Amy Ashenden portrait

Written by Amy Ashenden

Director of Comms and Media/Interim CEO, Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity.

As the new Interim Chief Executive of Just Like Us, my aim this year is to ensure more schools than ever have the tools they need to support their LGBT+ young people. 

For several years now, School Diversity Week has been celebrated by so many incredible educators across the UK, showing young people that being LGBT+ is nothing to be ashamed of. Last summer, more than 5,000 primary and secondary schools took part. This year, 26-30 June, I believe it’s vital that schools with intersecting communities have the resources they need to celebrate School Diversity Week.

From faith schools to Welsh-speaking communities and primary schools, Just Like Us will be providing new sets of resources that cater specifically to the educators that need tailored LGBT+ inclusion tools the most. When half of young people (48%) tell us that their school hasn’t given them positive messaging about being LGBT+, it’s clear to me that we have a long way to go and that to change this, schools need the right kind of resources that speak to their individual ethos and community.

Our new independent research has found a third of teachers (30%) say faith has been a barrier to discussing LGBT+ topics in school. More than 7,000 UK teachers took part in our survey this February, revealing an indisputable need for resources that are both LGBT+ and faith inclusive.

That’s why we’ve launched a new series of faith and LGBT+ inclusive resources for Anglican, CofE, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim school communities. From primary assemblies to worksheets and videos featuring LGBT+ young people talking about their faiths, the resources are designed to give educators the tailored tools they need to celebrate School Diversity Week in a way that makes sense for their community. We have also worked in collaboration with LGBT+ faith-led organisations Keshet, Hidayah, One Body One Faith and Quest to develop these resources in a way that really speaks to the communities they’re designed to support.

In faith schools, the research found that 46% of teachers had previously found faith to be a barrier to talking about LGBT+ topics in the classroom, compared to 25% at non-faith schools. I believe it’s vital that we now provide the tools educators at faith schools need to support their young people who may be LGBT+ or have LGBT+ families.

Interestingly, just 3% of headteachers said that faith has always been a barrier to discussing LGBT+ topics. 

A lack of LGBT+ inclusion in schools is so rarely about a lack of willingness but instead due to a historic lack of suitable resources that empower educators to get started on their journey. It’s also important that we remember that LGBT+ and faith communities are never totally separate – as you’ll see in the resources, faith is very important to many LGBT+ young people and to suggest that there’s no overlap just isn’t reality. You can absolutely be LGBT+ or an ally and belong to a faith – being Jewish and a lesbian, I know this reality well. 

It’s also really important that we don’t erase the fantastic LGBT+ inclusion work that many faith schools are already doing with their pupils. St Stephen’s CofE Primary School in London is just one example of this. Nicola Collins, who works at the primary school, is a huge advocate for celebrating School Diversity Week and won our LGBT+ Inclusive Teacher of the Year award in 2022. She explained: “As a school, we feel passionate about challenging stereotypes and homophobic language. As a result, the children in our school are well informed and accepting of all people no matter who they are!”

We hope that these new resources will be a gamechanger for schools with faith communities to celebrate School Diversity Week this 26-30 June. We really welcome educators to get in touch with your feedback or any questions you might have about making LGBT+ topics faith inclusive.

Sign up now to take part and download the resources.