Updated: Aug 30
Before you start reading this post, I think it’s important for me to state how difficult it was to write this piece. I spend most of my days training schools on LGBTQ+ inclusivity and on the face of it, holding a pride should be a no-brainer. However, when I took a step back and started thinking about it from both sides, the decision of whether to hold a pride became far more complex. When writing, I tinkered with this post for about 4 weeks and although it’s definitely not in my usual style due to the desire to be impartial, I hope that you find it useful.
An interesting debate that has sparked interest in recent years is whether or not primary schools should actively participate in or acknowledge gay pride celebrations. Personally, I’ve never organised a pride event in school, but I regularly go to pride events in Cardiff which are inclusive of young people and children. I’ve seen many schools hold a pride, to varying successes, and it’s something that I’ve been thinking more and more about recently. While some argue that such events foster a sense of inclusivity and support for the LGBTQ+ community, others raise concerns about age-appropriate education and accusations of agendas infiltrating schools can be made. In this post, I will explore both sides of the argument to gain a better understanding of whether primary schools should embrace gay pride and hopefully help you decide whether a pride event is right for your school.
Gay pride is known for being an organised assemblage of people campaigning for equal rights, but also as a fabulous and over the top celebration of diversity, inclusion and being yourself; what’s not to love? By hosting a gay pride in primary school you’re highlighting the importance of fostering inclusion, promoting understanding from a young age and giving pupils the opportunity to celebrate their unique and individuality. Schools should be safe and welcoming spaces for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity and so by acknowledging gay pride, schools send a powerful message of acceptance and support to LGBTQ+ students, helping them feel validated, seen, and valued. This is a goal that I wish my schools had, as it would have allowed me to accept my own identity far earlier.
Whilst LGBTQ+ inclusivity is essential, concerns about introducing gay pride celebrations in primary schools warrant careful consideration. There is an ever-increasing focus on RSE, LGBT+ inclusion and concerns about age-appropriate education and so in order to protect the pupils, staff, and the school, primary schools should only hold a gay pride if they’re clear on the ‘why’ they are holding it. If they can’t answer that question clearly, then this can cause issues if they are challenged by members of the school community.
One of the key benefits of incorporating gay pride into the curriculum is the opportunity it provides for education and awareness. Children are naturally curious, and addressing topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity in an age-appropriate manner can help dispel misconceptions and stereotypes. By introducing these concepts early on, primary schools can lay the foundation for empathy, respect, and a broader understanding of human diversity.
However, primary school children are at a stage of development where they are still forming their understanding of the world. Discussions about sexuality and gender identity require a level of maturity and cognitive capacity that may surpass their current capabilities. Although few would argue that representation is important from early years in order to gain a balanced view of the world, introducing complex concepts prematurely can lead to confusion or the imposition of adult ideas on children who may not be ready to fully comprehend them. Early years and foundation phase/stage education should be focussed on encouraging representation of minority groups through books, displays and topics; this does not require the introduction of LGBTQ+ terminology before they are old enough to understand it. Because of this, it can complicate how we explain a gay pride to younger pupils.
Inclusion and tackling LGBT+phobia
As someone who was bullied relentlessly in school, I am determined to ensure that we reach a place where no pupil is bullied because of their identity. Gay pride celebrations in primary schools can serve as an essential tool in preventing bullying and fostering a positive school climate. Research has consistently shown that LGBTQ+ pupils are at a higher risk of experiencing bullying, discrimination, and mental health challenges. By openly recognising and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, primary schools can create a culture of inclusivity and respect, reducing the likelihood of bullying and creating a safer environment for all students. When pride is run effectively in schools, this exposure helps break down stereotypes and encourages students to embrace diversity, contributing to a more inclusive and harmonious society in the long run.
But promoting inclusivity does not necessitate explicit celebrations of gay pride in primary schools. Instead, comprehensive approaches that incorporate age-appropriate content across the curriculum are very effective in avoiding a tokenistic approach. Certainly in Foundation Phase/Stage, this can include diverse literature, cultural awareness, and teaching values of respect, kindness, and acceptance without focusing solely on specific sexual or gender identities. By adopting a broader approach, schools can foster an inclusive environment that embraces all aspects of diversity. If schools are being inclusive across the curriculum and the culture of the school, is a pride really needed?
Pupils who are LGBTQ+ are more prone to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Hosting a gay pride can help pupils feel they are part of the community, whether or not they fully understand their feelings yet.
However, keeping it to a ‘gay’ pride, may inadvertently exclude other protected characteristic groups that also deserve representation. It is crucial to recognise that diversity extends beyond sexual orientation and gender identity. By solely focusing on one aspect of diversity, schools risk marginalising or neglecting the experiences and needs of other protected characteristic groups, such as those based on race, religion, disability, or socio-economic background. True inclusivity requires a holistic approach that embraces the intersectionality of identities and ensures representation for all. By incorporating diverse perspectives and experiences across the curriculum, schools can foster an inclusive environment that celebrates the richness of all protected characteristic groups, promoting understanding and acceptance for everyone.
So how do schools decide?
The question of whether primary schools should have gay pride celebrations is a complex and nuanced one, requiring careful consideration of multiple factors. While proponents argue that such celebrations promote inclusivity and education, skeptics raise valid concerns regarding the potential impact on age-appropriate curriculum and the exclusion of other groups.
When considering whether to have a gay pride celebration in a primary school, it is essential for schools to reflect on the underlying purpose and intention behind such an event. It is not enough to simply follow a trend or engage in performative gestures of inclusivity. To help schools decide why or how to hold a pride event, consider the following:
Why are you holding a pride?
What do you want to achieve?
How are you going to include ALL pupils and underrepresented groups?
Can you celebrate individuality without calling the event 'pride'?
By critically examining motivations, schools can ensure that any initiatives related to LGBTQ+ inclusivity align with their broader mission of promoting understanding, respect, and a safe learning environment for all students. It is crucial to strike a balance between promoting acceptance and avoiding tokenism or superficial gestures. If you decide to hold a pride, I hope you and the school community have an amazing time. But remember, LGBT+ inclusion is not just for Pride Month.