Diversity issues were always important in education, but following both the Equality Act 2010 and revised Ofsted framework they have become important in a different way. The protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation have to be understood and engaged with by all stakeholders.
Sometimes integrating these things into the whole school approach can seem like eating an elephant and become an irritation to teachers, something which might be seen as just another hoop to be jumped through. There is help available though and with regards to the gender reassignment and sexual orientation aspects specifically, but also beyond to the other protected characteristics, LGBT History Month and the partner organisations it works with provide excellent resources. Yesterday was the pre-launch event at Bletchley Park and this gave an insight into some of the ways in which support can be provided. The focus was on Maths, Science and Engineering but went beyond this.
The morning had provided a series of events for schools. At lunch time myself, Karl and others who had registered for the free events arrived. There were a carousel of activities going on. The first thing we did was a whistle stop tour which related to Alan Turing. It was interesting to see the look on the faces of local FE students when the letter of government apology for Turing’s treatment was explained and they heard that in the 1950′s this great scientist had been faced with the choice of jail or chemical castration.
Next we had a session exploring the classroom and LGBT History Month. For me this was the highlight of the day as I heard about a series of websites and resources which were available to support institutions and teachers. Over the last decade I have sat through enough trainings and conferences, as well as waded through enough resources, to know when I am encountering something outstanding, good, requiring improvement or inadequate. These resources and the organisations providing them were clearly outstanding.
The group running the session were Schools Out. The organisations website, (which I have just linked to via their name), provides a range of quality advice including a Student Tool Kit with key do’s and don’ts and other tools which can be accessed for free. Membership is also available for £20 per year. The organisation can provide inset training which is important because some establishments need to have initial training before they move on to events such as LGBT History Month exhibitions or activities.
They are also involved in supporting another excellent website The Classroom which provides a range of free resources for teachers. This site includes a range of lesson plans for all Key Stages and for a range of subjects amongst other things. The two websites just linked to together with the LGBT History Month site provide a suite of resources tho help teachers in a way which helps them move towards meeting outstanding under the new framework.
With all of the protected characteristics one of the most important parts of the process is usualisation, where the relevant terms are sprinkled in without other terms and so they become part of the usual vocabulary. The site has more information on this and on actualisation.
The third activity was a code-breaking session with a demonstration of an Enigma Machine used during the Second World War. I thought it was well presented and a bit cool that we all got to press a button on the machine, Karl thought it was amazing. It was in many ways a demonstration of the excellent educational work that goes on at Bletchley Park.
The day then changed gear and moved to having more of a H.E. feel to it. Firstly we had a paper given by The National Youth Chances Project. This is a 5 year research project which is looking at the experiences of young people aged 16-25 and which is looking for participants to complete a survey. They are looking to be able to compare the experiences of heterosexual and LGBTQ young people and to be able to inform and influence service providers and the NHS and service commissioners. The website has some interesting information on methodology and would be an excellent resource for A Level Sociology teachers to use as a resource, (being able to meet a range of criteria through doing so).
This was followed by a debate on the relationship between science and the LGBT community. The motion being debated was “This House Believes that Science has Been the Enemy of the LGBT Community.” Talking for the motion were Christine Burns MBE and Linda Bellos and against were Annika Joy (from the Science Museum) and Jeff Evans (of Schools Out). Both Karl and I agreed this debate was excellent because it discussed the issues in a way which was sensible and intelligent. What became apparent as the debate went on was that everybody was to some extent or another a critical realist and there was actually little difference between them. Where the differences did exist it was on the emphasis given to Science as an institutional thing which was put forward as being objective and which used its systems of peer review and ideas about “dominant knowledge” to control the way LGBT people were thought about and treated against science being a cultural and historical entity and being something done by scientists who were individuals. This debate question is good and if applied to A Level Sociology could be amended in various ways. For example when looking at the debates around Feminism and theory and if Sociology is malestream you could debate ”This House Believes that Sociology has Been the Enemy of Women” if one were to
In the evening there were a number of talks as well as a performance from Norwich Pride Choir, who did an excellent rendition of Something Inside So Strong in their programme. Several of the talks related to Alan Turing and one came from Prof Barry Cooper from University of Leeds and another from Turing’s nephew Sir John Dermot Turing who has been working closely with Bletchley Park (as this article on a current exhibition shows). There were also a couple of talks emphasising the work of Schools Out for those who had not been at the earlier event(s) and this included a presentation from Elly Barnes who is an excellent educationalist who the apparently put at the top of the IoS Pink List according to this HuffPost article and whose work in Stoke Newington is highlighted by Ofsted as an example of good practice.
This pre-launch event for LGBT History Month was then something I would recommend to anybody in the future, as are the LGBT History Month events which they organise and the wider resources promoted. As an outgoing organiser said in their presentation they are a voluntary organisation punching well above their weight. It was all outstanding.