Dear Parents & Carers
I would like to thank the student leaders of our LGBT+ group, known as HERO (Helping Educate Regarding Orientation) and all the students who take part in the meetings and contribute in other ways.
The group has had a significant impact throughout school. We have seen a sharp fall in incidents of homophobic bullying and a similar fall in the use of homophobic language justified as ‘banter’. Much of this is due to the profile of HERO around school and particularly Mitchell in Year 12 whose energy and creativity have ensured all students know about and respect the group. However, I would like to show my respect and express my gratitude to all those students who, when faced with homophobic language, are challenging it themselves. I expect staff to do the same (and they do) but I am delighted that students are now doing it. Like with most things in schools, students listen to each other far more than they do to staff.
I have spoken to students who, when faced with homophobic ‘banter’, simply look the person in the eye and say: “Yeah, I’m gay – get over it.” The simple message of HERO is that some people are gay, some people are straight, some are bi and some are trans – get over it. I can’t express enough how delighted I am, as are the school governors and all the staff, to see the changes in school culture due to this group.
It isn’t perfect; far from it. Meetings are attended by around 30-35 students, which means we have many students who choose not to go. There are still incidents of homophobic language and, though greatly reduced, we have still sanctioned students this year for homophobic bullying. Having said all that, the improvements are significant and HERO is still only two terms old. The Mayor has visited to see how it is working and other schools are now in touch wanting advice on how to start their own groups.
This sits in contrast to what we have seen in the news over the last few weeks around the country, with schools subject to demonstrations and staff subject to death threats. All schools are legally and morally bound to promote values essential for life in modern Britain and this includes tolerance. This is something Ofsted inspect us on and if schools are neglecting it, they will be found to be inadequate.
Why then, given that Ofsted had already approved all the resources and teaching used in these primary schools, was the Secretary of State for Education, and the local MP so slow to support the school’s leadership? And when they eventually did offer their support, why were they so lukewarm in doing so (“We support the Head’s decisions…” etc)? Why not say that the leadership of the schools have the full support of the government in promoting tolerance? Why not say that there is nothing that can be said or taught to children which will make the slightest difference to whether they are gay, straight, bi or trans – they will be what they will be? Some will be straight, some will be gay, some will be bi and some will be trans – get over it.
With best wishes
Andy Perry – Head Teacher