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Overwhelming majority of schools in Northern Ireland are failing LGBT pupils, survey reveals

Only a fifth of NI schools are being inclusive of LGB pupils, and even fewer of trans pupils. Photo: Ludovic Bertron

Only one in five schools in Northern Ireland are providing information relevant to lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) pupils within Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) and/or other parts of the curriculum, and just one in eight schools cover transgender issues in their teaching, a Department of Education survey has revealed.

The survey details the responses of 420 schools in Northern Ireland on a range of questions relating to the experience of LGBT pupils at school. 59.2% of schools said that they did not cover LGB issues within their teaching, while only 21.4% said that they did. A further 19.4% preferred not to say. Similarly, when asked whether or not they had ever altered their curriculum delivery or policies to reflect the needs of LGB pupils, 71.1% of schools said they had not, while only 13.8% said that they had.

The provision of information relevant to transgender pupils is even worse still. Only 12.7% of schools are covering transgender issues within RSE, with the overwhelming majority (68.2%) not covering these issues at all.

RSE is currently a statutory part of the school curriculum in Northern Ireland, and current guidance states that RSE ‘can help provide a positive view of sexual orientation and gender identity which, in turn, can help raise the self esteem of young people who may feel different.’ The Equality Commission’s guidance Eliminating Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Northern Ireland – Education also recommends, among other things, that ‘schools make every effort to ensure that LGB pupils or children of LGB parents or same-sex couples are not treated less favourably than other pupils’.

Northern Ireland Humanists’ Boyd Sleator commented, ‘The results of this survey make for depressing reading. Teaching about LGBT issues isn’t just about ensuring that schools are equally inclusive of LGBT pupils as they are of other pupils, it’s about promoting understanding and fostering respect between all pupils. But you can’t do either of those things if you simply ignore that LGBT pupils exist, which is evidently what the majority of schools in Northern Ireland are doing.

‘The Northern Ireland Government must make clear that this approach is entirely unacceptable and move immediately to provide the training that schools and teachers need to fulfil their duty of care.’


For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on or 0207 324 3078.

See the full results of the Department of Education survey:

Read the Equality Commission’s guidance:

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on Relationships and Sex Education:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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Northern Ireland Humanists is a part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland.

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