Britain’s first specialist state school for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people could open in central Manchester within the next three years, according to major news sources.
This comes after LGBT Youth North West, a charity seeking to support LGBT young people in the North West of England, received £63,000 funding from Manchester City Council. The concept of an alternative education provision for LGBT students was featured on the funding application, after young people had expressed a desire for it, but the idea is still very much in consultation stages, Sally Carr, founder and operational director of LGBT Youth NW, told Christian Today.
“We’ve been working with LGBT youth for ten years, and many young people over many years have told us the same story,” said Carr.
“We worked with over 10,000 students last year across a variety of schools to try and address homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. But we know that these students face prejudice every day.”
The concept of Britain’s first ‘gay school’ has already caused controversy, but the charity maintains more needs to be done to help LGBT students who are struggling and unsupported in mainstream schools.
Speaking to The Guardian, Amelia Lee, strategic director for LGBT Youth NW, said: “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.”
Christian teenager Lizzie Lowe hanged herself in Manchester last year because she feared telling her parents that she was gay. She was only 14. It is tragic deaths like Lizzie’s that LGBT Youth NW is hoping to prevent, through their current work training thousands of pupils and teachers in mainstream schools, and potentially through a specialist school in the future.
Rev Sally Hitchiner, founder of Diverse Church, a support network for LGBT people which has a confidential Facebook group enabling young LGBT Christians to connect, feels that an exclusive school might help those struggling in mainstream education.
“I think it’s a tragedy that it’s needed,” she said, “but for students involved it might be a lifeline. Far too many LGBT students face misunderstanding and isolation to the point that some of take their own lives.
“However, I think the highest priority has to be enabling every school in the country to be a supportive and safe place for all of its people.”
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