Suffolk County Council hosts Rainbow Conference to improve LGBT equality in schools and stamp out bullying

Rainbow Flag at Suffolk Pride outside UCS.

Rainbow Flag at Suffolk Pride outside UCS. - Credit: Archant

School workers across Suffolk are being encouraged to learn more about how they can improve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality in the classroom.

Matt Woor at Norwich Pride.

Matt Woor at Norwich Pride. - Credit: Archant

The Suffolk Rainbow Conference is being hosted by Suffolk County Council (SCC) in a bid to stamp out homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying among pupils and to teach children to celebrate different family structures.

Matt Woor, chairman of the SCC LGBT Network, organised the event after a young woman who was doing work experience at the council revealed that she had been tormented at her school for being a lesbian.

Monday’s conference at University Campus Suffolk will include speeches from Janet Palmer, Ofsted’s national lead for PSHE education; Sarah Rose, education champions coordinator for LGBT rights charity Stonewall; as well a number of young LGBT people talking about their experiences.

It aims to demonstrate how discrimination affects young people; show how Ofsted inspectors are guided to inspect and report on LGBT equalities in schools; and help people recognise the impact of language choices when talking about LGBT people and issues.

Mr Woor said: “We want to make sure every school is able to share best practices and create a better curriculum to support LGBT students and families with LGBT children so they can be more supportive and reduce incidents of bullying.”

This comes just over a week after a gunman stormed a LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida and killed 49 people.

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Despite being planned long before the tragedy, Mr Woor said the conference aimed to tackle this sort of hatred against community groups at the earliest stage.

“Families look different, some are single parent families, some may be mixed race, mixed languages, or disabled,” Mr Woor added. “We often hear about the ‘traditional’ family, but I don’t know what that is anymore.

“We want to create a curriculum that helps recognise different family structures, and teaches people to celebrate those differences in people.”

Mr Woor said there was still a dangerous legacy in the UK to the Section 28 law passed by Government in 1988, and overturned in 2003, that banned the promotion of homosexuality within education.

“Schools have to get past that legacy,” Mr Woor said. “We are not teaching kids about gay sex, we are teaching them about relationships, family structures and the people around them.”

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