Trainee voice: Creating a safe and inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals
Before starting my teacher training, I worked as a TA in a small village school. To begin with, I never opened up about being a part of the LGBTQ+ community as I did not feel there was a need for it, as well as my uncertainty of how pupils, parents and even colleagues would react.
A term in to working here, the opportunity came up for staff members to help gain and implement the Rainbow Flag Award. I decided to take up this opportunity as I saw it as a great way to help make the school a more inclusive and diverse environment for the students. I worked closely with the headteacher and other staff members to help implement the award and ensure the school was creating a safe and supportive environment for staff and students and their families from all backgrounds. During this time, I felt more comfortable to open up about my sexuality and felt more included than ever before.
As a school we were successful in gaining the Rainbow Flag Award. This made us the first primary school in Devon and Cornwall to receive this award, which focuses on positive LGBTQ+ inclusion and visibility. My work with this, and personal experience, has made me realise how important it is to create spaces where everyone, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, can feel safe, accepted and valued.
When deciding what route to go down for my training year, I looked at a wide variety of providers. My reasoning for picking Exeter Consortium (who partner with South West Teacher Training) was due to their commitment to embedding EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) at the heart of their learning. This commitment is not only for the students I would teach, but also for the trainees that come through their programs.
In our first term we were invited to attend an EDI conference. This was a great way to kick off my teacher training year and a fantastic opportunity to hear from experts in the field. The speakers had a range of backgrounds and experiences, and their stories of success and struggles were both inspiring and eye-opening.
It was a valuable reminder of the importance of EDI in teaching and education, and how it should be at the heart of everything we do. The conference provided me with a great platform to start my teacher training journey, and it has stayed with me throughout this term. The EDI conference, alongside the ongoing support of my training provider, have provided me with the opportunity to realise I would have support in the field of teaching as an LGBTQ+ teacher.
Over these first few months of my career, I have come to realise that in order to make a real change, it is important to be seen as part of the community. I have chosen to become more open and honest about my experiences and identity. This can be daunting at times, not knowing the reaction or support I will receive, but this is important as it can create a safe space for students, family members or colleagues to do the same. This can be especially beneficial in the classroom, as it can help students feel more comfortable and accepted. By being that person who steps out of their comfort zone, I can help create an environment of understanding and acceptance, which is essential for making real change.
As a trainee teacher who is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I am highly aware of the importance of creating a safe and inclusive learning environment for all of my students. I strive to create an atmosphere in my classroom where differences are celebrated, and everyone is respected and accepted regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, or any other aspect of their lives.
I am committed to being an advocate for LGBTQ+ students and creating an environment where all students feel safe and respected, as well as engaging in conversations about diversity, equity, and intersectionality. I also work to ensure that the curriculum is inclusive and provides students with the opportunity to learn about and discuss LGBTQ+ issues.
Becci Stockton-Ball is a primary trainee at Exeter Consortium Schools’ Alliance