28th March 2022 | Education
This article first featured in the July edition of Headteacher Update Magazine.
It is now mandatory for all English schools to teach an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. Educating children from an early age about diversity and equipping them with the skills to better understand and celebrate this is one of the most important things we can teach in schools. It is the key to eradicating discrimination in society and fostering a future generation who are more empathetic and inclusive towards one another.
Teaching pupils, particularly younger children, about Pride and what it means to be LGBTQ+ is sometimes perceived as a thorny subject. Sex education should be treated with sensitivity in schools, to ensure that children feel safe if they wish to open up and express themselves. It’s vital to equip teachers with the resources and skills that will help them confidently teach diversity in the curriculum and usualise it as a subject for children. Sharing real-life stories from people who come from different backgrounds can be a powerful way for schools to approach this. Hearing people share stories of their own lived experience, helps to nurture empathy and understanding and can make sensitive themes such as inclusivity and sexuality easier to understand.
When these real-life, story-based lessons are presented in an immersive way, the impact is even greater, offering an incredibly powerful and engaging way to introduce children to different themes and allowing them to explore new cultures and perspectives which they otherwise might not experience. This is especially powerful when teaching an inclusive curriculum. Some pupils might have never met someone who is openly LGBTQ+, or they might have even witnessed, or been subjected to, negative stereotyping and homophobia. Sharing human stories with pupils through an interactive, 360° learning environment gives them the freedom to explore and hear first-hand from people whose lived experiences can help broaden understanding and foster inclusivity.
Immersive storytelling platforms like Lyfta allow schools to take pupils on virtual trips, for example to Curacao in the Caribbean, where they can hear from Qwensley, a young gay man living in a conservative Christian community. Children explore what it means to Qwensley to be part of the LGBTQ+ community and the challenges he faced, whilst discovering the power of resilience, empathy and acceptance. Introducing children to multiple perspectives, and demonstrating diversity will not only help to broaden pupils’ horizons and sense of cultural capital, but will also equip them with the knowledge and confidence to express their own identities and be proud of who they are. Human storytelling enables teachers to bring depth, breadth and meaning to sensitive and complex concepts for children and can create a safe space for the class to discuss and engage with the themes.
With the coronavirus pandemic limiting travel and close human interactions, speaking to children about diversity around the world is more important than ever. Technology is a wonderful tool for broadening students’ horizons, bringing human stories to life and helping to develop more confident, empathetic and globally-conscious thinkers who will go on to make a positive impact in the world.
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