Equality and inclusion are not side issues; they are not after-thoughts or secondary considerations. They should sit at the heart of education, and at Pearson, we are serious about doing what we can to help make this a reality.
While there are many groups who could be better reflected in education, in Pride month I thought I would reflect on LGBT+ inclusion in particular.
I was honoured to speak at the recent Pride in Education conference, of which Pearson was a sponsor. It was inspiring to see educators and contributors from over 50 countries come together with so much passion for LGBT+ representation and to hear how they were working to ensure every one of their learners feels included and accepted, irrespective of their sexuality.
It was not that long ago – 1967 in fact - that people like war hero Alan Turing were being prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act.
Much has changed since then. There have been significant strides in areas like Marriage and Hate Crimes, but changing the law is not enough. Many in the LGBT+ community still suffer from intolerance.
Our schools are a reflection of our wider society, and yet Stonewall research tells us that homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools is still a real problem.
I often think about some of the children that I remember at school and anyone who was different, was excluded rather than included. It must have been so difficult for those children to feel comfortable and happy at school, let alone achieve their full potential.
As educators, we can help children that might be in that position today. Pearson can, and will play its part too.
So, what can we do?
I can’t pretend to have easy answers. The truth is that to win this battle we all need to take many steps together if we are to foster the inclusive learning environment that we all seek. However, here are some of the steps we are taking at Pearson to make a difference.
Pearson is part of the Joint Council for Qualifications and as a group of awarding organisations we agree common rules on how examination certificates are issued.
But what happens in cases of gender reassignment ? A few years ago, we implemented a landmark new process that does not require applicants to provide evidence of a gender change and set up a dedicated team to support people through the process.
Pearson is very proud to have sponsored Stonewall to produce two Inclusive Curriculum guides – one for secondary school teachers and a second for primary schools. These guides provide advice on the best approach, top tips and sample lesson plans and are available to download for free from the Stonewall website.
We supported this work for two reasons. First, we thought that they filled an important gap in the support and advice available to teachers.
Second, we used the guides and input from Stonewall to help us develop our own guidelines for LGBTQ+ inclusion. These guidelines are for use by the editorial community within Pearson and by our authors and help us to make sure that we are being inclusive in how we develop our own courseware.
We adopted those guidelines in UK Schools three years ago. Today, we are working on a second iteration of those guidelines which will be global in scope. These LGBTQ+ guidelines will sit alongside existing global guidelines on combatting gender stereotyping and on race & ethnicity.
All our guidelines help us think about five main challenges: underrepresentation, exaggerated negative associations, limited positive associations, missing stories, and the idea that disadvantages are personal, rather than systemic.
And Alan Turing is a perfect example of someone who needs to be celebrated. For so many years, his story and his contribution as a war hero was entirely hidden. This month sees the release of the new £50 note and Alan being celebrated as someone who shaped UK society through their innovation, leadership or values.
And it is small steps like these which help us travel a long way.
Thank you to all of the teachers and leaders for all you do to make each and every one of your learners feel safe and accepted. Together let’s keep taking small steps that make a big difference.
To find out more about Pearson’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in education, as well as free resources visit the deicated page here.
You can also see what was discussed at the Pride in Education Conference, which Pearson supported, at: www.prideineducation.co.uk