, curriculum?

Should teachers come out?

Name a famous LGBTQ person/parent.

What have you seen in the media about LGBTQ parents? (If the interviewee needs prompting, say: For example, newspaper, reality TV, films?) (If any)- what do you think of these?

Have you got any relevant policies?

What other questions should we be asking teachers?


After the project:

How did Educate & Celebrate go? Which bit worked best? What changes would you suggest?

Have things changed at school?

How does the school see the project in relation to Ofsted?

How do you go about getting policy changed?




  1. Contents list for Evidence Portfolios


The Evidence Portfolios, together, constitute a vast resource of activities and lesson plans. They include:


  • Key personnel involved in the project, with roles and contact details
  • School policies developed in response to the project
  • Details of Pride Youth Network activities (eg leaflets; programmes)
  • Two sample lesson plans for each key stage
  • Details of celebratory events
  • Evidence of ‘Moments of Change’





  1. Terms of Reference and acronyms

This Appendix is designed to clarify some of the acronyms, words and terms used in the report.


BNP British National Party
Boys Children and young people who identify as male. This distinction has been made deliberately in order to clarify the fact that this report is using gendered terms of reference from a self-identified point of view, as opposed to a socially or medically constructed point of view.
Cisgendered People who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth
DfE Department for Education
ECCO Educate & Celebrate Coordinator
Female A term assigned to people who identify as female. This distinction has been made deliberately in order to clarify the fact that this report is using gendered terms of reference from a self-identified point of view, as opposed to a socially or medically constructed point of view.
GEO Government Equalities Office.
Girls Children and young people who identify as male. This distinction has been made deliberately in order to clarify the fact that this report is using gendered terms of reference from a self-identified point of view, as opposed to a socially or medically constructed point of view.
HBT Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic
Heteronormative This adjective describes the assumption that there is a certain binary gendered way to behave- for example, that people identified as girls at birth like pink and prefer dresses.
LGBT Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
Male A term assigned to people who identify as male. This distinction has been made deliberately in order to clarify the fact that this report is using gendered terms of reference from a self-identified point of view, as opposed to a socially or medically constructed point of view.
MLD Moderate learning difficulties
Pathologise To understand a situation in terms of its negative or problematic aspects only; to omit or make invisible its positive or unproblematic aspects
Protected characteristics Those characteristics (including ethnicity, disability, age, religion, gender and identity, and sexual orientation) protected under the Equality Act 2010. This requires publicly funded institutions (such as schools) to adhere to a ‘public duty’, which applies a legal mandate to the requirement for institutions to not only eliminate direct and indirect discrimination and harassment

but to actively advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between groups.

PYN Pride Youth Network
Usualise To make so commonly visible as to be routine a characteristic which has up until this point been taboo, pathologised as ‘abnormal’, or so uncommon as to be worthy of note. In some senses, this is opposite of ‘pathologise’- to understand a situation in terms of its positive or unproblematic aspects.