Fifteen per cent of secondary school teachers in the UK are “not very comfortable” discussing LGBTQIA+ topics in the classroom, according to new research by Just Like Us, the LGBTQIA+ young people’s charity.

The research was independently carried out by Teacher Tapp, a daily survey app for teachers, and asked 6,094 teachers in December 2023: “How comfortable do you feel discussing LGBT+ topics with your pupils?”

This same question was previously asked in 2012 to 4,200 secondary school teachers.

According to the research, a teacher’s “comfort level” depends on their seniority within the schooling structure.

This was demonstrated with 92 per cent of head teachers “completely” or “mostly” comfortable discussing LGBTQIA+ topics. This was a 7 per cent increase from 2021.

A gradual decline was observed as seniority level decreased, with 86 percent of senior and middle leaders and just 81 per cent of classroom teachers.

A secondary factor identified was the age of the teacher. One in five teachers over the age of 50 are “not very comfortable” or “completely uncomfortable” discussing LGBTQIA+ topics in the classroom.

Younger members of the team were less likely to feel uncomfortable, with 16 per cent of those in their 40s, 13 per cent of those in their 30s, and 15 per cent of those in their 20s saying the same in 2023.

Laura Mackay, chief executive of Just Like Us, said: “It is incredibly disappointing to see that progress on LGBT+ inclusion is stagnating in the frequently transphobic climate.

Photo: Just Like US

“LGBTQIA+ young people cannot afford for progress to come to a standstill, and we are so grateful to all the teachers taking part in School Diversity Week, running a Pride Group or simply taking time to listen to, and support, their LGBT+ pupils.

“LGBT+ young people are twice as likely to be bullied during their time at school, and as young adults, they are three times more likely to face a mental health condition. If those supporting and educating them feel uncomfortable or treat LGBT+ topics as something that is taboo, these barriers will remain.

Mackay continued: “Just Like Us’ programmes aim to make LGBT+ inclusion not only comfortable for teachers, but easy, empowering and joyful, and I would urge all teachers to make use of the resources available to them.

“As we mark 20 years since the repeal of the dangerous and damaging Section 28, we must continue to push for better outcomes for the next generation of LGBT+ young people because, frankly, they deserve better.”

Matthew Knowles, an English teacher in London, said: “In the current climate, support for LGBTIA+ students in schools is more essential than ever.

“Because of dialogue amongst politicians and scaremongering in the media, some students seem more emboldened than ever to bully and attack LGBT+ rights. This is having an extremely negative effect on LGBT+ students in and out schools. It is often forcing many students to retreat back into the closet.

“School leaders are also finding it increasingly difficult to balance the rights of other protected groups with protections for LGBT+ people enshrined in current legislation. As teachers and school leaders we must continue to safeguard the LGBT+ students within our institutions, and to challenge bullying and hate wherever we encounter it.”

The charity has released the research alongside a new billboard campaign across England, Wales and Scotland, with support from JCDecaux, marking LGBT History Month.