18 schools nationwide pioneer programme creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ students

The Safe & Supportive Schools Project developed by BeLonG To aims to improve LGBTQ+ students lives through a holistic approach.

LGBTQ+ Students

Schools in Meath, Tipperary and Wicklow are just some of the 18 second-level schools nationwide who have today, December 9, launched their participation in BeLonG To‘s LGBTI+ Safe and Supportive Schools Project to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ students.

The partnership is a groundbreaking whole-school approach with the aim of creating an environment that is fully-inclusive of LGBTQ+ students which will, in turn, change the lives of thousands of LGBTQ+ youth across Ireland for the better.

BeLonG To Youth Services is the national organisation supporting LGBTQ+ young people in Ireland. Findings from its Schools Climate Survey 2019 indicate that an alarming 73% of LGBTQ+ students feel unsafe at school.

While 68% of LGBTQ+ students said they hear anti-LGBTQ+ remarks from other students, a shocking 48% reported hearing homophobic remarks – and a further 55% reported hearing transphobic remarks – from teachers and staff members.

O’Carolan College, County Meath and Coláiste Chill Mhantáin, County Wicklow are two of the 18 schools leading the way to a fully LGBTQ+ inclusive future for young people.

Speaking at the launch of the programme, Cathal Rogers, O’Carolan College Principal says: “In a world where it can be hard to feel like you belong, O’Carolan College embraces the safety and wellbeing of LGBTI+ students and staff. We hope that through this project we embed a culture in which all LGBTI+ feel safe, supported and proud by our whole school community.”

Padraig Donoghue Coláiste Chill Mhantáin Principal says: “We are all very excited in CCM to get the SASS project up and running so that we know we are doing our best for our students in making school and safe and supportive environment. We also hope that following the staff training facilitated by BeLonGTo that as a staff we will be empowered to support our students in every way possible.”

The Safe & Supportive Schools Project spans people, policies and practices; its pioneering holistic approach means systematic positive supports are put in place across six key areas;

  1. Staff Organisation & Development
  2. Policy & Planning
  3. Curriculum
  4. Safe & Supportive Environment
  5. Community Partnership
  6. Direct Support To Young People

BeLonG To provides Programme Coordination Training for senior management and LGBTQ+ awareness training for all staff members, a Toolkit and Resource Pack with everything needed to become an accredited school. Ongoing mentorship support from BeLonG To’s Education and Training Coordinator. The project is not exclusively focused on the school but also working with the community outside the school gates, including any local LGBTQ+ youth projects/groups, parents and community organisations to promote a wider LGBTQ+ inclusive community.

This project is supported by Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) and funding has been made available by Google.org through the 2019 Impact Challenge on Safety and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Moninne Griffith CEO, BeLonG To Youth Services says: Our school years help to shape who we are and who we can become. We are proud to support these 18 schools as they begin their journey towards becoming a school that is fully inclusive of LGBTI+ students. LGBTI+ young people need to feel equal, safe and supported at school so that they can live healthy lives and thrive at school. Today we celebrate each school taking the lead and joining our new national project to ensure that school is a safe and supportive space for all students.”

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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