Published on 16 February 2016
LGBT education is ‘non-existent’ and teachers are ‘afraid to tackle it’, according to a leading expert on homophobia and LGBT issues.
Andrew Dalton, Lecturer in Social Sciences at the University of Sunderland, is calling for more to be done in schools to address prejudice and stigma, coinciding with LGBT History Month held nationally in February each year.
He said: "It is rare that LGBT history education is tackled in schools or put into the mainstream curriculum. LGBT history is a shared history with all others, and so it is vital that the lives of LGBT people are recognised if we are going to do anything to tackle homophobia within school environments.
"Some teachers hold onto echoes of Section 28, where homosexuality was not allowed to be taught in schools, and so are afraid to tackle it. Key historical, artistic and literary characters, such as Tennessee Williams, have had their sexualities largely whitewashed out of the curriculum, and when they are mentioned their sexuality is rarely seen as a motivator of their behaviour or identity."
As part of LGBT History North East the Tyne and Wear Hub, led by Andrew and funded by the University of Sunderland, the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, and various local trade unions, is running a free teacher training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) session aimed at helping to incorporate LGBT history into the curriculum.
He added: "Hopefully our CPD session can begin to give teachers, who may not be confident with LGBT issues, the support they need to discuss this in class, and in their curriculum, to tackle some of the prejudices and injustices around being LGBT."
April Wilson, a Trainee Teacher from the University of Sunderland, said: "I am attending this event to further my knowledge of not only LGBT history, but to also gain insight into what the future holds for families of all dynamics.
"As a teacher I encounter diversity on a regular basis however not all diversity is celebrated in schools today. I plan to be part of a changing culture which educates and nurtures all children from all backgrounds.
"I believe that this change in culture must start with teachers if we are to encourage supportive and accepting attitudes in schools to break down existing barriers. I hope to learn how we can support, nurture and celebrate diversity and shift away from this ‘only the norm is tolerated’ attitude. For many schools these are sensitive and ground breaking areas, let's hope we can break some ground together."
Following the teacher training session there is an afternoon of free events aimed at raising awareness of LGBT history amongst the public, and includes academic talks on some of the UK’s most iconic moments, including World War Two and the Suffrage Movement.
Andrew Dalton concluded: "We need much more of a heightened awareness of LGBT history, and the contribution of key LGBT figures and their achievements needs to be put within the school curriculum. Whatremembrance events such as Holocaust Memorial Day have taught us is that the lessons of history should be highlighted and not forgotten.
"LGBT people have faced genocide from the mass executions of gay people during World War Two in death camps, to modern day Islamic State throwing gay men from rooftops. Many people are unaware that this has happened throughout history."
The FREE CPD training for teachers is being held at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle, 9am-12pm February 20. Places are limited and based on a first come, first served basis. For more information or to book your place email firstname.lastname@example.org
The FREE public talks are open to all and run from 12:15 until 4pm, also at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle, on February 20. For more information visit http://www.lgbthistorymonthne.blogspot.co.uk/