LGBT Youth North West has unveiled plans for the UK’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender school in the heart of Manchester.
The school will host a total of 40 full time pupils who identify as L, G, B, T and those questioning their sexuality. There will also be a limited number of part time places available for those who wish to continue attending their mainstream school
Amelia Lee, strategic director for LGBT Youth North West which planned the initiative has told the organisation “Children and Young People now” (CYP) that she hopes the school will act as a “trailblazer” leading the way for other cities and areas to replicate.
A feasibility study into the plans is currently being conducted after the charity was handed £63,000 in grant funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) community assets and services grants programme.
Lee said the idea for the specialist school has received the backing of Manchester City Council, and will form part of the city’s alternative provision offer. Miss Lee stated that her organisation has carried out a survey of gay, lesbian and transgender young people which found many felt teachers had been unsupportive and in some cases simply urged them to ‘ignore’ bullying. She added ‘Teachers in mainstream schools have problems in tackling issues like homophobic bullying and coming out… Unfortunately, schools can be one of the last bastions of homophobia.
The strategic director added: ‘The last thing we want is for young people to fall out of mainstream education permanently, or for this to become a ghetto for lesbian, gay and bisexual students,’
But critics said the move would amount to segregation and would harm efforts to improve tolerance of gay people.
Tory MP and former education minister Tim Loughton said: ‘We need to do a lot more to combat homophobic bullying and to create a more tolerant society. Elizabeth Lowe, 14, killed herself in misplaced fear that her Christian parents would reject her… but I cannot see how segregating a group of young people identified by their sexuality can aid better engagement and understanding… The way to achieve more integration, understanding and empathy is not by segregating members of one group, and this would seem to me to be a step backwards from achieving tolerance.’
A source close to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan told the Mail: ‘There is simply no way that we will approve a free school specifically for LGBT young people… Pupils regardless of their sexuality should be educated in mainstream schools which should be equipped to tackle any bullying that should occur.