Image demonstrating Council ranked 5th in education equality index

Council ranked 5th in education equality index

Stonewall, Britain’s leading lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality charity, has named Northumberland County Council as one of the best local authorities for tackling anti-LGBT bullying and celebrating difference in its schools. 

The council has been ranked at number five in this year’s Education Equality Index.

The Index is Britain’s definitive auditing tool for local authorities to benchmark their success in tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in local schools, and supporting LGBT young people in their local communities. 

This year’s Index received 28 submissions from across England, Scotland and Wales, with Northumberland the only authority in the North East to come in the top 10.

Research* indicates that nearly half of LGBT pupils experience homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying and local authorities have a key role to play in addressing this problem and ensuring a safe learning environment for all young people.

Northumberland County Council has been praised in a number of areas, particularly for its partnership working with local Trinity Youth Association and also for the training provided for those who work in early years settings.  

Highfield Middle School in Prudhoe has formed an E-Stars team which focuses on all aspects of equality and diversity at the school and promotes an environment of mutual respect, tolerance and understanding of individual beliefs and life choices. 

Deputy head teacher at the school, Cate Haslam, said:  “We were prompted by Stonewall and the council to set ourselves an equality challenge that would really change the lives of LGBT young people. 

“Our E-Stars are pupils in Year 8, who feel passionate about social equality and justice. They apply and are interviewed for the role, receive training and become allies and upstanders. 

“Having young people in school who can articulate and advocate for LGBT rights not only makes us proud but it makes our school a place where pupils can learn, knowing they’ll be safe from discrimination and encouraged to achieve their potential. 

“We’ve been part of the county council’s journey as part of the Stonewall Equality Champions programme and the need is now greater than it ever was.”

The council has moved up the Education Equality Index having been 25th in 2014 and 14th and most improved local authority in 2015.

Councillor Wayne Daley, cabinet member for children’s services at Northumberland County Council said:  “Since the council joined the Stonewall Education Champions programme in 2013, we’ve been able to ensure that the most recent and reliable resources, training and guidance are available to our schools and academies. 

“In that time there has been a tangible change in how inclusive our schools and our county have become.  We’ve had Northumberland Pride in Alnwick, we have LGBT youth groups in schools and community settings, and we’ve schools tackling this aspect of inclusion through innovative initiatives that make them safe places where young people can thrive and be themselves.  It’s a very productive partnership.”

“I’m absolutely delighted to see the great progress we’ve made over recent years and this good practice being recognised by Stonewall.”

Sarah Rose, Senior Children and Young People Programmes Manager at Stonewall, said: “Northumberland County Council and all the local authorities who have ranked in the top 10 of this year’s Education Equality Index are undertaking inspiring work to support LGBT young people in their local communities and leading the way on tackling anti-LGBT bullying.

“Stonewall was set up 30 years ago to fight against the introduction of Section 28 – a piece of legislation that allowed bullying to flourish as it effectively banned teachers from talking about same-sex relationships or LGBT issues. The fantastic work of the top-ranking entrants show just how far we’ve come toward ensuring all young people feel free to be themselves, without fear of exclusion or bullying.

“We know that LGBT young people continue to face challenges in Britain’s schools, but with so many local authorities demonstrating such a strong commitment to celebrating difference and supporting LGBT young people, we are one step closer to creating a world where all young people are welcomed and accepted without exception.”

Northumberland County Council overall is also ranked by Stonewall as one of the top 100 most inclusive employers in Britain.  The authority has been ranked the seventh highest scoring local authority in the country.

The top 10 ranking local authorities in Stonewall’s Education Equality Index 2019:

=1. North Yorkshire County Council
=1. Oxfordshire County Council
=3. Herts for Learning/Hertfordshire County Council
=3. Leicestershire County Council
5. Northumberland County Council
6. Sheffield City Council
7. Kirklees Council
8. The Highland Council
9. Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
10. Birmingham City Council
* Cambridge University (The School Report 2017)
More information about Stonewall’s programmes for local authorities and schools can be found online here.
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