This is a brand new service — your feedback helps us improve it.

What is Tools for Schools? How can the Inclusion Framework and OAIP support my setting?

Find out more on our info page

Creating a gender neutral inclusive environment for all

In 2019 Sackville School decided to actively appraise its school environment and the extent to which it was meeting the needs of LBGT+ stakeholders. Supported by Allsorts Youth Project in Brighton, the LBGT+ Allyship training provided was instrumental in the initiative in creating a framework with which the school could progress its journey towards establishing a culture in which the ‘Sackville experience’ becomes one in which all staff and students can celebrate gender and sexual diversity.


Sackville School is a maintained comprehensive school for students between the ages of 11-19. It has approximately 1,700 students with a growing 6th Form of nearly 450 students. Sackville plans and operates a broad and inclusive curriculum with academic and vocational pathways on offer for its students. It also has a popular and well attended extra-curricular programme.

Sackville’s intent is that all students are able to achieve their potential regardless of their ability or talents. The school seeks to ensure they champion every student and inspire leaving students with a lifelong love for learning. Sackville supports them to be prepared for the world of work and live fulfilling adult lives as global citizens.

This ethos was a central focus in the school’s creation of an action plan to address the way in which the school approached specific issues and concerns faced by LBGT+ students and stakeholders. The school aimed to go beyond acceptance and adaptations, to creating an environment which celebrated diversity and consequently allowed all students to flourish. The Sackville staff team had become aware of a notable increase in students expressing that they do not fit the binary or hetronormative models. This strengthened the school’s desire to make a change.

Developing the programme

The initial focus of the project was to identify a staff steering group from across all areas of the school. The staff steering group wanted to play an active role in developing the inclusive culture and attended awareness training of the issues and challenges that are faced by children and young people who are LGBT+. This included how it might impact their mental health and emotional wellbeing. It was important to Sackville that the group was representative of all areas of the school including teaching staff, support staff, librarians and facilities team to ensure as much variety of input to make as much impact as possible.

Sackville chose Allsorts Youth Project to work with as they offered an additional training programme to create and grow an allies team. This team of allies would then develop an action plan in school to offer advice on local resources and support, challenging all forms of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia with the aim of creating a safer space environment at Sackville. The training succeeded in making support for staff and students more visible with trained staff who identified themselves by wearing lanyard and by posters across areas of the school to signpost the allies.

I found the training from All Sorts engaging and informative. I enjoyed the way the facilitator managed to gently challenge the language and assumptions we all unconsciously hold. I have changed my use of language with students as a result and a number of students have sought me out to share their choice of pronouns or difficulties they experience relating to their gender or sexuality. I have done a lot of reading around the topic both before and after the training and I still find myself challenging my long-held beliefs to become more accepting and non-judgemental.”

Head of Inclusion

The action plan identified a number of projects which the school could work on. This included a curriculum audit where teaching departments were offered guidance of how they could use more diverse examples in their teaching and displays of the LBGT+ community. The LBGT+ charity Stonewall provided a great resource to promote how this could be achieved. The departments were encouraged to share good practice through a central store of materials to help other areas of the curriculum to consider how their materials could be adapted.

In addition, the school librarian reviewed the books and resources in the library to consider how this valuable resource was for LBGT+ issues. This was already an area that she had been discussing with the School’s Library Association. As a result of the review, more LBGT+ fiction and nonfiction books were ordered for the library. Importantly, the books were easily identifiable and easy to find on the shelves by having a rainbow on the spine so that students could access them without any need to highlight their search to staff or other students.

Tackling school uniform

One issue that created particular challenges was how to address the area of school uniform as we had a uniform for girls and boys. By separating uniforms by gender it was difficult for students who were questioning or transitioning their gender to feel included by the uniform policy. A simple solution put into place to deal with this issue was to rename the uniforms the ‘skirt’ and ‘trouser’ uniform and allow students to choose which uniform they wish to wear. Alongside this Sackville reviewed their uniform standards and removed gendered terms from the rules e.g. students should not wear nail varnish rather than girls should not wear nail varnish. This process sparked a larger conversation about uniforms in school, such as sportswear and summer uniform, which the school continues to work with parents, students and staff to address.

Adapting facilities

One area of facilities the school is currently working on is the provision of gender neutral toilets in school. As an older school building the school bathrooms are currently separated by gender. This has again meant challenges for questioning and transitioning students. Sackville are also aware of their responsibilities for preparing our students for university and the world of work where gender neutral toilets are more common. The current aim is to create an area of 22 gender neutral toilets in school. It is a priority that these toilets will be safe and hygienic spaces and the cubicles will be fully contained with floor to ceiling walls and doors and be accessible straight from the corridor. From research of schools who had moved to gender neutral toilets, Sackville noted their reported experiences of decreased vandalism and reduced students hanging round the toilets as a consequence of the design.

Ensuring pupil voice is heard

Sackville’s sixth form leadership team have also created an Equality and Diversity Student Group who lead on student activities in this area. One area which the group were keen to develop was a Pride group for students to attend in school. This group was to be run by students, with teacher support, for LBGT+ students and student supporters of the LBGT+ community. The group have used training, resources and support from the charity ‘Just Like Us’ to ensure the group is run as a safe space for young people.

Sackville’s LGBT+ allies have also carried out assemblies and made a display for School Diversity Week as this is a fantastic way to make school safer, happier and more welcoming for pupils who may be LGBT+ or have LGBT+ families. They also role model the use of preferred pronouns on email signatures and in meetings to create a more inclusive environment for all.

‘Inclusion and wellbeing are put right at the heart of everything we do at Sackville. Therefore, it was a natural step for us to provide a supportive learning environment for our LGBTQ+ community and challenge traditional gender stereotypes.’

Paul Street, Deputy Head

Co-production for sustainability

Overall, the project has helped break down barriers within the school and provide opportunities for conversations between students, staff and parents linking to a more sustained culture change. Staff now feel more skilled and have tools to plan inclusive curriculum and give support to students who are questioning or transitioning. And as a result, increasing student confidence.

Top tips from Sackville School for other schools

  1. Seek guidance from LBGT+ charities such as Allsorts Youth Action, Stonewall and Just like us who have training and support packages to help support LGBT+ inclusion in schools.
  2. Ensure staff, student and parent voices are encouraged to help build a sustainable culture of inclusion.
  3. Having a steering committee with a focus on LBGT+ issues meeting on a monthly basis helped keep the issue front and centre in planning.
  4. Be prepared to be open and admit you may not have all the answers. Listening and being prepared to learn on a journey to a more inclusive school means will allow you to celebrate small steps.

Links to the West Sussex Inclusion Framework

The LBGT+ programme of support in Sackville School links to a number of Aspects and dimensions within the West Sussex Inclusion Framework.

Within Aspect 1: The environment, culture and ethos

1.1 School Improvement

  • Clear inclusive aims and values are evident in the behaviour of staff and children and young people (CYP).
  • Inclusion is understood as an on-going process of increasing participation, achievement and nurture for all.
  • Aims and values reflect that leaders are ambitions for providing high-quality education to all CYP.


  • All adults model positive attitudes and behaviour and develop positive relationships with CYP, parents, staff, governors and members of the community in all circumstances.
  • All adults seek opportunities to really understand what life is like for all CYP and are skilled at adapting communication styles to achieve that.  
  • The Leadership Team regularly monitors and evaluates the impact of its inclusive vision, aims and values. The School Council, or equivalent, and the views of other CYP and parents form part of this evaluation process.
  • Effective training opportunities ensure that inclusive aims and values are planned throughout the year. Stakeholders can describe how this training has helped to shape and implement school ethos, vision and aims.
  • The principles of co-production and collaboration are embedded within the life of the school. This results in extensive engagement and participation by the full range of stakeholders. The impact of this collaboration and co-production can be clearly identified within day to day practice.

1.5 Accessibility

  • The school is accessible to all children and young people (CYP).


  • Expectations for safe movement around the site are understood and consistently followed by CYP and staff.

Within Aspect 2: Leadership

2.1 School improvement

  • The school has a clear and aspirational improvement /development plan which has been created with all stakeholders.
  • The development plan clearly prioritises inclusion of all children and young people (CYP), reflecting the needs of the whole school community.
  • High expectations for CYP and staff are modelled by senior leaders and, in turn, by all other stakeholders.


  • Individual and collective CYP and parent voice is evident in the school plan, e.g. through surveys and audits, school council or parent groups. CYP and parents are aware of how they have contributed to plans and decisions and understand why their views have or have not been acted upon, for example ‘you said / we did’. This includes gathering and responding to the views of parents who may not typically respond.
  • The Leadership Team and governing body/trust not only receive reviews of how effectively the school meets the needs of its CYP but also responds, e.g. by appropriately adapting strategic plans based on feedback. The head teacher’s termly report to governors includes inclusion development.
  • The School Council, or equivalent, includes representation from all sectors of the school community, including disadvantaged groups, and understands and is valued for its role in school planning and decision making. Participation is enabled and supported so that it is meaningful for all.

2.4 Partnership working/collaboration

  • The school enhances its provision and practice for all children and young people (CYP) through building relationships and partnership working and can evidence improved outcomes as a result.
  • Corporate responsibility for all CYP in the locality is evident in practice.
  • The school collaborates with a range of agencies and other schools to develop its capacity to improve outcomes for each CYP.


  • A culture of collaboration is created within the school, e.g. leaders and governors check whether systems enable staff to plan, teach and review together. Staff have the opportunity to develop shared resources and plan to overcome barriers together.
  • A culture of collaboration is created with other schools and organisations. This could include sharing and developing good practice with local schools and beyond, including providing advice and support. This could also include providing support to other schools in meeting the needs of more vulnerable / disadvantaged CYP and providing key pastoral and SEND staff to support less experienced staff in other schools.
  • School leaders work with external agencies, including the Local Authority’s Educational Psychology Service and Advisory Teams to review and develop plans for different groups within the school. For example, school (both special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) and designated safeguarding lead (DSL) attends a termly consultation with Early Help to discuss CYP that they are concerned about and identify appropriate support and next steps.  Actions are recorded, reviewed after a suitable timescale and impact evaluated.  Appropriate and relevant information and resources are shared and used across the school to support the child or young person.
  • The school fosters productive and positive relationships with a wide range of other agencies in the local community to improve outcomes for CYP including, where appropriate.
  • The school actively seeks to learn how other schools, both locally and nationally successfully include CYP with individual needs. Staff and CYP share ideas with and visit other schools to support the development of provision.
  • The school has audited the resources available within the local and wider community. The school has links within the local community, and these are used to enhance the provision, including careers education/preparation for adulthood planning within the school.

Within Aspect 3: Personal Development, Well-being and Welfare

3.2 Respecting each other

  • Positive relationships support all members of the school community and shared values are understood by all.
  • All children and young people (CYP) feel individually valued and known.
  • Personal strengths are recognised within day to day school life.
  • The school counters all forms of discrimination.
  • The school curriculum is reflective of CYP needs and provides a universal curriculum for all CYP to develop all areas of relationship education.
  • Staff need to be challenged and reflective to teach a diverse curriculum, such as teaching history from different perspectives.
  • To teach a diverse curriculum, staff need to be challenged and reflective.


  • CYP show they have a real understanding of different viewpoints and feel able to positively challenge others’ language or behaviour and understand why they need to do this. They show respect for the different protected characteristics defined in law and no forms of discrimination are tolerated.
  • Staff are supported to challenge each other when stereotypical views are perpetuated. Acknowledging that even if the offence caused may not have been intentional, actions are still taken to redress the situation and allow the staff member to grow.
  • The staff room as well as the classroom is part of the school community therefore the same expectations apply, there is no room for “banter” that causes offence to anyone in the school community, whether they are present or not. There are well known and clear school wide procedures for dealing with, and reporting, issues and incidents of discrimination and harassment, including homophobia, racism, sexism, disability, religion. These are also reflected in the curriculum. CYP have trust in staff and have positive supportive conversations with them.
  • The curriculum is a vehicle to promote the CYP’s understanding of cultural diversity. Schools that are predominantly monocultural make an even greater proactive effort to ensure their CYP have a greater understanding of the world, in order that they leave school with balanced, well-informed and non-stereotypical views. CYP are supported to be empathic, thoughtful and curious about experiences and perspectives that are different to those they are more familiar with.
  • The school can provide evidence that incidents of bullying, harassment or hate crime have been used as opportunities to develop understanding and to promote better relationships within the school community.
  • There are opportunities for CYP from diverse backgrounds, contexts and needs to learn from each other and together.

3.3 A safe place to be

  • The school works proactively with all children and young people (CYP) and their parent carers, to explore their experiences around school, their learning and to positively address sensitive areas.


  • All staff can confidently describe their roles and responsibilities in relation to behaviour, attendance, exclusions and anti-bullying, and how it impacts on CYP’s outcomes.
  • CYP from all groups report that their experience of school is positive, supportive and safe. There are opportunities for peer support such as playground buddies, peer mediators and peer mentors.  Staff are insightful and can spot power imbalances in friendships, that may be based on subtle differences that the more vulnerable CYP isn’t aware of.  These instances are used to allow the more “powerful” CYP a chance to reflect and learn other ways of interacting.
  • CYP are encouraged to know how to access support mechanisms that exist outside of school, such as national helplines.
  • CYP can describe how they have helped to shape systems to report bullying (including when it occurs online), and how they play an active role in combating bullying and supporting those who have been targets of bullying.
  • There is a system for CYP and staff to report incidents of bullying, including confidential listening opportunities. CYP know who to speak to when they do not feel safe and report that action is taken: observations of CYP around school and discussions with CYP confirm this. The school consistently counters all forms of discrimination.