Jo Brassington Portrait

Written by Jo Brassington

Jo Brassington (they/them) is a former primary school teacher, the co-founder of Pride & Progress, and the co-author of Pride & Progress: Making Schools LGBT+ Inclusive Spaces. They work with schools, universities, and charities primarily around LGBT+ inclusion, trans awareness, and children's mental health.

‘Every person in a school community should be free to be them- selves, to feel seen, to feel safe, to feel supported, and to feel like they belong.’

For a moment – close your eyes – and picture a school.
What did you see?
Maybe you saw classrooms, or hallways, or uniforms you hated wearing as a kid.

Maybe you saw your favourite teacher, or your least favourite teacher, or perhaps you saw yourself standing at the front of class as the teacher. Maybe, like Jo, your mind immediately pictured the full-chorus cafeteria scene from High School Musical… or, maybe not.

It doesn’t matter exactly what you pictured – the point is that everybody reading this book has a picture. Every person holds an image in their mind of what schools look like, perhaps even what they feel like. Most of us hold with that image judgements of what we believe schools should look like.

Where does this picture come from?

Each of our images are individual, and they come from our own interactions with schools. All of us have experiences in these educational spaces, which have shaped our perceptions and understanding of them. This is one of the reasons that conversations about education are often so contentious, because every person has buy-in to the discussion. Perhaps your experience is from when you navigated school yourself as a young person, more recently as a parent, or as a person who works in a school every day. Perhaps, if you’re an educator like us, it feels like you never really left school.

Now, for another moment – close your eyes – and picture this time a school which is an LGBT+ inclusive space.

What do you see?

Please, take your time. Really try to imagine it. What would it look like for a school to be a diverse, equitable, and inclusive space for LGBT+ people? A safe space for all young people who occupy it, for their families, and for the adults who run it. Is the space you’re imagining now similar or different to the school you imagined earlier? Is it similar or different to the schools you experienced yourself as a young person? Is it similar or different to the schools you are helping to create now as an educator or parent?

Our guess is that you probably found the second school harder to imagine, right? You were all able to picture schools because of the reference points and direct experiences you have with them. But, when it comes to imagining an LGBT+ inclusive educational space, many of you won’t have these reference points, or direct experiences. This is because for most people reading this book, the system you were educated under was not LGBT+ inclusive. Whether you noticed it at the time or not, it’s likely your own education did not make space for LGBT+ people, or their stories. In fact, there was legislation in place to purposefully ensure that this community of people were not spoken about in schools.

So, when we asked you to imagine an inclusive school, what we were really asking was for you to reimagine. To take your experiences in a non-inclusive system and reimagine them. To take an educational history of silence and shame and reimagine it. To take your perceptions and ideas of what a school should look like and reimagine them for a better, more inclusive, future.

This reimagining is exactly what our new book aims to explore, and it all began in a tapas bar in Nottingham. 

In the summer of 2020, as England emerged from the first of its COVID-19 lock- downs, the two of us sat together in the window of a tapas bar in Nottingham. It was during the period of time where we were all adjusting back to conversations in real life, and the realisation that people didn’t just exist from the shoulders up in a rectangle on zoom. 

In fact, this was the first time we were meeting in person, although it felt as though we knew each other quite well. For a while we had been organising or hosting online events to discuss LGBT+ inclusive education with other teachers. Through the online events we had been involved in, and through Adam’s doctoral research at the time, we were beginning to hear incredible stories of educators who were quite powerfully reimagining their educational spaces to make them more inclusive. The difficulty was, as Jo put it that day over dinner, that these conversations were only ever heard by the few in attendance, and once these events were over, it felt like the conversations ended there.

We wanted a way to share these stories, to amplify these conversations, and to bring together the people who often felt like they were doing this work alone. It was over that dinner when Adam first floated the idea of a podcast. What if we recorded these conversations? What if we shared these stories? What if more people could hear about the amazing work these educators are doing to reimagine their schools? We both left that restaurant with these questions buzzing in our minds, until eventually, they became the bedrock of Pride & Progress.

When we launched the Pride & Progress podcast we did so with this statement:

‘For a while now, we have been organising events for LGBT+ educators and allies to discuss inclusive education. During these events, people shared powerful stories of pride, and of the progress being made in education. We want to share these stories, to amplify the voices of LGBT+ educators and cel- ebrate inclusion, progress, and the power of diversity.

We are living in a unique and pivotal moment for inclusive education. Now, for the first time ever, educators are strongly encouraged and enabled to make education, and our educational spaces, inclusive of LGBT+ lives. This requires a complete reimagining of what education could, and should, look like: an education that reflects the diverse society, allowing all people to see themselves and to feel they belong.

Join us as we amplify the voices of these LGBT+ educators and allies, share their stories of pride and progress, and celebrate the true power of diversity in education.’

Since sharing that statement, we have curated a collection of conversations and stories from people who are all, in their own way, reimagining educational spaces to make them more LGBT+ inclusive. We have spoken to teachers, leaders, trainees, charity workers, authors, actors, and activists. 

Each conversation has helped us to learn, to unlearn, and to reimagine. In our new book, Pride & Progress: Making Schools LGBT+ Inclusive Spaces, we pull on each of those conversations, stories, and lessons to help you to begin to develop the reference points and experiences needed to yourself begin reimagining schools as LGBT+ inclusive spaces. 

From hours of conversation, we have drawn together ten themes that we think are the keys to reimagining educational spaces. In each chapter we combine the lived experience of our podcast guests, with theory and research, to explore what each theme looks like in theory, in practice, and in action, to create an essential guide for educators who want to make their educational spaces more LGBT+ inclusive. 

Ultimately, the book explores how we can reimagine our educational spaces to ensure that every person in them feels free to be themselves, feels seen, feels safe, feels supported, and feels like they belong. 

Sounds good, right? You can grab your copy at a discounted rate during Pride Month on the Sage Website. Find out more here: