Shaun Dellenty, Deputy Head at Alfred Salter Primary School and founder of Inclusion For All, talks about what he and his colleagues have been doing to tackle homophobia and celebrate different families.
- 75 % of pupils were hearing homophobic bullying/language on a daily basis
- 65 % of staff felt the pejorative use of the word gay was not homophobic
- 0 % of staff had received training to enable them to support LGBT pupils or tackle homophobia
These statistics obviously shocked us and we immediately set to work. In January 2010 I delivered a one-day training session to all staff, from caretakers to teachers to governors. I led the staff through a range of reflective activities in a safe and respectful environment that enabled us to challenge assumptions and misconceptions. As a whole we reached a point where we could firmly place the needs of the children first. Once staff were familiar with the level of the problem and the potential effects upon standards and pupil welfare, any barriers that may have been put up to talking about homophobia and LGBT people fell away; as one member of staff said ‘if these statistics were around racist bullying we would not hesitate to address the problem’.
Staff undertook a series of role plays aimed at generating agreed responses that in dealing positively with incidents of homophobic bullying without compounding negative associations further. We explored further support for teachers, relevant resources, books about different families and ways to measure the impact of the strategies we were about to employ. We also established once and for all that teaching and learning about LGBT issues and homophobia does not include discussions around gay sex, or result in pupils suddenly ‘turning’ LGB or T. Other activities involved clarifying the nature of homophobic language and bullying, finding curriculum and assembly opportunities to raise these issues and developing a strategic approach to the use of relevant role models.
The ethos at Alfred Salter Primary School
Further staff meetings were arranged across the year for additional and follow up training and teachers were supported in writing and delivering lessons. Governor and parent workshops were held and key policies, home-school agreements and behaviour charters were all amended to make explicit reference to homophobic and transphobic bullying. The school website dedicates a page to our equalities work, in this way anyone who wishes to come to Alfred Salter Primary School knows from the outset that we include, represent and celebrate everyone in our school community and aim to act as a model to the communities around us.
By November 2011 our impact measures were showing a drastic reduction in the amount of homophobic and other forms of prejudice-based bullying. Attendance was on the up, as was attainment – trends which have continued. Subtler effects included a greater sense of cohesion and acceptance and a greater willingness on behalf of pupils, parents and staff to be authentic and open about who they are and where they are from. That month’s Ofsted inspection said:
A significant strength of the school is its commitment to equalities. This is demonstrated through ensuring that pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities have specialist resources and provision to achieve as well as their peers and through its work on anti-bullying particularly in relation to tackling homophobia. Pupils say, ‘this is the best school ever’ and one parent commented that, ‘I feel it is a privilege to have my child attend this school.’ The overwhelming response from parents and carers is that their children enjoy coming to school, feel safe and are healthy. These aspects are outstanding.”
– Ofsted, November 2011
By Christmas 2011 I was delivering what I now termed our Inclusion For All strategies to other local schools. Over the course of the next twelve months news of this work spread and was featured in the Times Educational Supplement, The Guardian, Teach Primary Magazine and School Leadership Focus Magazine. Opportunities to share Inclusion For All at various Stonewall and local authority anti-bullying events began to pour in, culminating in an invitation for summer 2013 to speak at the prestigious National College for School Leaders Seizing Success conference about homophobic bullying.
Shaun’s It Gets Better video, where he talks about what schools can do
I documented our work at Alfred Salter alongside my own experiences of homophobic bullying on my website. One of the unique features of this website is the video interviews with school staff at every level who have undertaken work to tackle homophobic bullying and represent a range of different families. I was also invited to blog for the Huffington Post on homophobic bullying.
In September 2012 we decided to turn Inclusion For All into a small charitable organisation and bring our training in-house. Thus Alfred Salter now runs three training days per academic year, plus I visit schools, lecture at universities (including Liverpool John Moores and London Southbank) and local authorities in order to lead inset days and outreach work. Recent lectures have included Amnesty International and the Institute of Education.
The National College for School Leaders, government ministers, Stonewall, Ofsted and the Department For Education have all visited our school to see what is possible. This work has been nominated for the Southwark Good Practice, National Diversity Awards and the Brook/Pamela Sheridan SRE Award. I was nominated for the 2012 Independent on Sunday Pink List and as ‘Inspirational Role Model of 2012’ by Out in the City magazine for this work.
We firmly believe that every school has the potential to adopt a zero tolerance attitude to homophobic bullying and language within the timespan of one school year and that the schools become stronger, more inclusive and more cohesive as a result.