LGBT role models in the teaching profession | @Innervoices2011

A piece by Ed Watkins, Teacher at the West London Free School

ed watkinsNothing makes the rightness of Harvey Milk’s call to normalise ourselves through coming out more accurate than the huge change in attitudes towards our community in the USA and its close correlation with the increase in the number of people who know someone who is gay. Now that this trend is a part of life in the Western world it can be easy to forget how rare it is for this step to be taken in secondary school. The playground can still be a hostile environment for young gay people, particularly at Key Stage 3.

I started at the West London Free School when in opened in 2011 and from the off was encouraged by the supportive attitude of the other staff towards ensuring that the school is a safe, supportive place for young LGBT students. Having worked in a Catholic school where homosexuality didn’t even get a mention in the PSHE lessons on discrimination it was refreshing to experience unambiguous openness from governors, leadership and staff.

In Year 9 the school decided to start approaching sex and relationship education in depth and one de-timetabled day included an hour on sexuality. I was very pleased that the suggestion came from our Deputy Head. This was given over to me and in the run up to the day I gave some thought to what would happen if a pupil asked if I was gay. My worries centred around the possibility that it would impact on my ability to be a role model to boys who enjoy singing and get in the way of our successful attempts to achieve gender balance in our choirs and ensembles. Alongside this I entered the day assuming that the insecurity Year 9s feel about their burgeoning sexuality (straight or otherwise) would make the environment quite homophobic.

In reality I found that many of our Year 9s were remarkably open. Some were indeed uncomfortable about homosexuality and for them the day was a useful opportunity to discuss the topic rather than to simply be told they were wrong. In particular many of the students were receptive to the idea that, in changing room terms, same sex attraction means being attracted to some members of the same sex as opposed to all of them!

At the end of the day, as predicted, I was asked by a child whether I was gay:

‘Yes, but you knew that already didn’t you’

Seemed like the right answer. After a warm reception at the assembly that followed the pupils went off and, judging by the following email from a parent, shared their thoughts back at home:

Just a quick message to say a BIG WELL DONE for the way you handled today’s class. Obviously I asked how it went as we had an email about it. Tom said it went well and he said you were asked a personal question and told us what you said. Tom said he thinks it was very brave of you and in his not so eloquent words you are now WELL RATED !!! for being honest and that’s how all the kids felt.

Other communications from parents have been universally positive, including from those who are worried about their own children being able to grow up in a safe and understanding environment.

Following on from that day I’ve found it much easier to deal with any passing homophobic language as the pupils understand more clearly why it might not be ideal. It’s also easier to do so without making a big deal of it, the usual lecture on why it might be offensive is implicit in the reprimand. No pupil has acted in anyway differently and my worries about it having any effect on my teaching were unfounded, more a reflection of my own projections than anything else.


“The West London Free School is very lucky to have someone like Ed on its staff. His honesty and straightforwardness about his sexuality has had a really positive influence on the pupils.”

Toby Young, co-founder, West London Free School

To come out or not to come out? by @EducateCelebrat

Teachers: To come out or not to come out?

Elly Barnes, CEO and Founder of the UK’s Educate & Celebrate organization, says that the decision whether the come out or not remains a pressing concern for LGBT teachers today
Despite Section 28 being repealed in the United Kingdom 11 years ago, being ‘out’ is still an issue for many teachers today.

– See more at:

Essex: head praises ‘greatly loved’ trans teacher

A transgender teacher has been praised for her courage and popularity by staff and pupils at a secondary school in Essex ahead of her transition this summer.

The unnamed teacher had formerly been living as a man and pupils were told this week that she would be returning in the autumn following transition to live as a woman.

Read more:

Rick Connors – it gets better Australia

Mr Connors, a teacher at Wanganui Park Secondary College in Shepparton, Australia shares his story and explains how his school will show support for all same-sex attracted, transgender and sexually diverse students. This video was shown in his school’s assembly as part of “It gets better Australia” week.

The hunt for LGBT equality in schools | @lgbt_lawyer in @SecEd_Education

What can schools do to meet their legal requirements and ensure staff are treated equally, irrespective of sexuality. Legal expert Paul Maddock (@lgbt_lawyer) advises.

The introduction of the Equality Act in 2010 was a landmark legal development designed to offer workers fair protection from discrimination. However, at a recent conference hosted by the NASUWT teachers’ union, research suggested that the majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teachers have been subjected to discrimination during their careers because of their sexuality. – See more at:

LGBTed needs you! (formerly is a website to help LGBT teachers be the role models they needed when they were at school Nobody should feel they need to hide who they are at school, but we recognise that this is harder in some schools than others.

Simply by being adults who are comfortable being openly gay, bisexual, lesbian or trans* then we show being LGBT for what it really is – natural and usual.  This website contains:

  • Case studies and stories of teachers and other school-based (or college-based) professionals who are out at school, hopefully with supportive statements from senior leadership teams, pupils and parents.

We’re also looking to add:

  • Information from teaching unions, the Department for Education and from C of E and Catholic Schools on their ‘official line’ on being openly LGBT in school. This will initially be focused on England but we hope to extend this to other countries in time.
  • Links to support sites, including, Stonewall, Schools Out and others, where education professionals can get further information and guidance on how to make their schools more LGBT friendly.

Our case studies and stories

We’re looking for stories that showcase out LGBT teachers. Ideally we would like

  • Videos (up to 6 minutes) or blogs (up to 1000 words) telling the story of why you (or a colleague/teacher) came out, why it was important, and the reaction from others.
  • Reactions from senior leader and other colleagues, if possible.
  • Reactions from pupils (current or former) explaining why they think it’s a good thing.
  • Reactions from parents (current or former) explaining why they supported it.

It’s really helpful to have images or video of you and/or any events you’ve spoken at, displays you’ve put up, of colleagues and (with all of the appropriate permissions) students.

Please get in touch with any questions.

Teachers TV: Gay Teachers

A programme from 2007.

Is there an endemic culture of homophobia in schools? This programme follows the lives of five inspirational gay teachers to find out how they cope with school. There are estimated to be more than 25,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teachers in the UK. Research shows that 99 per cent of teachers are too scared to come out, as four out of five have experienced homophobic abuse at work. One teacher tells of his experiences dealing with a headteacher he felt was homophobic, whilst another teacher struggles to come out to his class.

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