The first school in Britain for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people could open its doors within the next three years. Based in the centre of, Manchestr the specialist state school plans to take 40 full-time students from across the area and will offer up to 20 part-time places for young people who want to continue attending a mainstream school.
“This is about saving lives,” said Amelia Lee, strategic director for LGBT Youth North West, the youth work charity behind the plans. “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.”
Last September 14-year-old Elizabeth Lowe hanged herself in a Manchester park because she feared telling her parents that she was gay. “Lizzie felt the only option was to kill herself. There was another girl with a similar story in Bolton,” said Lee. “This is not about making a little, safe enclave away from the real world: we work with 9,000 mainstream pupils and 1,000 teachers a year to help educate them about homosexuality. In addition, the support this new school will offer to part-time pupils could happen in their mainstream school, if that’s what they want,” she said.
“But we have an education system that sets up 5%-10% of pupils to fail through fear and structure, because it routinely fails to recognise and incorporate the needs of young people struggling with their identities. We can either hope every school is going to be inclusive, or we can recognise we are not there yet and so, for the moment, we need more specialised schools,” she added.
The school will be specifically designed for LGBT young people who are struggling in mainstream schools, but will be open to other children, including young carers, young parents and those with mental health problems. “It will be LGBT-inclusive, but not exclusive,” said Lee.