As a Rights Respecting School, we believe that every one of our pupils deserves to feel safe and supported in an environment where they can be themselves.
We’re talking about LGBT+ inclusivity, and we’ve taken some significant steps over the last few years to get there in our Senior School.
George Watson’s College is one of only a handful of schools to have achieved LGBT Youth Scotland’s Gold Charter Award. This means that we’ve made real, practical changes to how we do things and that we recognise the needs of our LGBT pupils.
For example, girls can now wear trousers if they choose to, we’ve introduced some gender-neutral toilets, and we’ve switched our office bearers titles from ‘Head Boy’ and ‘Head Girl’ to ‘School Captains’.
These changes may seem small, but to a few of our pupils, they mean a lot.
Often LGBT young people can feel that they can’t see much of themselves in their environment, that’s why we’ve updated our library to include books about different kinds of relationships and people.
At Watson’s, we take the view that LGBT people and relationships are a fact of life, and as such we’ve introduced discussions about the variety of different relationships and families into our personal, social development lessons in Senior 1.
The jewel in our rainbow crown is our LGBT+ Discuss group. Originally formed in 2015 with two teachers and a small group of senior pupils, the group has gone from strength to strength and continues to be a powerful catalyst for change in our school.
The group’s staff leader, Megan Hamilton-Wylie is confident that the group is a safe space, to discuss issues and ask questions that maybe aren’t on the curriculum. Having that space safe is crucial, as it provides a place to have conversations that are better guided, rather than reliant on a Google search.
She said that in recent times, there’s a real relaxed atmosphere and friendships in the group are coming on by leaps and bounds.
Speaking to pupils involved in the group, it’s clear that it's a fun and supportive environment but that also it’s an outlet for these young people to advocate for change, for themselves and their peers, which at that age, is very impressive. As a school, we encourage our pupils to find the things they are passionate about and to think for themselves.
One tells us about the importance of an open space to learn and to talk about identity, and create a fun group of friends that are accepting. In between crafts, watching movies and talking about LGBT rights and relationships the group focuses on making positive changes.
Their focus this year will be around increasing awareness and acceptance of trans and non-binary issues, including upgrading gender-neutral changing and toilet facilities.
Another pupil, who came out last year, was reluctant at first but soon found that people at Watson’s were very accepting. Through the group, she has made new friends and now feels confident expressing her preferred pronouns as she/her.
There’s also a strong sense of support among our staff too, who are happy to serve as positive representation to our pupils. Our staff have shown a real commitment to getting it right for LGBT pupils, deepening their understanding of appropriate terminology and how to support pupils that may come out as LGBT+ to them.
At Watson’s, we’ve never been stronger in our belief that there is a safe space for LGBT people at our school. Great value is placed upon celebrating diversity as a natural, and normal part of life and society.
After all, an understanding that people’s differences make the world a better and more interesting place, is a good lesson for anyone, not less the next generation of young adults on the cusp of navigating the world for themselves.