In February 2017, Lynmara Hingston was nominated by Whitefield School in Brent Cross for a Jack Petchey Leader Award. Ms Hingston is the school librarian and was nominated by students because of how welcoming she has made the library since starting at Whitefield School. She is also a champion of LBGT rights and always finds the time support LBGT students and raise awareness of LGBT issues. Thanks to her Leader Award, the school was able to apply for a £750 Small Grant from the Jack Petchey Foundation.
Ms Hingston, student librarians, and Whitefield School’s young LGBT group decided to use the money to fund two events for the school’s ‘Rainbow Day Project’, which is a celebration of equality and diversity and gives students the opportunity to learn about the LGBT community. As a part of Rainbow Day, all Year 7 students took part in an hour-long session filled with activities and discussions around the topics of identity and equality, this year with a particular focus on feminism.
The students really opened their minds; reading factual information about words that they often hear but don’t understand, reflected on their own behaviour and took part in conversations with different staff members. The grant funded a guest speaker to come into the school to talk to the students and lead the discussion about feminism and what it means to be a girl. This not only inspired the female students, but also broke down stereotypes and misconceptions about feminism for all those taking part. All other year groups took part during breaks and after school as they have taken part in similar events in the past.
The second part of the grant allowed the school's Gay Straight Alliance, called Spectrum, to see the West End Show, Kinky Boots. The students had an incredible time, and took away the positive messages of accepting other people for who they are, and being proud to be themselves. Students have been inspired to take this message into the school and use it to shape Whitefield events going forward.
Even though the project has ended, students have created a display board at to remind everyone about the importance of treating one another equally and with the respect.
All the students who took part in the workshop are more open-minded and respectful towards students’ and staff’s identities. Some have started picking up books about the subject and no longer feel shy about looking into LGBT issues. They were able to ask ‘uncomfortable questions’ in a very safe environment, allowing their understanding of the problems associated with gender and one’s identity to improve. They now accept each other in a very respectful way.
Quotes from the students about the event included:
‘I feel better knowing that they know that I am not [the] odd one out. I was happy to take silly photos with others and have fun. It doesn’t feel so much of a gap anymore…’, Year 10 student.
‘I really enjoyed the day- great fun and lot of new information’, Year 7 student
‘It was really good to be able to talk to staff in there. I know to whom I can talk now.’ Year 7 student.
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