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‘I just want to feel like I’m part of everyone else.’ How schools unintentionally contribute to the isolation of students who identify as LGBT+

Harris, R. ORCID:, Wilson-Daily, A. and Fuller, G. (2022) ‘I just want to feel like I’m part of everyone else.’ How schools unintentionally contribute to the isolation of students who identify as LGBT+. The Cambridge Journal of Education, 52 (2). pp. 155-173. ISSN 1469-3577

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/0305764X.2021.1965091


This study explores the experiences of students who identify as LGBT+ in six secondary schools in the south of England. Drawing mainly on data from six student focus groups (involving 38 students), as well as nine teacher interviews, a survey of 153 staff and analysis of school policy docu¬ments, this study examines the ways in which schools unwittingly increase LGBT+ students’ sense of isolation. This matters because of the established empirical connection between isolation and poor short- and long-term mental health issues, and the associated negative impacts on young people’s life chance. Using a framework that identifies different forms of isolation, this study found that that gendered spaces can be problematic and isolating for students. Also, ‘safe’ spaces such as support groups, although established with the best intentions, are not considered universally ‘safe’ as, depending on the school and contrary to the literature, they may invite unwant¬ed peer victimisation. Schools differ in whether they have clear poli¬cies related to gendered spaces, but when they do exist, staff are not always aware of such policies. Furthermore, LGBT+ matters are seldom integrated in school curriculums, and when they are, this is often done in a problematic or superficial way, further exacerbating students’ feelings of isolation. Understanding how schools (unwittingly) contribute to LGBT+ students’ sense of isolation potentially provides a means to identify more specific ways schools could address this issue.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education > Improving Equity and Inclusion through Education
ID Code:99639
Uncontrolled Keywords:LGBT+ students; isolation; support groups; secondary schools.
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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