21st June 2021
This Pride month, and always, the INTO is proud to represent the many teachers doing incredible work to ensure that every pupil and teacher is safe and included in their school community. Schools should and must be inclusive to all. As a union, we are, and will remain, an unapologetic advocate for equality.
Following a powerful rally call at Congress this year, the INTO is focused on removing barriers which remain within our schools. It is entirely unacceptable that so many of our LGBT+ teachers still have to hide their sexuality in their workplace due to fear of discrimination. We will lead by example, using gender inclusive language in INTO documentation and reports moving forward, calling out discrimination where we see it and supporting, as we have done for many years, the incredible work of the LGBT+ Teachers’ Group.
Recently, we published a submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, exploring bullying and mental health within our schools. In particular, we discussed the need for a suite of supports to tackle LGBT+ based bullying.
This year once again, the LGBT+ Teachers’ Group ran another successful Different Families, Same Love competition. To mark International Family Equality Day and International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the group asked members to take action in their classrooms in late May to celebrate the diversity of people and families in Ireland and to address homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in our schools.
The competition is open to all primary schools and special schools in the Republic and Northern Ireland. The exceptional standard of entries set the judges a difficult task to select the winners. First prize in the junior category went to 2nd class in D7 ETNS with a very creative and inclusive board game called ‘Don’t Wake Granny!’. And the winners of the senior category were Robert’s 5th class in Balbriggan ETNS with their multi-media entry including an animation, a podcast, a stop-motion film and posters. Check out the winners here.
During pride month, INTO President Joe McKeown presented a rainbow flag to selected primary schools in almost every county in Ireland, including Northern Ireland. The presentation and raising of the flag is a symbol of the commitment of the union and all primary teachers and principals to ensure our schools are inclusive spaces for all. Primary, post-primary and special schools under various patronages participated, including Catholic, Church of Ireland, Educate Together, community national schools and Gaelscoileanna. The reaction from schools has been hugely positive, with teachers, school leadership, pupils and parents joining in.
While the focus of our work remains on our primary education system, we condemn in the strongest language recent vandalisation of pride flags in Waterford and homophobic slurs written on walls in Dublin. Such acts of hate have no place in a progressive, egalitarian society and we must all stand up and confront such despicable behaviour.
-INTO General Secretary John Boyle