O’Carolan College in Nobber and St Peter’s College in Dunboyne are two of the first schools to sign up to participate in a new national LGBTI+ “Safe & Supportive Schools” Project.

The Meath schools and 18 other schools nationwide are partnering with BeLonGTo Youth Services.

The “Safe & Supportive Schools Project” is a ground-breaking whole-school approach to creating a school environment that is fully inclusive of LGBTI+ students, thus changing the lives of thousands of young people across Ireland.

Findings from the Schools Climate Survey 2019 indicate that an alarming 73% of LGBTI+ students feel unsafe at school. While 68% of LGBTI+ students stated they hear anti-LGBTI+ remarks from other students, 48% reported hearing homophobic remarks, and a further 55% reported hearing transphobic remarks from teachers and staff members.

Speaking at the launch of the programme, Cathal Rogers, O’Carolan College Principal said: “In a world where it can be hard to feel like you belong, O’Carolan College embraces the safety and wellbeing of LGBTI+ students & staff. We hope that through this project we embed a culture in which all LGBTI+ feel safe, supported and proud by our whole school community.”

Deirdre Maye, St Peter’s College Principal said: “All schools should prioritise the safety and wellbeing of LGBTI+ students. We hope that in adopting this programme we can create an environment in which LGBTI+ feel safe and supported by all of our staff and their classmates.

The Safe & Supportive Schools Project spans people, policies and practices; its pioneering holistic approach means systematic positive supports are put in place across six key areas:

  • Staff Organisation & Development
  • Policy & Planning
  • Curriculum
  • Safe & Supportive Environment
  • Community Partnership
  • Direct Support To Young People

BeLonG To provides Programme Coordination Training for senior management and LGBTI+ awareness training for all staff members, a Toolkit and Resource Pack with everything needed to become an accredited school. Ongoing mentorship support from BeLonG To’s Education and Training Coordinator. The project is not exclusively focused on the school but also working with the community outside the school gates, including any local LGBTI+ youth projects/groups, parents and community organisations to promote a wider LGBTI+ inclusive community.This project is supported by Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) and funding has been made available by Google.org through the 2019 Impact Challenge on Safety and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Moninne Griffith CEO, BeLonG To Youth Services said: “Our school years help to shape who we are and who we can become. We are proud to support O’Carolan College as they begin their journey towards becoming a school that is fully inclusive of LGBTI+ students. LGBTI+ young people need to feel equal, safe and supported at school so that they can live healthy lives and thrive at school. Today we celebrate O’Carolan College for taking the lead and joining our new national project to ensure that school is a safe and supportive space for all students.”

BeLonG To Youth Services is the national organisation supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI+) young people in Ireland. Since 2003, BeLonG To has worked with LGBTI+ young people to create a world where they are equal, safe and valued in the diversity of their identities and experiences. The organisation also advocates and campaigns on behalf of young LGBTI+ people, and offers a specialised LGBTI+ youth service with a focus on mental and sexual health, alongside drug and alcohol outreach.

Learn more about the BelonG To LGBTI+ Safe and Supportive Schools Project. T: 01 670 6223 or E: training@belongto.org