An online survey of LGBT people, including those that aren’t part of a trade union, was conducted in 2017 by the Trades Union Congress (TUC). It found that only 51 percent of respondents were open about their sexuality to everyone at work.
The survey found that almost half (48 percent) of respondents said they had experienced bullying or harassment at work, compared to just over a third of non-trans* respondents.
Evidence shows that people perform better, and are happier, when they can be themselves in the workplace; they are more likely to be satisfied with their job security, their sense of achievement and the support they receive from their manager. They can also act as an important role model for pupils, who are more likely to feel able to be authentic and open themselves where they see staff members doing the same.
School leaders should, therefore, seek to develop and maintain an environment that welcomes diversity, supports equality and encourages staff members to be themselves. This guidance summarises the document issued by the NAHT on supporting all LGBT and trans* staff.
NB. This document refers to all instances of transgender as “trans*” to avoid any form of labelling which may be incorrect or sensitive.
An inclusive environment
School leaders are in a position to demonstrate strong leadership and take responsibility for promoting, developing and defending an inclusive school environment.
It should be communicated to all staff members that creating and maintaining an inclusive school environment is central to the school’s ethos, and all members of staff should take responsibility for promoting such an environment and tackling homophobic and biphobic bullying.
Schools should avoid letting complaints from parents, governors or staff, interfere with their commitment to an inclusive environment.
Schools can use code of conduct policies to set out the expectation that all staff members should model the school’s values and behaviours, for example, by not using homophobic or biphobic language. Policies should also be appropriate to all types of family and relationships.
Staff members should be encouraged to teach about LGBT issues in an accessible and appropriate way; leaders can ensure LGBT people, issues and experiences are reflected across the curriculum to celebrate diversity, and ensure visibility of LGBT perspectives. Relationships and sex education (RSE) lessons can include discussions about LGBT people and their experiences, and information regarding online safety.
An intolerant working environment can have a serious impact on mental health, happiness and motivation of school staff members as well as pupils. A work environment that is hostile towards trans* individuals and issues is not one in which trans* staff will feel comfortable in , when disclosing their gender identity or history to others
Even though it has been more than 10 years since the repeal of section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, it has been revealed that 77 percent of pupils have never learnt about trans* and gender identity at school. Just 3 percent of LGBT pupils know of an openly trans* member of staff, and 44 percent of trans* pupils said staff at their school were not familiar with the term ‘trans*’ and what it means.
Schools have a role to play in creating an inclusive and safe environment for all trans* staff members and pupils, regardless of what point in their transition they are in.
School leaders should follow the advice above and:
- Pro-actively reach out to ‘out’ trans* parents and carers, ensuring they all feel able to take part in school life.
- Ensure all pupils (including trans* pupils and pupils with trans* parents) feel equally included in lessons, and trans* staff members feel positively represented.
- Ensure the dress codes for pupils and staff members are modified to avoid gender stereotypes.
A whole-school approach
As good practice, the school’s commitment to an inclusive learning and working environment should be celebrated and made clearly visible to staff members, pupils, parents and governors. Schools can demonstrate this practice by ensuring:
- All staff members and pupils know that developing an inclusive environment and tackling the related bullying is a priority for the school’s leadership team.
- Policies on developing an inclusive and diverse environment are clearly displayed and publicised throughout the school.
- Their commitment to equality and inclusion is clearly communicated to parents through newsletters, social media and other channels, with specific mention made in relation to LGBT inclusion.
- Parents understand and sign up to the school’s inclusion and anti-bullying policies. Schools should ensure regular communication through letters and emails, and that parents are consulted through surveys, forums or meetings,
- Equality and diversity policies specifically mention LGBT issues.
- Job advertisements explicitly confirm the school’s commitment to LGBT inclusion and equality.
Working with other schools and organisations
School leaders can develop their work by partnering with other schools and colleges who are already engaged in work to tackle homophobic bullying and improve inclusivity, such as combining resources and sharing knowledge on relevant issues.
Working with feeder schools can ensure a consistent approach when pupils move from primary to secondary school; this can included developing joint policies,
Training and CPD
Many teachers lack the appropriate training for handling homophobic or biphobic bullying, with 90 percent of teachers having never been trained on tackling the issues.
School leaders should ensure training and CPD on how to develop and maintain an active commitment to inclusivity are available to all staff members. Training and CPD that covers LGBT issues, and how to interact respectfully with LGBT people, should also be made available.
Confidentiality and reporting
If a member of staff chooses to be open with their school leader or colleagues, this information should not be shared further without their consent. Developing a transitioning at work policy can ensure any member of staff that wishes to transition will be able to work closely with the school to plan how to best inform staff and pupils of their plan to transition.
School leaders should provide ways for staff members and pupils to raise concerns, report bullying and provide feedback anonymously, if they wish.
The effectiveness of any policy adopted with the aim of improving inclusivity should be regularly reviewed, and careful records should be kept of the number of complaints made by LGBT staff, pupils and parents, and the outcomes of these complaints.
Any incidents of bullying that are motivated by prejudice should be carefully recorded, monitored and reported. These records can be used to target future anti-bullying interventions and amend inclusion policies and approaches.
All-staff surveys can be a useful way to measure levels of support for policies and obtain feedback on further improvements to be made.
When it comes to trans* staff and pupils, confidentiality is key; care must be taken around the storage and handling of old documentation that refers to an individual’s previous gender, name or title.
Every transition will be different; some will involve medical intervention which may require time off work.
Time off for treatments associated with gender reassignment is specifically protected under the Equality Act 2010, and trans* staff may need time off that is not in line with the school’s policy for absences for other staff members.
Schools should be flexible about any temporary adjustments to help those returning to work, and to those who may not be able to immediately undertake all aspects of their former role.
Clear arrangements should be made around the use of toilets and changing facilities. If any member of staff no longer wishes to use their gender-specific facilities with a trans* person, then it is they, not the trans* person, who should be asked to use alternative facilities.
School leaders can consider making unisex or gender-neutral facilities available – this is particularly important for individuals who do not identify as either a man or a woman.
More guidance on supporting LGBT and trans* staff can be found on the NAHT website.
NAHT (2017) ‘Guidance for school leaders on supporting LGB+ staff’
NAHT (2017) ‘Guidance for school leaders on supporting trans staff’
Trades Union Congress (2017) ‘The Cost of Being Out at Work’