NUT: Representing and organising LGBT teachers is work we’re proud to lead on

NUT wants to shape a better education system for LGBT children and young people, and for LGBT teachers.

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Why should LGBT teachers join a union?

All teachers should join a union. Unions provide professional support and CPD as well as guidance and legal support – but they also provide much more than this. The NUT is part of a progressive movement to build more equal and dignified workplaces, and a fairer world for the next generation.

LGBT rights are trade unions rights. The NUT has developed clear strategies to ensure the voice of LGBT members are heard. This includes a National Executive council member for LGBT members; an LGBT Advisory Committee; and a Senior Organiser for LGBT teachers, who works across England and Wales.

What are the experiences of LGBT teachers in workplaces?

LGBT teachers face the same system wide problems confronted by every teacher – excessive and unsustainable workload, policies which are turning schools into exam factories and increased class sizes. But LGBT teachers can also face specific barriers and prejudice at work.

The NUT offers expert guidance for LGB and trans teachers, on their rights in the workplace, and also organises teachers to turn these rights into real progress. NUT advice on discrimination and harassment on grounds of sexual orientation and trans status explains who is protected and summarises the first steps that members should take if they have been discriminated against or harassed at work.

The value of a trade union is that union members, together, negotiate collectively to achieve constructive and progressive policy and practice from the start, before issues arising.

How can LGBT teachers support and empower each other?

The NUT connects teachers together. Teachers together are a powerful force; they make change happen.

There is a growing network of teacher led groups (for LGBT teachers) across England- with new groups launching in the North West and Brighton. Over 70 London based LGBT teachers attended a London network event in December. If you are in the NUT, email our senior organiser for LGBT teachers via equality@nut.org.uk.

The NUT’s LGBT teachers’ conference is held annually and the next one comes to in Manchester on 16 July 2016.

Can LGBT History Month change attitudes?

Yes. LGBT History Month challenges the invisibility of LGBT people – it is a powerful reminder of the progress still needed within education spaces.

Getting the word out to school about what they could do, and about what other schools and colleges are doing – is vital. As well as a dedicated section on the NUT website showcasing events and activities that NUT teachers are engaged in, the Union links to the Schools Out website and materials.

More positive and practical work to challenge inequality and prejudice happens in schools now, as a result of History Month, than ever before.

Is campaigning for LGBT equality everyone’s fight?

Goals around equality sit at the heart of the union movement. Individual instances of discrimination or harassment can signal wider issues. The NUT encourages the collectivisation of equality issues with the objective of promoting equality for all pupils, students and teachers in a school or college.

NUT workplace reps and local officers negotiate with employers on the development of workplace policies and procedures. NUT representatives integrate LGBT equality priorities into other workplace policies, for example, by ensuring that policies on time off for domestic reasons or emergencies specifically include rights for same sex couples.

We lobbied the Government for failing to equalise survivor benefits for LGB members of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

Why haven’t we eliminated inequality and prejudice yet?

Education can be a means to eliminating homophobia, bi-phobia and transphobia but only given the right policy context.

Teachers need confidence, ideas and inspiration. We have created an award called the Blair Peach Award to showcase what is possible.

In 2015, Juno Roche won the Award for her determined campaigning to champion trans rights and achieve dignity for trans teachers. In 2014, a teacher in Bradford called Sam Kirk won the award for creative anti homophobia strategies.

Wherever they are educated, all young people need to learn, see and hear positive messages about LGBT people and be exposed to a wide range of LGBT role models.

But teachers can only create fair and equal education and help all children thrive and succeed under the right Government policies. Currently, the Government impose an exam factory culture – and life in the exam factory involves standardised testing, with a narrower and narrower curriculum and punitive measures to divide schools.

We’re building a wide movement to achieve a better educational landscape. Join the NUT’s Stand up for Education campaign to secure an alternative vision of education, where every child matters.

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