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Educational reform presents major opportunity for equality  

This opinion piece is 9 months old

Dr Mhairi Crawford says that inclusivity expands beyond the boundaries of a textbook 

In 2021 Scotland sent a message of hope and acceptance to LGBTQ+ young people across Scotland and the world as we became the first country to roll out LGBT inclusive education. 

Seeing schools such as Castleton Primary in Glasgow's Castlemilk wholeheartedly adopting this crucial curriculum practice, it prompted me to reflect on the remarkable distance we've travelled from the days of Section 28. 

While I applaud the Scottish Government's dedication to change, there's still potential for a more extensive transformation in education, one that goes beyond traditional textbooks. 

Right now, we are in the midst of the Consultation on draft Statutory Guidance on the Delivery of Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) Education in Scottish Schools and a much wider piece focussed on comprehensive education reform within Scotland. 

While a curriculum focus is imperative, we must also remember the wider aspects, because inclusivity expands beyond the boundaries of a textbook.   

Educational reform for LGBTQ+ rights require a whole-school approach, embedding inclusive values into the school ethos and policies while visibly demonstrating support through events like history month, bake sales and Pride celebrations. 

To support young people in achieving the four capacities of Scottish education, everyone in our schools must receive training on using proper pronouns, supporting healthy LGBTQ+ relationships and standing against homophobia. 

These actions demonstrate that young people are not just included, but seen, heard and represented on a scale that is broader than what's covered in the curriculum. 

In looking at this from a broader perspective, we must recognise the significance of this moment.  

It's not just about considering the wider implications of a whole school approach - although that's certainly an important aspect - it's also about ensuring the inclusion of LGBTQ+ education in its broadest sense is embedded within the ongoing education reform.  

When we discuss education, it's crucial to remember that it extends far beyond our children’s classrooms.  

Often, the focus is solely on formal education, overlooking the vital role of universal and specialised youth work, and the necessity for an inclusive environment within it.  

Just as we are addressing issues of race and disability, this is the time to make a push and ensure that LGBTQ+ topics are given the prominence they deserve. 

Youth work organisations like ours play a significant role in wider or informal education, by fostering inclusivity in these settings, we are providing a pathway for young people to access education in its broadest sense.   

The skills that young people learn such to become confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors are strengthened and embedded outside the classroom environment. 

We must advocate to ensure that youth work and community learning and development are seen as integral components of the reformed education system. 

We have come so far since the days of Section 28 where members of the LGBTQ+ community in schools were not allowed to be themselves.  

However, some of the scars remain, stigmatism of the LGBTQ+ community remains, and homophobia and transphobia are still unfortunately ever present in Scotland today. 

A holistic and inclusive approach to educating the next generation Informatively about all things LGBTQ+ means that we are creating a society that hopefully in the future will be more tolerant, patient and supportive.  

So, my colleagues at LGBT Youth Scotland and I call on the Scottish Government to continue to look at how we can foster an education system that embeds inclusion, better supporting everyone.  

Keep listening to our community and especially to the next generation, the future is theirs and our responsibility now is to ensure that we are doing all we can to fill it with hope, understanding and acceptance.  

Dr Mhairi Crawford is chief executive of LGBT Youth Scotland. For more information on LGBT Youth Scotland, please visit: