Primary pupils will be helped to explore LGBT+ issues such as the difference between assigned sex and gender, using pronouns inclusively and stereotyping thanks to a book being donated to Scottish schools.
Authors of What Does LGBT+ Mean? said their text was aimed at giving a “positive introduction to identity, gender and sexual orientation”.
The guide, due to be launched next Saturday and which does not cover sex education, was written with children aged nine to 11 in mind. However, co-author Olly Pike said it could be used whenever children feel ready to engage with the content.
The book is split into short, clearly written chapters covering many topics, among them trans and non-binary identities, the meaning of intersex, how the Pride movement emerged and being an LGBT+ ally. It is brightly illustrated and includes exercises designed to help pupils build their understanding.
Mr Pike, who wrote the book with experienced primary teacher Mel Lane and her son James Canning, said private sponsors meant it would be possible to donate the text to every primary school in Dumfries and Galloway. He is also confident there will be a strong appetite from educators across Scotland.
Citing figures in the Just Like Us – Growing up LGBT report that show 48 per cent of pupils had little to zero positive messaging about being LGBT+ at school, he told The Herald: “It’s vital we teach about LGBT+ identities in school because we know LGBT+-related bullying is the most common form of bullying in UK schools and that young LGBT+ people are far more likely to self-harm and attempt to take their own life. That is one of the inspirations behind this book.
“This book is about breaking down LGBT+ topics such as identity, gender, sexual orientation and delivering the information in a very basic and child-friendly way.”
Its publication comes after the SNP’s Holyrood election manifesto committed the party to ensuring LGBT history, role models and equalities education are taught in schools. The charity Time For Inclusive Education has also been funded to “work with decision makers, produce curriculum resources, and deliver services for teachers and pupils to raise awareness, heighten knowledge and foster good relations”.
Mr Pike said he was confident pupils would be able to understand the terms, concepts and issues explored within the new text.
“We trialled this book with more than 100 children and we very much took on their thoughts and feedback, and incorporated that into the book to make sure it can be understood,” he added. “So we’re super confident this is something today’s children will understand. And I think we have to give children today more credit than we maybe do.
“I go into schools a lot and chat with the children, particularly upper key stage two [KS2 pupils are usually aged seven to 11] – they’re very on-board with what LGBT+ means.”
Mr Pike also stressed the book had been written in a way that would help teachers. He added he and his co-authors “know teachers don’t necessarily always have the confidence to deliver this information – so we needed to make this book very simple for them as well, because this book isn’t just for the teacher to read to the class, it’s for the teacher to read with the class and learn at the same time as the children”.
Mr Pike, also director of Pop ‘n’ Olly, which has already distributed thousands of inclusive fairytale books to educators, parents and carers, said there had been lots of interest in his work north of the Border.
“I would say this book will be just as necessary in Scottish schools as it is in all the other parts of the United Kingdom,” he said. “We’ve also sent books to other areas in Scotland [as well as Dumfries and Galloway]. I have a few Scottish teachers who are supporters of my work. A headteacher at a school in Renfrewshire bought copies of my other books for all the schools in that local authority, which is awesome.”
A spokesman for the EIS, Scotland’s largest teaching union, said: “Whilst the EIS doesn’t endorse specific commercial materials, it is important schools can access high quality publications that can help enable effective teaching and learning in all aspects of the curriculum, across the whole range of equality issues, including LGBT+ equality, and to support personal and social education.
“It’s essential such publications reflect the diversity of the learner and staff population and that young people as learners can see themselves and their communities represented within the learning materials they are using day to day.”