Waltham Forest Primary School, No Outsiders Project

Everyone is an insider, there are no outsiders - whatever their beliefs, whatever their colour, gender or sexuality" Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 2004

This one form entry primary school became involved in the "No Outsiders" project in April 2006. The project, based at the University of Sunderland and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, supported schools to develop their own approaches to promoting equality around sexual orientation and addressing homophobia. 

The school community comprises children and families from many different cultures and communities with many different beliefs and values. School staff recognised that sexual orientation and homophobic bullying were areas of PSHE/SRE they felt least confident in tackling and decided to address the issue across the whole school. The staff are proud of their achievements in establishing a school which aims to be inclusive and wanted to address the one area of the inclusion agenda, sexual orientation, that they had not worked on before.

The lead teacher for the project in the school worked with all year groups in reading a range of story books which included LGB positive characters as well as others who did not conform to 'traditional' gender stereotypes. Together with other staff, he introduced words like "lesbian" and "gay" to the children and indicated that they were going to be used in everyday language in school. This work helped to open a dialogue between staff and pupils on the issue of sexual orientation: some children felt confident to disclose that they had lesbian or gay family members; others talked about lesbian or gay people on TV. Further work on writing story boards and their own versions of the books enabled the children to discuss LGB people as part of other discussions about families and relationships.

The most significant piece of work was an opera based on "And Tango Makes Three", a true story about two male penguins who love each other and hatch and raise a baby. The libretto was written by a group of Year 6 children following many hours of discussion and, in particular, language workshops (including one by a gay black performance poet). The opera was performed by the children's Performing Arts Club and became a community project, including teaching and non-teaching staff, parents and carers, academics and other professionals.

Discussions with the children elicited the following comments:

"When new children come to the school, they feel accepted because we accept everyone. Your religion or your sexuality don't matter."

"Lesbian and gay people shouldn't be very afraid to say it."

"It doesn't matter if you're two male or two female, or if you're a man and a woman as long as you love each other. It's like any relationship"

The project and related work (which was filmed for Teachers' TV) has given children the vocabulary to talk about issues relating to their own and others' relationships and sexual orientation in a positive and confident way. It has also enabled staff to deal effectively with incidences of homophobic abuse or bullying. It has had a lasting effect on the school and broadened everyone's view of what it means to be truly inclusive.

For further information contact: mark.jennett@btinternet.com

This case-study was first published in the Government Office for London SRE core curriculum for London in 2009 and has been updated for publication by the  Sex Education Forum in 2010.