PIONEERING Scots teachers are laying the groundwork for a radical new school curriculum which will put LGBTI issues at the centre of education.

The plan would be the first in Europe to put LGBTI - lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex - children on an equal footing with heterosexual pupils. The only other nation moving towards such a position is Australia.

Campaign group Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) is calling for mandatory teaching of LGBTI issues in schools to end discrimination and bullying in the hope that it will “save lives”. This would see LGBTI issues discussed in the same way that heterosexual issues are discussed in schools.

TIE believes the new moves will end the “culture of silence” around issues faced by LGBTI people. Campaigners says Scottish schools are a “breeding grounds” for bullying and abuse which can contribute to self-harming and suicide.

It is sixteen years since the repeal of Section 28 in Scotland - which prevented the “promotion” of homosexuality in classrooms - but that legislation has left an unwanted legacy of discrimination which still needs tackled, according to TIE.

TIE co-founder Jordan Daly, 21, said: “We launched TIE in an effort to tackle homo/bi/transphobia in Scottish schools and to ensure that LGBTI young people are fully supported during their time in education.

“While Section 28 was repealed sixteen years ago, we are still feeling the effect today. Currently, our schools are breeding grounds for homo/bi/transphobic attitudes and, all too often, this has a detrimental impact on LGBTI+ youth - many of whom are sadly resorting to self-harm or suicide.

“In most schools, there is a culture of silence around LGBTI+ and this has to be addressed. The support that we have received from politicians has been incredibly encouraging, but it is now time for words to translate into action, and so we look forward to working with our government to ensure that school is a safe place for all of our young people.”

Liam Stevenson, a 38-year-old tanker driver from Cumbernauld, co-founded the campaign with Daly because he wants his five-year-old daughter to be educated in “a safe and inclusive environment”.

He said: “We were recently sent an email by a pupil following an assembly that we delivered in her school. It said: ‘I just wanted to say thanks, and to let you know that it is quite possible that you saved lives today - and opened the eyes of others’.

“For me, this sums up the need for LGBTI+ inclusivity within education - it is imperative because it can save lives. My daughter starts school in August and I want to be confident that regardless of her identity, she will be learning in a safe and inclusive environment.

“It is vital that we tackle these issues now, so that my daughter's generation and those that follow her will not be subject to the same struggle that many LGBTI+ youth are facing today. We owe it to our children to ensure that they can thrive in a society free of homo/bi/transphobia and the key to this is inclusive education.”

The new TIE training scheme will be piloted in Glasgow and Edinburgh in October but many teachers are already trying to change the way schools treat LGBTI issues.

Scott Mowat, 29, a principle teacher at Ibrox Primary School in Glasgow, said: “I came out at school in my early teens. I was very lucky not to be bullied. The difference with me is I am quite masculine. But I’ve seen other people be bullied for it. I was actually bullied as a student teacher. So I want to teach children that difference is ok.

“I’ve been delivering LGBTI+ friendly lessons from nursery level right up to primary seven. The youngest pupils are taught to celebrate families and celebrate differences. In the middle school I teach about gender bias and in the upper school we look at what LGBTI+ actually means.

“The message is it is ok to be gay and ok to be different. As long as you’re loved, that’s the most important thing in a family. I’ve also purchased LGBT literature which I read to pupils at all levels.”

Mowat has enjoyed the support of a majority of pupils, parents and colleagues, however some young people have resisted.

He explained: “I’ve had children who are religious who say they don’t think there is anything wrong with difference but their religion does, and they need to follow that religion.

“But I haven’t had many adverse reactions. On one occasion a pupil called another an offensive name. I stopped the lesson and explored why it is offensive to some people and why it’s inappropriate to call people that. We spent about an hour looking at transgender people. At the end of it the pupils realised why such name calling could upset some people.

“I think teachers want to do similar and perhaps they don’t have the confidence. But I think it’s important to talk about it, and teachers do have the ability. Teachers need to feel that it’s on the agenda. The more this is in the limelight, the more that schools and local authorities will want to take it on.”

The Catholic Church has also indicated support for TIE, insisting there is a “zero tolerance approach” to discrimination in Catholic schools and moves are afoot to ensure all teachers feel confident in addressing LGBTI+ issues.

A spokeswoman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: “The Church is working with the Catholic Head Teacher associations to ensure that all teachers have adequate knowledge, understanding and training and feel confident in addressing all aspects of relationships education, including LGBTI+ matters, in an appropriate and sensitive way.”

Meanwhile, at Vale of Leven Academy a pupil-led committee has been set up with the support of secondary teachers Lauren Robson and Dawn Wilson.

The group provides advice and support on LGBTI+ issues to pupils, teachers and parents, as well as training for staff across the region.

Vale of Leven Academy has also set up a ‘Rainbow Room’ where young people can report homophobic bullying and language, speak to someone about coming out, or find out more about LGBTI issues.

Wilson said “I have been working on the project for three years and I am delighted to work with both pupils and staff to make the school more inclusive for LGBTI+ pupils, staff and parents.

“We all have a duty and responsibility to ensure that we 'Get It Right for Every Child', this includes the 7% of LGBTI+ learners. All children, regardless of their sexuality, gender identity or expression have the right to come to school and feel welcomed, included and safe. By educating pupils, parents and staff about LGBTI+ issues we are making headway in tackling homophobia/biphobia and transphobia. By doing so we hope to remove any barriers in the way of our pupils, allowing them to be their ‘authentic self’ so that they can concentrate on their learning and achieve together.”

Councillor Michelle McGinty, Convenor of Educational Services at West Dunbartonshire Council, added: “The council is very proud of the young pupils who had the care and vision to set up the group to ensure every pupil had the right to express themselves and life their life openly and without fear.

“The group is well supported by both staff and parents and this approach sends a clear message to the school community that regardless of your sexual orientation or identity, you will be accepted, respected and free to learn in a safe and supportive environment.”

Although progress is being made, campaigners insist more must be done to change attitudes in Scottish schools.

Director of equality charity Stonewall Scotland, Colin Macfarlane, said research has found that only 16 per cent of teachers have had any training on discussing LGBTI+ issues in the classroom.

“That simply isn't good enough,” said MacFarlane. “In the year running up to the Scottish elections we lobbied the political parties to take this seriously and we were pleased that all of the major parties made specific commitments on this.

“What we need now is action and for the Scottish Government to deliver a comprehensive, sustained and funded strategy to ensure over time all our teachers are trained on how to tackle homo/bi/transphobic bullying so that all our schools are truly inclusive.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said schools have “refreshed, age-appropriate and inclusive strategies and resources”, adding: “We have committed to a programme of teacher training on equality for all newly appointed, guidance and promoted teachers, providing funding where necessary and we have recently updated relationship teaching guidance.

“This is clear that relationship education must speak to all young people and respect their identities, characteristics and diverse family circumstances in which they grow up. Local authorities and schools will deliver this based on local needs and circumstances.”