Work by Sunderland’s young people to tackle discrimination in schools has helped the city climb the national equality rankings.
In its Education Equality Index, Britain’s leading lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) charity, Stonewall evaluates work done to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and to celebrate difference in schools.
Sunderland, which was a new entrant to the Education Equality Index in 2016, has seen its score jump to 81% in the recently released 2017 report, moving the city up to 17th place in the national rankings.
The improved score reflects efforts by the city’s young people, working with Together for Children and Sunderland City Council, to promote acceptance and end discrimination of the LGBT community.
Together for Children hosts a LGBT Forum for young people, with the group meeting fortnightly to discuss and tackle any issues they would like to address. The group also offers a safe space for the young people to be themselves without fear of judgement.
This year the young people met with Sunderland’s Director of Education Simon Marshall to discuss how support networks can be improved in schools.
In addition, Together for Children’s Anti-Bullying team works closely with schools and young people across Sunderland to provide help, support and advice on how to address issues of bullying in schools and online.
Together for Children’s Director of Education Simon Marshall said: “Moving up the Stonewall Education Equality Index just one year after making our debut is a fantastic achievement and is testament to the hard work of everyone involved and in particular the young people themselves.
“What is great about the work in Sunderland is that young people are at the forefront. They shape what we do and in turn shape our city’s culture. By working together we have moved a step closer to creating a truly inclusive city where everyone is free to both recognise and celebrate our differences.”
Councillor Louise Farthing, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services at Sunderland City Council, said: “I was delighted to see Sunderland move up the rankings in the Education Equality Index. What makes this work so special is the fact it’s being led by young people themselves, with many different groups represented on the LGBT Forum.
“By hearing their views and opinions we can help change attitudes and shape policies to identify bullying of any kind wherever and however it might emerge, and work together to prevent it from happening and protect anyone who might have been a target.”
Sarah Rose, Senior Account Manager at Stonewall said: “We’ve seen outstanding work from all of those local authorities that have participated in this year’s Education Equality Index.
“Sunderland has taken huge strides towards tackling anti-LGBT bullying. Its anti-bullying forum provides vital support and a much-needed safe space for vulnerable young people across the area.”
Now in its seventh year, the Index is a tool for local authorities to benchmark their success in making local schools inclusive of LGBT issues and young people, measuring practice and policy at all the participating local authorities.
The Education Equality Index result compliments the City Council’s Workplace Equality Index result received earlier in the year, when they ranked 19th of 43 local government organisations entering the index. Council and Together for Children employees share good practice through their Employee Equality Network.