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Ashton Sixth Form spearhead LGBT education during LGBT history month

The college library has had a display of prominent LGBT writers since the month began, and we went along to find out more about how ASFC educates their students both during and after the month.

LGBT history month is a month dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. Founded in 1994 by Missouri school teacher Rodney Wilson, the month has been officially observed in the UK since 2005.

At Ashton Sixth Form, the month has been on the calendar for a long time and this year has been a packed schedule, with the library featuring books about the history of LGBT, science, and much more. The display co-incides with the further dedicated section further at the back of the library with much more literature on the topic.

The rise in LGBT education and awareness across the college can be attributed to the work of Andrew Sztehlo and Robert Murray Green, who have spearheaded multiple initiatives for the college.

Speaking to them both, they told us how the library display and the further resources have been educating both students and staff about everything LGBT

Andrew - Ashton Sixth Forms’ learning and resources manager - told us more about the library’s’ role, saying: “The library does an amazing amount of work with various calendar points and we have our Equality and Diversity calendar that we do in partnership with a company called Equality and Diversity UK. For various different calendar points the library puts a lot of effort into making sure that the resources are up to date and relevant. Its’ just one of the examples of the great work the library does for equality and diversity across the college.”

The library does a lot of work outside of LGBT history month as well, with Andrew and the team in the library having curated a section dedicated to the community. For the section Andrew wanted to diversify the way in which the books were presented. He achieved this by changing the status quo for the way in which books are organised in the library.

This was explained further by Andrew, who told us: “The Dewey Decimal system was invented the 1900s by a librarian in Chicago. Basically, it’s a system running from 0 to 999 and each number signifies a different theme. Every book is organised through the numbers and themes. But as the system is so old and hasn’t really changed since invention a lot of it is reflective of the prejudices of its time and it is something that is not going to change. It is the leading way of organising a library, so it is something we all have to use but hasn’t changed. As a result, the LGBT section of it is categorised under mental disorders, so we have created a section not categorized by the outdated system so students can know exactly where they need to look for their books.”

So within the library, Ashton Sixth Form have been pioneering new initiatives to make a more inclusive school. But it is not just the library that has been supporting LGBT – the college has created more initiatives, something Rob told us more about.

“It doesn’t stop after LGBT history month for us, we do a lot around sexual visibility week and all the different points. It is not just one month of the year where we are interested in celebrating this, as LGBT people struggle throughout the year. It is really important to us throughout the year to hit these points and keep it relevant for the students. We have a longstanding pride group as well which was actually set up by a student here because the demand was there for a safe space for LGBTQIA students to go to and feel they have more of a voice, so we created a space for them to make sure they could meet regularly and lead on certain events like transgender day of remembrance. We meet every Tuesday lunchtime and this month as part of LGBT history month and to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Brianna Ghey they did a fundraiser to go towards the GoFundMe set up in her memory. They raised over £65 from that. We also have a membership with the charity Stonewall charity, we are a college champion, so staff get access to additional training online.”

The team behind the LGBT initiatives across campus have all put in hard work for this month and the months beyond to educate the staff and students about everything LGBT.

Andrew praised Rob for his work, saying:  “Rob really spearheads this across campus, and as much as Rob says the college has this and that, what he means is that he has brought it in. He’s done amazing work and been a real ally in terms of helping us out with students and in terms of spotlighting the library work to the students. I have worked in schools where it might be fashionable to say we support LGBT youth, whereas actually having policies in place and support groups is the stuff that is actually making a difference.”

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