Photos: Just Like Us

Just Like Us has given a primary school teacher and students who started a Pride Group awards for championing LGBTQ+ inclusivity.

In an announcement on 21 December, the charity confirmed that Nicola Collins, a teacher at St Stephen’s CofE primary School in west London, has been awarded LGBTQ+ Inclusive Teacher of the Year for her work in making her student’s environment more welcoming of the queer community.

“As a gay teacher with children, I talk about my family as a workshop for each year group and share my own experiences of growing up gay and the challenges it brought,” Nicola said. “Also how they, as the next generation, have the ability to change our world for the better.”

The teacher explained the type of activities she does with children to educate them about the LGBTQ+ community from an early age.

Nicola added: “In key stage 2, we cover the above along with challenging stereotypes, gender identity and vocabulary used within the LGBTQ+ community. We also hold a rainbow dress up day. Reception also held a mini Pride Day this year!

“As a school, we feel passionate about challenging stereotypes and homophobic language. As a result, the children in our school are well informed and accepting of all people no matter who they are!”

Also recognised by the Just Like Us 2021 Role Model Awards as the winners of Outstanding Pride Group is Plume, Maldon’s Community Academy in Essex.

With the assistance of the Just Like Us Pride Groups programme, Alison Ollett, a drama teacher at the school, helped students set up a safe space for LGBTQ+ allies and pupils alike.

“The request for a Pride Group came directly from our students. It was the natural step on our LGBT+ inclusion journey,” she said.

Students are able to attend the group on their lunch break and it currently has more than 60 members who regularly attend.

Alison added: “Plume Pride also offers a space for students to seek support from staff, since holding regular meetings many of our trans students have been able to start their social transition. Many of our LGB+ students have received support on coming out and this has help them build relationships with their parents.”

She continued: “We offer family support too, so Plume Pride staff can sit as student advocates in parent meetings where conversation about gender identity or sexual orientation are more difficult.

“Just Like Us has helped us so much. Whether it be setting out the ground rules or code of conduct, session content or their big event support they are our rock! We are pretty confident we know what we are doing in our Pride Group meetings but our students keep us busy so having the resources and advice to have from Just Like Us is excellent.”

The 2021 Role Model Awards, supported by J.P. Morgan, aim to spotlight LGBTQ+ inclusion in schools across the UK.

“We are delighted to celebrate the hard work of so many incredible school staff – and young people – who are paving the way for LGBT+ inclusion in their schools, including through all the challenges of the pandemic,” said Dominic Arnall, Chief Executive of Just Like Us.

“Congratulations and a huge thank you to our winners, runners up and all school staff who entered and are making positive change in their schools so that LGBT+ young people can thrive, and showing that you don’t need to be an expert to make your school more LGBT+ inclusive.

“At a time when LGBT+ school pupils are twice as likely to be bullied and contemplate suicide, it is vital that they get positive messaging about being LGBT+ so they don’t leave school feeling ashamed of who they are and we are so grateful to teachers ensuring that the future looks different for them.”

Runners-up for LGBT+ Inclusive Teacher of the Year are Neil Wilson at Waterhead Academy in Oldham, Manchester, and Natalie Chyba at Howell’s School in Cardiff, Wales.

Runners-up for Outstanding Pride Group are Brinsworth Academy in Rotherham, Yorkshire, and Blackpool Sixth Form College.

More information on Just Like Us can be found by clicking here.