Plans drawn up for Britain's first lesbian and gay school

Plan aims to protect young people from homophobic bullying

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The Independent Online

The UK’s first specialist state school for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pupils could be created with three years, according to a report.

A £63,000 feasibility study has been commissioned into the idea of building the school in Manchester. It would teach 40 full-time students and also offer 20 part-time places.

Amelia Lee, strategic director for the charity LGBT Youth North West which has drawn up the plans, told The Guardian: “This is about saving lives.

“Despite the laws that claim to protect gay people from homophobic bullying, the truth is that, in schools especially, bullying is still incredibly common and causes young people to feel isolated and alienated, which often leads to truanting and, in the worst-case scenarios, to suicide.”

She highlighted the case of Elizabeth Lowe, 14, who killed herself in a Manchester park. She reportedly feared telling her parents that she was gay.

“Lizzie felt the only option was to kill herself. There was another girl with a similar story in Bolton,” Ms Lee said.

“This is not about making a little, safe enclave away from the real world: we work with 9,000 mainstream pupils and 1,000 teachers a year to help educate them about homosexuality. In addition, the support this new school will offer to part-time pupils could happen in their mainstream school, if that’s what they want.”

She said the current education system “sets up 5 to 10 per cent of pupils to fail through fear and structure” by “routinely” failing to recognise that young people can struggle with their sexuality.

“We can either hope every school is going to be inclusive, or we can recognise we are not there yet and so, for the moment, we need more specialised schools,” she said, adding that she hoped other areas would set up similar LGBT schools.

The feasibility study has been given a grant by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The Guardian spoke to two LGBT young people about their experiences in mainstream education.

A young woman said: “School was awful. The PE teacher made me change clothes with the lads because she said I wasn’t attracted to them.

“It annoyed me so much that I stopped going to PE, which meant I got in trouble for missing the lessons.”

She changed schools when she was 16.

A young man said teachers “need to help us feel safe in our own environment of school”.

“They should teach the other students how LGBT people just want to be like anyone else,” he said. “But none of this happens and, as a result, LGBT pupils routinely experience bullying that, if it was racist or sexist, wouldn’t be accepted by the school for a second.”