The Irish National Teacher’s Organisation (INTO) is stepping up its campaign for the inclusivity of LGBTQ+ staff and pupils in schools across Ireland. To mark Pride Month, representative schools in each county are being presented with pride flags to help promote the message of diversity and inclusivity of LGBTQ+ people in primary education.
The president of INTO, Joe McKeown, has been visiting the schools to present the Pride Flags. He commented how “the flag is a symbol of the commitment of the union and all primary teachers and principals to ensure schools are inclusive spaces for all.”
Catholic, Church of Ireland, and Educate Together schools have all participated in the initiative. Principal Suzanne O’Reilly of St Thomas’ Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin expressed how “the uniqueness of each child and member of this school is to be celebrated”.
Principal Niamh Campion of Tobar an Léinn NS, Raheen, Co Laois echoed O’Reilly’s sentiment, saying how they would “proudly fly the flag”.
The importance of this initiative is highlighted by a recent INTO survey in 2020. Only 18 per cent of LGBTQ+ teachers in the republic and 12 per cent in Northern Ireland are comfortable sharing their sexual orientation with the school community.
Fear of missing out on promotions and permanent jobs are just two of the reasons many of the 5,000 LGBTQ+ teachers across Ireland struggle to come out in the school environment.
Promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity is also vital for primary-aged pupils. A 2016 report found that most pupils realise their LGBTQ+ identity while 12 years old. Twelve year-olds are generally in 6th class of Primary School at this time.
Many LGBTQ+ pupils in primary school are targeted for not conforming to gender-stereotyped behaviours and appearances.
The LGBT Ireland Report in 2016 indicated that bullying in school due to LGBTQ+ identity greatly impacts the development of mental health difficulties in young people.
Mr McKeown highlighted how the survey’s findings “bring into sharp focus the challenges faced every day by LGBTQ+ teachers and the work still to be done to ensure our schools are safe and inclusive spaces for all”.
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