Manchester set for UK's first LGBT school

By Neil Puffett and Derren Hayes

| 15 January 2015

A youth work charity has unveiled plans to establish the UK's first ever school for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people in Manchester.

The school would be designed for, but not limited to, LGBT young people and those questioning their sexuality. Picture: Paul Carter

Based in the centre of the city, the school will initially take around 40 full-time pupils and will also have some part-time places for young people who want to continue attending a mainstream school.

Amelia Lee, strategic director for LGBT Youth North West, the organisation behind the initiative, told CYP Now the hope is that the school will act as a “trailblazer” that other areas can replicate.

A feasibility study into the plans is currently being conducted after the charity was handed £63,000 in grant funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) community assets and services grants programme.

Lee said the idea for the specialist school has received the backing of Manchester City Council, and will form part of the city’s alternative provision offer.

Although it is primarily designed for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people who struggle in mainstream schools, it will also be open to any other children wishing to attend.

“This will provide for LGBT young people who don’t feel they fit in the mainstream,” Lee said.

“In Manchester in December we had a girl called Lizzie [Elizabeth Lowe] who committed suicide in a park because she was struggling with coming out and was worried about telling her parents.

“There was another girl with a similar story in Bolton.

"Lots of pupils have a really tough time and we want to do what we can to help those pupils and to give them additional support.

“We can either hope every school is going to be inclusive or we can recognise we are not there yet and we need more specialised schools.

“This is about saving lives.”

Lee said the school will design a curriculum based around youth work techniques.

“The scope for having schools that work for pupils rather than work for the system is massive.

“We have an education system that sets up five to 10 per cent of pupils to fail.

“This could be an example for other LGBT schools, but equally for young carers, young parents, and young people with mental health problems.

“It is about trying to develop something that helps people that need extra support.”

The site of the planned school, the Joyce Layland Centre, is currently a dedicated space for LGBT organisations and includes a meeting space, rentable offices, an LGBT library and a café.

In addition to exploring plans to create a school at the centre, the feasibility study will look into the potential for adding two extra floors, and training up staff in a range of occupations and skills.

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