School Revision: what happened on the day!

Literature

Shortly before 80 UK schools announced they had rewritten their uniform policies to include gender neutral dress codes, we held an exciting event. Contributing to the need to make schools more open to children who are questioning their gender identity, School Revision: Trans Inclusion in Education was a day-long event that began to imagine what school life for young, trans people could look like in the future. Taking place in Lark Hall primary school in Stockwell, south London on Saturday 11th of June, the event was planned around the daily life and school timetable of gender variant school pupils. It was a collaborative, voluntary event organised by grassroots voluntary organisation Wipe Out Transphobia, not-for-profit Community Interest Company Gendered Intelligence, former teacher now campaigner Juno Roche and non-profit project All About Trans. Read more about why we ran this event.


On the day

The space held 65 delegates in total including 14 speakers or lesson leaders. Delegates included educators (primary, special needs, Montessori, secondary, further education), legal professionals, activists, trainers, support workers, young trans people, LGBTQ+ organisations, teacher’s trade unions and local authorities. ‘Trans people’ is used to mean the broad spectrum of people who feel they are gender variant in some way, including but not limited to transsexual, transgender, non-binary and gender queer people.

“Excellent networking opportunity – some really useful connections. Very positive, a lovely welcoming, friendly atmosphere. Raised my awareness of trans young people…the young people’s insights were insightful, intelligent and considered.” Helen Morton, Paul Hamlyn Foundation

Bridget Chapman

Bridget Chapman

At Morning Assembly, Dr Jay Stewart co-founder of Gendered Intelligence (GI), and a co-organiser, kicked off the event, established the participant agreement and ran through housekeeping. He was interrupted by four young GI members who presented their school of the future through a Dr Who Timelord theme. Sharing their personal experiences in school in 2016, they jumped to the future and set their School Ethos for the day, thus creating an inclusive, positive and participatory atmosphere. Bridget Chapman, keynote speaker of the day and Assistant Branch Secretary of Lambeth National Union of Teachers officially opened the event. Her opening speech is on her blog and our website.

“Was really interesting finding ways of improving education and well-being of trans students. Was so inspiring and empowering being in a room full of people wanting to make a difference for the best. Really want to help others make a difference now.” Young delegate

Media Studies

The day was broken down into three periods, with 3 lessons in each period. These followed Morning Assembly and included Biology, PE (2 lessons), Design and Technology, Media Studies, Literature, Drama and two workshops on supporting schools to be trans inclusive. Over 40 people attended each workshop and the lessons held on average 14 at a time, enabling exercises and group discussions. They took place in the classrooms and playground, whilst the larger groups gathered in the main hall where lunch and networking also happened. We tweeted throughout the day using the hashtag #TransPupilsAspire.

“Hearing first hand accounts of experiences of trans people and what can help to feel accepted & improve wellbeing [was very useful]. Lots of ideas to take back into school.”  Hannah Stainer, Farleigh FE College

At the end of the day, the Drama group presented several short plays created earlier, including “I Am…”, where a large group of people of all backgrounds presented their identities around the room. These were met with a wonderful reception.

Key Outcomes and ‘Homework’

A voluntary group of three scribes spent the day gathering observations, ideas and action points from each lesson which they then presented as key findings at the end of the day. This homework for all delegates to take away with them included:

  • The importance of having adult role models in every school supporting gender variant pupils.
  • Provide learning materials and classroom activities where trans pupils can see themselves represented.Open floor
  • Challenge stereotypes and gendered assumptions and lobby for syllabus change.
  • Make more space for gender neutrality in the school but ensure gender questioning pupils don’t feel exposed and aren’t outed without consent.
  • Respect individuals and use correct pronouns.
  • Make no assumptions about the pupils in your school. When in doubt ask.
  • Put policies and procedures in place. Inclusivity should be an essential part of teacher training.

An open floor discussion followed, chaired by co-organiser and campaigner Juno Roche, with co-organiser Kate Hutchinson from Wipe Out Transphobia and Dr Jay Stewart. Delegates offered comments, insights and key learning from the day. Bridget Chapman closed the day with her final insights – audio recording available here.

Keynote speech from Bridget Chapman

This speech was given by Bridget Chapman, Assistant Branch Secretary of the Lambeth branch of the National Union of Teachers, during the opening session of School Revision: Trans Inclusion in Education on Saturday 11 June at Lark Hall Primary School in Lambeth. Originally posted on Bridget’s blog.

Hello everyone, my name is Bridget Chapman. I’m the Assistant Branch Secretary of the Lambeth branch of the National Union of Teachers, and I’m extremely proud and honoured to welcome you all here today to Lambeth, to School Revision, and to a glimpse of what the inclusive school of the future might look like.Bridget Chapman

I’m delighted to see that the audience today is so diverse and I am particularly delighted that a number of students are here. I apologise to them if what I am about to say is slightly teacher-focused.  I want to point out to them that the voice that really matters today is theirs and not mine, and that their input is what will make this day brilliant.

A little bit about me: I’ve been teaching for 13 years. I worked in London secondaries for over 10 years then, two years ago, I moved to the Kent coast where I work with unaccompanied asylum seekers (also known as young people) teaching them English and providing pastoral support.
Teaching is my second career. I spent 10 years working in the music industry before that. Believe me, dealing with 30 teenagers is a breeze compared to corralling band members and record company executives with egos inversely proportionate to their talent.

The music industry was fun though and I enjoyed the ten years I spent working in it. But ultimately I came to find it stifling. As a woman there were very few role models in the upper echelons of the industry. So I saw no place for myself there long term. Because it’s important isn’t it, to see yourself in your environment? To know that there’s a place for you, that there are role models to aspire to, and that you, and all you bring, are valued. If you can’t see that, then it’s very difficult to stay.

The young people I work with currently are from countries which are war torn, where there are oppressive regimes, or where poverty has driven people from their homes. They are extraordinary people who have made journeys of thousands of miles by themselves, and survived terrible experiences en route. They are all unique, ingenious, and inspiring individuals. The press – and the local press in Kent are particularly bad – usually portray them in a negative way as if they have nothing to offer because they are ‘other’.  To counter this I do all I can to offer the young people I work with role models that they can relate to – people who look like them, speak their language or share experiences with them. That’s not always easy, but it’s important. All young people need to see themselves reflected in their environment. This is just basic, isn’t it? I need it. You need it. We all need to know that there is a place for us and that we are valued.

I’ll give you an example. Many of the existing resources for new learners of English have topics like ‘My Summer Holiday’. Can you see an issue here?  A worksheet about choosing between a luxury camping holiday in France or a skiing trip in the Swiss Alps seems like a horrible joke to put in front of students who may have spent months living entirely unwillingly in a refugee camp in Calais. More importantly it feels as it’s setting them up to fail. How can they possibly give of their best; how can I access the rich seams within them, if I offer up tasks based on experiences they have not had and cannot relate to.  So it requires work to include them – but not much. The same tasks are transformed when focused on the subject of taking a journey, rather than going on holiday. Now my students can relate, comment and contribute. Now I am mining their seams of experience. The lesson has become inclusive, or at least much more inclusive, and we are all richer for it.

Keynote speechI mentioned pastoral support a moment ago. For me that’s a small but key part of what we as educators can do to support any young people we work with who identify as trans. There’s a lot more, and today we will unpack what it means to be inclusive across the curriculum, but I want to take a moment to talk about pastoral care because it’s a part of the school day that has been under attack for some time.

Research shows that success at school is inextricably linked to the positive relationships students develop with their teachers, and as a form tutor I know that I played a hugely important role in supporting my tutees to succeed at school by being there for them. We used to have time together in the mornings to laugh, chat and catch up. It was my opportunity to check in with them all and that regular precious time together meant that I knew when they were having an off day or when something was bothering them.  That meant we could sort stuff out, or at the very least begin to sort stuff out, and sometimes just having someone to listen to them in a non-judgemental way was exactly what my students needed to ensure that their day at school was a positive and happy experience, and that they were set up to succeed and be able to learn effectively.

Those opportunities have become fewer and farther between as that precious tutor time is seen as yet another space to ‘make teachers accountable’ and to pile extra pressure on young people. Once I was trusted to make a professional judgement as to how to use that time to support my students. Now that time has been massively eroded and, in some cases, disappeared completely. Now tutor time is seen as additional teaching time and how we spend it is dictated to us. We may be told that we have to spend it checking homework, or doing book scrutinies. We may be told that we have to use it for revision or testing of subject knowledge.  The message that sends out to our students is that time spent supporting them isn’t valuable.Bridget Chapman

Here’s one message I’d like to send out to all the teachers in the audience at the beginning of this day. Any time spent supporting our students is monumentally valuable and we have to fight to protect it. We have to reclaim it where it’s been lost. We do not accept the narrative that says that only things that can be measured are of value. We say that what is valuable is our students and their well being – and that comes first. Because learning can’t happen effectively when our young people are unhappy or in distress. This is absolutely non-negotiable.

For me a key part of today is to ask ourselves what is our job as educators? For me being a teacher means giving the young people I work with the best broad and balanced education possible, to nurture them socially and emotionally, and to make sure that they are aware of all of the choices available to them and have the confidence to make the choices that are best for them. They need to know that there are no right or wrong choices, just ones that are right for them, that will enable them to go on to live happy, healthy and productive lives.

Trans equality matters. Our education institutions should be places where all can learn or work with dignity and respect. Once they have left school trans people have high levels of unemployment and self-employment and, for those who are employed, incomes are well below the national average. These high levels of workplace discrimination across all sectors give schools an additional and significant responsibility to ensure that trans students’ needs are met and that they feel supported and safe in our classrooms.

This isn’t optional. Gender reassignment is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, meaning that trans people are protected from discrimination and harassment in the workplace and in the provision of education and training.

Research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that 91 per cent of trans boys and 66 per cent of trans girls experienced harassment or bullying at school. The EHRC stated that this has led to many gender-variant children “hiding their identity to the detriment of their self-esteem”.

Those are shameful statistics. But let’s be honest with ourselves. The curriculum at the moment is heteronormative, cis-gendered and mainly white. All students are trapped by a narrative that only recognises one way of being!  We need to embed gender variant issues across the curriculum. Let’s celebrate trans identities. Let’s make today the point at which we commit to a fully inclusive curriculum that works for all students, not just some.

Why are we organising this event?

School Revision Logo FINAL HRSo, why are we organising this event? In 2016, Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan gave evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee’s (WEC) Trans Equality Report (2016), saying she was making sure schools were abiding by their responsibilities under the Equality Act. Therefore, she was looking at teacher training, reviewing the curriculum and helping “teachers to be more confident and to support pupils…” who are trans or gender variant.

Research provided to the Trans Equality Report, from the Equality Human Rights Commission, indicates that 91% of trans boys and 66% of trans girls experience harassment or bullying at school, leading to depression, isolation and a desire to leave education as early as possible. It is commonly felt that unless supported, around 40% of young trans people disconnect from education as it becomes an activity that they want to get away from (based on research conducted by LGBT charity Stonewall). Their experience is not aspirational and often they feel unsupported by the structures which should support them to succeed. The majority of schools in the UK are not currently equipped with the skills or awareness of trans issues to adequately support them.

We’ve been in consultation with many schools, academies, and faith schools, and one of the overriding pieces of feedback we had was that head teachers and senior educationalists need advice and to hear the experiences of young transgender people. Head teachers have identified that there needs to be structural and systemic change to allow trans and non-binary pupils to feel safe, secure and aspirational within their schools. Heads have also expressed that they need guidance and help to shape this vision. At present there is no guidance about curriculum from central government to which senior leaders can turn.

Our event fits into the national strategy changes recommended by the WEC report and will create a space where young trans people can feel aspirational, positive and supported fully, and importantly, where educators have the practical information and confidence needed to make their schools more inclusive of gender variant pupils.

Organisers and supporters

The event is organised by volunteers from Wipe Out TransphobiaGendered IntelligenceJuno Roche and All About Trans with support for school and catering costs from NUTATL, and Hogan Lovells International Law Firm.

Welcome to the school of the future

back to school welcomeSchool Revision will imagine and create an education environment that is inclusive of trans people. For one day we will create the school of the future, imagining what it would be like if it was supportive of trans pupils and practicing this through aspirational lessons and workshops.

Currently over 85% of teachers say that they have never used the words ‘transgender’ or ‘gender transition’ in their planning (findings from an offline survey with 246 NUT/ATL members conducted by Juno Roche on trans identities and the PSHE curriculum). School Revision will look at a wide range of interactive lessons to practically explore how to embed trans content and give educators the chance to become immersed in a trans-successful model and share ideas. During the day, we will look at how we can use the curriculum to challenge gender stereotypes and develop a better understanding of trans experiences and challenges.

Participants can take part in tailored lessons, taught by professional teachers and speakers, forming a curriculum and school environment we imagine is inclusive of diverse gender identities. Lessons that explore gender, language and trans lives, will be taught in order that teachers and head teachers can take practical tips back to their classrooms and schools. The event will be hosted by young trans people and designed to inspire educators and begin to give them an action plan to take home and use in the future.