Psychology experts at Queen Margaret University have been working to advance the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people in education. The research is being used to tackle negative and discriminatory attitudes towards LGBT people in Scotland and to improve their opportunities and ultimately quality of life.
The University’s specialist research in this area has contributed greatly to a group set up by the Scottish Government to tackle the issues of discrimination against LGBT people in Scotland. Many recommendations from the research have been implemented by the Scottish Government. The research has therefore had an impact on shaping policy and services in education; schools and teachers as educational practitioners; health and welfare for LGBT young people and same-sex raised children; and society, culture and creativity. In wider terms, the research has also impacted positively on public policy and services beyond Scotland.
Some of the research looked into the experiences of young people who were same-sex attracted and those who were raised by same-sex couples. The research investigated areas that included health risk behaviours, psychological health, bullying at school, exposure to drugs and alcohol, and worries and social support. The behaviours and well-being of young people in the groups were compared to those of their peers.
The studies of the experiences of young people who were same-sex attracted or raised by same-sex couples used designs not previously applied in UK research. This resulted in novel insights into the experiences of people in these groups. This information highlighted difficulties that young people might face in their secondary schooling, and the support that is required within the education system for LGBT young people and those raised by same sex couples to achieve inclusion and equality in UK education.
Based on the research and working group recommendations, a toolkit was issued to every secondary school in Scotland and good practice information was included in a website which helps Scottish schools and teachers to deal with incidents of homophobic bullying. The toolkit has also helped inform public debate in relation to homophobia within soccer in England. It has also had a positive impact on public policy and services in relation to inclusive education in Hampshire, in the context of education in Australia, and as a source for the ‘Addressing Homophobia Guidelines for the youth sector in Ireland’ which was prepared for the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
This research has made a significant contribution to QMU’s work in equality issues and confirms the University’s commitment to serving the community and improving quality of life.