The why, how and when of LGBT+ education in primary schools in England.

Emma Whewell, Helen Tiplady, Hannah Shrive

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePoster


This study aims to contribute to the field of primary education and inclusive practices by discussing when and how lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender plus (LGBT+) education is being taught and what primary school teachers need to feel confident in teaching LGBT+ content.

Despite changes in the English National Curriculum, the LGBT+ community and associated laws in the UK, it is still not compulsory for LGBT+ content to be taught in English primary schools. This can cause conflict for school leaders and teachers in deciding how and when to teach LGBT+ education and an inconsistent approach regarding LGBT+ content and teaching (DfE, 2019a, p.15; Glazzard and Stones, 2020, p.2). This discordance raises issues regarding what should and should not be taught in primary schools, from the perspectives of both teachers and parents; the matter of an LGBT+ inclusive curriculum is becoming a controversial topic.

This poster will explore the year group in which teachers feel LGBT+ education should first be taught, the areas that impact teachers’ confidence, and the most effective strategies that can be used to deliver content. This study employed an online survey of primary school teachers in England and semi structured interviews to evaluate the overarching question of why, how, and when LGBT+ content could be taught in primary schools.

Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used
This study used an online questionnaire given to all participants via opportunity sampling, in this case – 58 primary school teachers from a range of schools across England and years Reception through to Year 6. Due to the nature of the research, participants were asked to disclose their gender identities and sexualities so that it could be identified whether this influenced their responses. From this, it was identified that twenty-six percent of participants identified as a sexuality that was not heterosexual, and two percent of participants did not identify as the gender they were assigned with at birth. To also allow for more interpretivist responses, one-to-one semi structured interviews were used (n=3). These participants were of a range of ages, worked in different year groups and all identified differently by gender and sexuality. Interviews were transcribed and a process of inductive coding was used, which involved categorising the data into different themes or labels so that patterns can be identified, examined and discussed (Cohen et al., 2018, p.645). The same approach was used to code the qualitative data from the open questionnaire questions (Figure 1). Ethical guidance from BERA (2018) was used and ethical approval given by the University of Northampton and considered aspects such as consent, withdrawal, confidentiality and the safe storage of data (Cohen et al., 2018, p.111). As well as these key ethical considerations, several other ethical aspects were important due to the nature of the topic, such as the sensitivity of the topic, limiting bias alongside actions to be taken in the case of ethical dilemmas.
Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or Findings
This study intended to explore why, how, and when to deliver LGBT+ education in English primary schools but the is much to contribute to wider LGBT+ education and awareness more widely. Most teachers feel LGBT+ content should be taught at some point within primary education, and most of these feel that it should begin being taught from Reception or Year 1 as this cultivates an environment of respect and acceptance. When considering strategies to deliver LGBT+ content, this study identified that teachers’ feel PSHE lessons or circle time are the most effective strategies to deliver LGBT+ content, however teachers would appreciate a specific scheme of work to support them in delivering this. Furthermore, participants expressed that use of literature and integration of LGBT+ content across the curriculum are also effective strategies as this normalises LGBT+ topics. Half of participants felt confident in teaching LGBT+ content, however, many teachers still felt they need to grow in confidence; the lack of training and resources and a fear of parental opposition being the key factors that concern them (DePalma, 2018, p.9; Barnes and Carlile, 2018, p.33). There is a need for resources to be developed to allow teachers and trainee teachers to build their confidence in teaching age-appropriate activities. Initial teacher training can begin this process by considering the broadness of opportunity to be inclusive and looking for opportunities to build LGBT+ content into their curriculums. Training providers should work closely with school-based mentors to allow trainee teachers the opportunity to experience how content is taught and the culture of the school can be representative of a range of communities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2023
EventEuropean Conference on Educational Research 2023 : ERC - University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 21 Aug 202325 Aug 2023
Conference number: 99 ERC SES 08C


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Educational Research 2023
Abbreviated titleEERA
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • LGBTQ+ representation
  • Primary eduation
  • teacher confidence
  • queer educators


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