Thursday 17 October 2019

A school where LGBT is part of everyday life

Learning support teacher Cecelia Gavigan at Educate Together Balbriggan National School. PHOTO: STEVE HUMPHREYS
Learning support teacher Cecelia Gavigan at Educate Together Balbriggan National School. PHOTO: STEVE HUMPHREYS

The 400 pupil Balbriggan Educate Together prides itself on being a school for all. It has a rich diversity of pupils, many of them from families whose history is not Irish.

Its inclusive approach extends well beyond creating a welcome for pupils from many ethnic and cultural backgrounds, to being a model of best practice around positive representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students and their families.

There is no big deal about the LGBT issue at the school. It is, according to learning support teacher, Cecelia Gavigan, simply part of their commitment to the idea of respect and human rights for all.

"Everything we do around LGBT is set within a broader framework of equality and justice. It is very much part of school life and not just something that is achieved in a single initiative." While all Educate Together schools are based on the same principles, the approach to LGBT issues at Balbriggan was recently selected to showcase at the Teaching Council's annual Festival of Education in Learning and Teaching Excellence (FÉILTE). Gavigan, who is a member of the Irish National Teachers' Association (INTO) LGBT Teachers' Group, says they introduce children to issues in an age-appopriate way.

Discrimination against Harvey Milk, America's first openly gay politician, is discussed in the same way as they talk about anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela or US civil rights campaigner Rosa Parks.

When they are talking about families, LGBT families are part of the discussion and they have LGBT picture books in the library. "It is part of the environment, part of the experience, part of the everyday," she says.

Irish Independent

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