Manchester LGBT school ‘could save pupils forced out of mainstream education’

Plans to set up the country’s first LGBT school in Manchester could help save the lives of pupils whose education is blighted by bullying, a charity has said.

Details today emerged of a possible scheme from LGBT Youth North West to create a school for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people in the city.

While they have since said that no plans for a school have been drawn up as yet, the idea has garnered support from national transgender charity Sparkle.

Sparkle chair Richard Fox told MM: “The big question isn’t really whether there should be an LGBT school or not, it’s why there might be a need for one in the first place. The point is that LGBT pupils are being forced out of mainstream education because of bullying.

“We need to resolve that side of the problem first, and then if that fails then an LGBT school would work as a concept.

“We can’t punish pupils by leaving them in mainstream schools if there isn’t the framework there to help them.

“It does come down to saving lives. But before that is making sure that every person should be able to have a full education without fear of being bullied or harassed.

“Whether you are LGBT or not, if you aren’t given the opportunity to have a full education then you are not going to succeed in life.”

LGBT Youth North West has been given £63,000 of funding to transform the Joyce Layland LGBT Centre, part of which could go towards an LGBT-inclusive school, which they likened to the famous Harvey Milk School in New York.

In a statement on its website, LGBT Youth North West said: “No school plans have been developed currently. We are at very early consultation stages.

“If we explore setting up an alternative education provision, this provision will be open to all pupils, and we would expect many pupils to not be LGBT.

“It will also be in addition to what we currently do now, which is train over 10,000 pupils and teachers in mainstream schools each year, so we can make all mainstream schools safer for all pupils.

“We work with some super schools that are really helping remove homophobia, biphobia and transphobia from education and we are proud of all their hard work.”

According to The Guardian, the potential new school could take 40 full-time students, with 20-part time places also available.

Last September, 14-year-old Elizabeth Lowe hanged herself in a Manchester park because she feared telling her parents that she was gay.

The charity’s strategic director Amelia Lee told The Guardian: “This is about saving lives. Despite the laws that claim to protect gay people from homophobic bullying, the truth is that in schools especially, bullying is still incredibly common and causes young people to feel isolated and alienated, which often leads to truanting and, in the worst-case scenarios, to suicide.

Mr Fox added: “LGBT Youth North West are an amazing organisation and I’m sure they will do a lot of great stuff with the funding they’ve been given.

“LGBT initiatives should be about inclusion, but schools need the education and support to help facilitate that. LGBT Youth do that really well.

“This feasibility study that they’re looking at will really make a difference to the people in those schools that are failing to provide proper support.”

Image courtesy of Anna Day, with thanks.

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