Stonewall, the lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality charity, has named North Yorkshire County Council as one of the best local authorities in Britain for tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and celebrating difference in its schools.
North Yorkshire finished second in Stonewall’s Education Equality Index 2017, a list of the top ten local authorities in Britain.
The index measures practice and policy in support of LGBT young people and the county council is praised highly by Stonewall for its innovative approach to celebrating difference among young people and tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying as well as supporting trans pupils.
North Yorkshire has been ahead of the game working hard with its schools over a number of years and carrying out an action plan to ensure that the needs of LGBT young people are taken into account .
Stonewall said it is "hugely impressed" with the range of initiatives in North Yorkshire to help LGBT young people. These include:
- Eight LGBT youth groups established across North Yorkshire and trained by Stonewall to run campaigns;
- LGBT champions have been appointed from the county council’s prevention and healthy child teams to support young people, train staff and raise the profile of LGBT issues;
- Over half of all primary and secondary schools have now been trained on tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying;
- Elected members receive training on raising awareness of LGBT issues for children and young people;
- A lead officer and lead councillor have also been appointed as champions to lead on LGBT issues for the council; and
- North Yorkshire has produced a film for schools on how to support trans young people.
County Councillor Janet Sanderson, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for the Children and Young People’s Service said: "We are very proud to be recognised as a top authority for our commitment to LGBT issues in our schools. We profoundly believe that all young people in our county should be supported to have the most positive experience of life both in school and in the wider world, whatever their faith, gender and sexual orientation. All young people have a huge amount to contribute to our society and all must be given every opportunity to fulfil their potential. I am genuinely grateful for the hard work of the county council team supporting the LGBT community."
Kirk, 18, who is a member of the North Yorkshire LGBT community and a member of a youth group for the past 18 months said the support provided by the group was critical: "I came to it at a time when I really needed it. It was just so great to be with other people in the same situation. A lot of LGBT people our age are not out publicly so the group provides a safe environment where you can express yourself. When you are in public there’s always that element of fear so it’s really important to have that safe space where you know you will be respected.
"I have had fantastic support from my teachers at school who have helped me to talk about my non binary gender; I came out to my family and I have been out now for nine months. It’s a really hard thing to do and the support of the group has been crucial.
"The fact the county council is working with schools and with staff to change views about LGBT issues is really wonderful. This year they held an LGBT youth conference and that was really impressive. I told my story at one of the sessions and I hope that provided support for others.
"I want to go on to university to study natural sciences but when I come back home I will carry on supporting the LGBT group in my area. It’s been a great help to me and I want to give something back."
Sarah Rose, Senior Account Manager for Stonewall said: "We’ve seen outstanding work from all of those local authorities that have participated in this year’s Education Equality Index - especially our top ten and our award winners.
"North Yorkshire Council has done a fantastic job once again - providing schools with an excellent range of regularly updated guidance and truly inspiring initiatives for local young people across the area."
The Education Equality Index 2017 is available from www.stonewall.org.uk/educationequalityindex