Pictured is Elly Barnes.
Boys should be permitted to wear skirts to school if they want to, a Birmingham City Council education adviser has told boarding schools.
Elly Barnes, chief executive officer of Educate and Celebrate, which campaigns against discrimination in schools, said: “If it’s all right for a girl to wear trousers, why should a boy not be allowed to wear a skirt. We should be giving them the option.”
Ms Barnes was called in by the Boarding Schools Association to address its members on how they could make their schools more “LGBT friendly”.
Her organisation has won government grants to tackle homophobia in schools.
As an LGBT adviser with Birmingham City Council Elly is helping to implement the Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools (CHIPS) programme.
The scheme was introduced in the wake of the Trojan Horse scandal to promote British values – including tolerance to homosexuality.
Speaking to the Boarding School Association on Tuesday (May, 5) she said that teachers should be trained to become familiar with the language of the gay and lesbian community.
Most will not have received any training about how to tackle homophobia as part of their training courses, she added.
she also urged all schools to update their equal opportunities policies so that they promoted same-sex relationships in a positive manner.
Books should be used that described children who have “two mamas” or “two daddies”, she said, while anti-bullying policies should be updated to include the eradication of homophobic abuse.
“LGBT bullying is as important as sexist and racist bullying. If a pupil says ‘my pen’s run out, it’s so gay’, you should challenge it. ‘My pen’s
so Jewish, my pen’s so black’, you wouldn’t be allowed to say it.”
Ms Barnes also suggested that schools should teach children about the history of gay rights – in the same way that the suffragette movement
and black civil rights feature in lessons.
“You ask anyone what do they know about the LGBT struggle and what’s the answer? It’s completely unnoticed,” she said.
“This is not just an area for PSHE [personal, social and health education] or anti-bullying.
It could be part of maths lessons, English lessons, science lessons. I’m not advocating all teachers suddenly start talking about lesbianism
– but in the same way as you teach about the Holocaust and the yellow stars worn by the Jewish community, you could look at the significance of the black and the pink triangle.
“One in 10 people identify as being LGBT. They shouldn’t feel they can’t be part of the community.”