A primary school which has had to battle online prejudice and abuse has received a prestigious award for its work tackling homophobia.
Sacred Heart RC Primary School in Atherton was awarded the Rainbow Flag by The Proud Trust for its work challenging abuse towards LGBT people and promoting respect.
It is definitely the biggest and boldest project we have done on LGBT issues. We approached the subject in a very child-friendly way and our pupils have been mature and sensitive throughoutHead teacher Carrie Morrow
Pupils at the Lodge Lane school have been learning about combatting homophobia and were also asked by Wigan Council to design emblems for the borough’s first Pride event later this year.
However, teachers at the school have also had first-hand experience of the sort of attitudes towards the LGBT community they have been attempting to tackle after being criticised by a “small minority” of parents. But staff say this has only made them more determined.
Head teacher Carrie Morrow said: “We are delighted to have received a rainbow flag from The Proud Trust as a symbol of our gay-friendly attitudes. We are proud to be one of the first schools in the local area to be publicly standing up to homophobia.
“It is definitely the biggest and boldest project we have done on LGBT issues. We approached the subject in a very child-friendly way and our pupils have been mature and sensitive throughout. However, someone unconnected to the school wrote untrue things about us on social media. We are not intimidated as we know such homophobic attitudes are in the minority. It also shows the need for early education.”
The rainbow flag will now be hung on a wall with a display of some of the pupils’ comments saying people should be proud of who you are and describing how they would support friends or people they know who told them they are gay.
Pupils in years four, five and six also watched Happily Ever After, a classic fairytale with an LGBT twist performed by Action Transport Theatre. Miss Morrow says much of the work in school has surrounded the proper use of the word gay rather than allowing children to see it as an insult.
Sacred Heart’s project on LGBT issues has also been prompted by increasing numbers of high-profile public figures who pupils will be aware of and see as role models coming out and attitudes making it safer and easier to be openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
Miss Morrow said: “This has given us the opportunity to speak about being gay and using the word in the proper way. It’s about breaking down barriers because many children see it as a playground word, used to call someone names or belittle them. The children at Sacred Heart now use the word gay sensitively, maturely and in the correct way. Our children and now seeing and hearing things about gay people more regularly, with LGBT characters on TV and in family-viewing shows. Other people they may admire are coming out, most recently George from Union J.”
Pupil’s dad expressed concern at son’s chatter after LGBT lessons
Writing on Facebook, dad Julian Marsh said he was annoyed when his son came home “talking about gays, saying he had learned about gays.”
Mr Marsh and another man were reported to the police by another Facebook user, and have since been spoken to by officers in the area.
Ms Morrow said: “I know for some schools it is not an easy aspect of the curriculum to teach. We have been quite bold and it has not been without some negativity from the community. We are not intimidated as we know such homophobic attitudes are in the minority.”
A GMP spokesman said: “Police were called to reports that a number of homophobic comments had been made on Facebook. This was investigated as a hate incident but it was determined that the comments did not amount to a criminal offence. Local officers spoke to all parties and advised two men of their future conduct on social media.”