Saturday 30 November 2013

LGBT Conference: Bigotry divides, collective action unites

I've been to more meetings in Mander Hall than I can remember, but today's NUT LGBT Conference has to be one of the best events that I have attended there at NUT HQ.

As a National Executive member on the LGBT Advisory Committee (in fact I think it's the only National NUT body which I've been elected to unchallenged - which perhaps tells its own story!), I was really pleased to see such a good turnout at this year's Conference - and, even more, to hear the analysis and insight in the contributions made from both the top-table speakers and the LGBT teachers attending.

One theme that ran through many of the contributions was how this Government's attacks on education were part of a wider attack on communities and on social cohesion.

Owen Jones spoke about the progress that has been made in social attitudes but pointed out how trade unions and other campaigners had helped bring about those changes as well.

Natacha Kennedy linked the educational damage that has come with the standardised testing and other policies central to the 'GERM' - the neo-liberal Global Education Reform Movement  - with the social damage that comes from policies designed to segregate and divide communities. 

Some telling points were made by Nigel Utton, a Headteacher from, as he put it, one of the least inclusive authorities, Kent, where children are still segregated by the 11-plus. Nigel questioned whether Gove and the Government want equality, rather whether they want to segregate and divide in order to prevent us from working together to fight their damaging policies.

The workshops and panel discussion gave some useful ideas on how to confront prejudice amd make schools more  'LGBT friendly', such as the ideas and resources on There were some excellent stories given, illustrating how young people will come together to oppose inequality, especially if they are given the opportunity to discuss and challenge prejudice and discrimination. 

A number of delegates called for the NUT to pay particular attention to encouraging schools to participate in LGBT History Month in February. LGBT teachers will, of course, be to the fore in pushing for the Union to support and develop such initiatives but this has to be the responsibility of all of us active in the NUT.

Teachers have a particular responsibility to tackle homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools. However, we are also well-placed to explain, to educate and to make sure that young people learn to unite together against those who would try and divide us.

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