The Rainbow Flag Award was seed funded as a pilot with funding from the Government Equalities Office, between 2017 and 2019. Since then the programme has gone from strength to strength, growing not only in the number of schools and organisations electing to take part, but also the number of experienced and skilled LGBT+ youth work organisations delivering the programme in their local areas.

We’re extremely proud of the impact and positive change that the Rainbow Flag Award is making in our schools and organisations, creating a culture and ethos where LGBT+ young people can feel safe, and thrive. 

Recently, some organisations and some sections of the media have sought to misrepresent our work, the below help to answer some of the questions raised.

What is the Rainbow Flag Award?

The Rainbow Flag Award is a national quality assurance framework for all schools and youth organisations, focusing on positive LGBT+* inclusion and visibility. The Rainbow Flag Award encourages a whole organisation approach to LGBT+ inclusion through a process of action and reflection.

Getting LGBT+ inclusion right is really important, yet the Rainbow Flag Award is not prescriptive, we do not tell you what to do. There is no one way of achieving meaningful LGBT+ inclusion. Through a process of reflection, looking at the needs of your students, staff, and wider communities, you will take actions specific to your school or college.

The Rainbow Flag Award provides training, guidance and support to help a school with this LGBT+ inclusion process. This not only helps a school tackle LGBTphobia, but through positive education, also will inspire and support your students to improve the understanding they have of themselves, of the LGBT+ community and instil a wider commitment to equality and diversity.

*lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, plus other related identities.

Do schools have to do LGBT+ inclusion work?

Schools operate under legal and statutory requirements, including the Equality Act 2010, the Public Sector Equality Duty (where applicable) and the statutory guidance on RSHE.  

The Equality Act 2010 outlines nine protected characteristics: 

    • Age
    • Disability
    • Gender reassignment
    • Marriage and civil partnership
    • Pregnancy and maternity
    • Race
    • Religion or belief
    • Sex
    • Sexual orientation

The Act protects people from unlawful discrimination, harassment or victimisation on the basis of any protected characteristic. This advice is based on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Equality Act Code of Practice, which was recently reaffirmed in the High Court, and the Department for Education’s advice for schools on the Equality Act

The Public Sector Equality Duty requires all state-funded schools, colleges and settings in England, Scotland and Wales to: 

  • eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Act – including because of the protected characteristics of sexual orientation and gender reassignment  
  • advance equality of opportunity 
  • foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it – e.g. between LGBT pupils and those who are not LGBT

To help meet these duties, all forms of LGBTphobic bullying should be tackled, and proactive steps taken to promote respect and understanding of LGBT+ people and the issues that affect them. They should also set specific, measurable and age-appropriate equality objectives, such as reducing levels of LGBTphobic language and bullying. 

In England, Ofsted will inspect the extent to which a school ‘complies with the relevant legal duties as set out in the Equality Act 2010, including, where relevant, the Public Sector Equality Duty and the Human Rights Act 1998’. Ofsted’s School Inspection Handbook states that ‘records and analysis of bullying, discriminatory and prejudiced behaviour, either directly or indirectly, including racist, sexist, disability and homophobic/biphobic/transphobic bullying, use of derogatory language and racist incidents’ should be made.  

The Department for Education’s Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education Statutory guidance states that:  

  • (36.) In teaching Relationships Education and RSE, schools should ensure that the needs of all pupils are appropriately met, and that all pupils understand the importance of equality and respect. Schools must ensure that they comply with the relevant provisions of the Equality Act 2010, (please see The Equality Act 2010 and schools: Departmental advice), under which sexual orientation and gender reassignment are amongst the protected characteristics.
  • (37.) Schools should ensure that all of their teaching is sensitive and age appropriate in approach and content. At the point at which schools consider it appropriate to teach their pupils about LGBT, they should ensure that this content is fully integrated into their programmes of study for this area of the curriculum rather than delivered as a standalone unit or lesson. Schools are free to determine how they do this, and we expect all pupils to have been taught LGBT content at a timely point as part of this area of the Curriculum.

On top of all of this, there in an unwavering moral obligation to create schools and college’s that are safe for all students, including those that are LGBT+, or questioning their identity.

How is this different to the LGBT+ inclusive programmes offered by other organisations?

Our foundations are in youth work, focusing on the wellbeing of LGBT+ young people. In the creation of the Rainbow Flag Award we have drawn first-hand from the experiences of the young people that access our services, and their youth workers, teachers, and leaders in education. This means that our work is live and fresh, representing what is happening for LGBT+ young people right now. Youth participation, the community around the child and an asset-based approach are central to this model.

We continuously reflect upon our work and take actions to improve the resources we offer to our schools and colleges. The money coming into the organisations delivering The Rainbow Flag Award is reinvested back into LGBT+ youth services and inclusive education development.

How are parents/carers involved in the Rainbow Flag Award?

Schools have a duty to teach children and young people about the world they live in. All children and young people live in a world, and go to schools, where LGBT+ people exist. The Rainbow Flag Award recognises that parents and carers are a crucial part of the school community, and their child’s education.

Many parents and carers themselves have often not received any LGBT+ positive education. As such, it is a requirement of the award (in order to gain the orange Supportive Governors and Parents section) that lesson resources, information and learning is shared with parents and carers with complete transparency.

It is up to you how you do this, you know your parents. Consider whether a coffee morning, homework tasks, newsletters, webpages, or some other way engage your parents in this education are the most effective for your setting.

Is the Rainbow Flag Award trans inclusive?

Unequivocally, yes.

The existence of trans and non-binary people is not a new thing, in fact gender diverse people have been celebrated in many cultures over millennia. Yet some schools remain nervous around this topic; a nervousness likely fuelled by purposeful misinformation and ignorance peddled by some sections of society.

Trans and non-binary people exist in our world and therefore exist in our schools. Where people are made to feel invisible and like they shouldn’t or don’t exist, poor mental health takes root. Where identities are openly explored, it is more likely that pupils will feel more accepted and able to thrive.

Trans inclusive education is not about telling young people who or what they are. Rather, it is about equipping young people with language and information to enable them to explore their own identity, and the world they live in, without fear of judgement, or worse.

With literally years of experience of working with LGBT+ young people, we can help you with training and resources to be able to do this appropriately, and well.

Are schools allowed to work with all the Rainbow Flag Award delivery organisations?

There is no guidance advising against working with any of the Rainbow Flag Award delivery organisations. Our work has been funded by a number of National and Local Government schemes over the years, and continues to be.

Some activists have been sending template letters to schools suggesting that they should not work with some of us. They allege that work supporting schools to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for trans children and young people goes against this non-statutory guidance issued by the Department for Education in September 2020, which states: 

“We are aware that topics involving gender and biological sex can be complex and sensitive matters to navigate. You should not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear. Resources used in teaching about this topic must always be age-appropriate and evidence based. Materials which suggest that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity should not be used and you should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such material. While teachers should not suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing, teachers should always seek to treat individual students with sympathy and support.” 

Our work does not fall in scope of these concerns.  

Our resources focus on providing teachers with knowledge and confidence to ensure all students learn about different gender identities, with a diverse range of trans role models as part and parcel of learning about equality, diversity and respect. We agree with the view that nobody should assume a child or young person who doesn’t conform to gender stereotypes is LGBT+, and we actively discourage the “wrong body” narrative. No child or young person should be told or encouraged to think that there is something wrong with their body (or identity). Instead, we value people’s self-expression and encourage adults around young people to avoid making assumptions about anyone’s identity, and instead to have a culture where there is an open space to discuss identity.

As local LGBT+ youth organisations, our work with schools includes support for students who are or who might be LGBT+, as well as those who are questioning their gender identity or sexual/romantic orientation. It also includes students with LGBT+ family members and friends.

What is the Rainbow Flag Award Classroom?

This is a set of 48 LGBT+ inclusive lesson plans. They are not the LGBT+ specific lessons that you might expect to get delivered in PSHE or Relationships Education. Rather, they are lessons that cut across all key stages and all curriculum areas – maths, science, art, music, etc. – where the example used in the lesson is an LGBT+ person or a positive LGBT+ symbol (such as a Pride flag).

The Rainbow Flag Award Classroom lessons are not specifically about LGBT+ people, but just highlight the diversity of people that exist. In the same way, we would expect schools to use a range of people of different ethnicities and/or abilities and/or faiths in examples in all classroom lessons.

The Rainbow Flag Award Classroom is freely available to all, so have a look for yourself! Click here.

How can the Rainbow Flag Award improve attendance and impact progress and attainment?

The 2018 National LGBT Survey conducted by the Government Equalities Office identified that there continues to be a lack of LGBT+ inclusion in schools and LGBTphobia continues to be ever present. Due to discrimination many LGBT+ students face in schools, the health and wellbeing of students who identify as LGBT+ is being put at risk. As a result, LGBT+ young people have lower than national average attendance and attainment, and higher levels of self-harm and suicide ideation.

The Department for Education found that pupils with no absence are 3.1 times more likely to achieve level 5 or above at KS2 compared to those who had an attendance of 90% and below, and 2.2 times more likely to achieve 5+ GCSEs 9-4 than those who had an attendance rate of 85% and below.

Public Health England has outlined the link between pupil health and wellbeing with attainment. Key points from this briefing included:

  • Pupils with better health and wellbeing are likely to achieve better academically.
  • The culture, ethos and environment of a school influences the health and wellbeing of pupils and their readiness to learn.

Ensuring your LGBT+ students and staff feel safe, respected and included in your school community demonstrates a commitment to their wellbeing and so their attendance and progress.

Why choose the Rainbow Flag Award to support you in this journey?

The Rainbow Flag Award is delivered by a series of charitable organisations, with many years of experience of working with and supporting LGBT+ young people. Our focus is ensuring positive LGBT+ inclusion at all levels by working collaboratively with various organisations. Any income generated by the award is reinvested into LGBT+ youth services.

Ready to sign up? Click here to apply.