INTO President Joe McKeown presenting a pride flag promoting inclusivity to staff and pupils at Scoil na nÓg in Glanmire.

Inclusivity key in Irish schools

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has presented a Cork school with a Pride flag to thank teachers for making schools safe and inclusive places.

Last week, INTO President Joe McKeown visited Scoil na nÓg in Glanmire where he presented a pride flag to the school on behalf of the union.

During the month of June, Mr McKeown will be presenting a flag to a selected primary school in each county.

In January 2020, the INTO’s Equality Committee conducted a survey to examine the experiences of LGBT+ teachers in Irish schools. Results were mixed. For some, being openly LGBT+ in their professional environment was not a difficulty.

For others, particularly those in schools under a religious patronage, they were concerned about the reaction of their boards of managements and parents.

Many worried that they might be discriminated against when applying for a job or promotion.

Mr McKeown said that only 18 per cent of LGBT+ teachers in the Republic of Ireland have declared their orientation in their school community.

“The findings of this survey bring into sharp focus the challenges faced every day by our LGBT+ colleagues and the work still to be done to ensure our schools are safe and inclusive spaces for all. I applaud each and every school community that have rolled up their sleeves and asked, what can I do? Together, we will condemn bullying and bigotry to the history pages of our primary education system,” he said.

According to Mr McKeown, there are a number of ways primary schools in Ireland can demonstrate their inclusivity such as displaying LGBT+ staff room guidance posters in the staff room, and making LGBT+ inclusive books available in class libraries.

He said they can also enter the INTO ‘Different families, Same Love’ competition, as well as flying the Pride flag during the month of June this year.

Muireann Ní Arrachtáin, Príomhoide Scoil na nÓg added: “It is very important that schools are welcoming of all people, no matter how they identify or who they are in relationship with. We value all our pupils, teachers and parents equally and do our best to include everyone in our school community. Receiving the Pride flag is an important step towards making sure that our school is truly inclusive.”

The INTO said it will continue to be an unapologetic advocate for LGBT+ teachers and the right of a safe and inclusive education for all.