Last week I delivered two LGBT+ Awareness assemblies at Beauchamp College in Oadby and it was truly brilliant. In fact, Beauchamp College call their assemblies ‘gatherings’ which I thought was equally brilliant and in fact quite progressive. I was absolutely thrilled to deliver these to both Year 7 and Year 8 students who were engaged and interactive – well as interactive as you can be when there are 299 other students, and someone is essentially talking at you!
And this idea of being ‘talked at’ is my theme for this blog post. Somebody once asked me…
“ASSEMBLIES DON’T GENERATE IN-DEPTH DISCUSSION AND THERE ISN’T ALWAYS AN OPPORTUNITY TO ASK QUESTIONS, SO WHAT’S THE POINT? SURELY A LONGER AND MORE INTERACTIVE WORKSHOP WITH FEWER STUDENTS WOULD BE MORE BENEFICIAL IN TERMS OF CREATING LGBT+ INCLUSIVE SPACES?
For those of you who have met me or seen me speak before you will be well aware that I love informal discussion. We know answering people’s questions can lead to a far more in-depth discussion which is one of the ways we educate about LGBT+ and therefore start our journey to true LGBT+ inclusion and change the hearts and minds of those who are not currently tolerant or as I much prefer, accepting.
However, I think there is certainly a place for assemblies or gatherings in schools; to educate our next generation about LGBT+ and to get them thinking about something they actually, may not know that much about. I’m hesitating as I type this. With the internet so easily accessible to young people these days, not to mention the increasing representation of LGBT+ people on television, surely all young people know about LGBT+?
NOT ALL STUDENTS WILL HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING OF LGBT+
Naively, perhaps five or so years ago, this is what I thought. But now I’m not so sure. If a young person has a family or lives in a home that does not accept LGBT+ then it maybe they haven’t seen the television programmes that have LGBT+ representation or they may not have a mobile phone with data – simply calls and texts.
Perhaps worse still, they may have seen the television programmes and read about LGBT+ online or even asked their families about it. And it may be that their family told them being LGBT+ was wrong, or different in a negative way without explaining why. Or perhaps, they do explain why, and the young person would like to find out for themselves, to make up their own mind, but aren’t able to.
LGBT+ ASSEMBLIES DO HAVE A PLACE IN OUR SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES
It is for these reasons, that I believe LGBT+ assemblies or gatherings most certainly have a place in our schools and colleges and are often the starting point to further discussion. When I go into schools and receive feedback, I am nearly always told that the students asked further questions during their form time. I was even told by staff at Beauchamp that a Year 7 student said, “It was interesting, I liked it, it was kinda cool!”. ‘Kinda cool’ from an almost teenager is a win in my book, so I’ll take it!
On a serious note, workshops are great way to have meaningful, in-depth and open conversations about any topic and I personally love leading workshops with young people. However, due to the time, financial and other pressures put on our schools and colleges, these aren’t always possible for every student or class. Assemblies and gatherings are a perfect way to introduce a topic such as LGBT+; to give our students honest information about what LGBT+ means, to let them know, here in the UK ‘being gay is okay’ (using gay as an umbrella term for LGBT+ here) and to talk to them about the impact that bullying or what they might think is only ‘banter’ can have.
ASSEMBLIES HAVE THE POWER TO CREATE POSITIVE CHANGE
For me, assemblies or gatherings have the power to encourage a student to reach out if they are struggling with their sexuality or gender, to make a student re-think what to them is just ‘banter’ and to give those people who either know nothing about LGBT+ or have been told it is wrong, a different and equally valid perspective. So, in answer to the question posed previously, I think assemblies or gatherings very much have a purpose and a place in our schools and colleges, and long may they continue.