In 2015, something happened that would change Scottish schools forever.

It was less than a year after the independence referendum and, despite the result favouring the status quo, there was a sense that all the energy and enthusiasm that had driven Scottish politics over the previous couple of years could be used to make life better for people across the country.

When I think back to that time there was a huge array of new ideas, initiatives and campaign groups, but one stands out more than any other: Time for Inclusive Education.

The campaign began in 2015 with a petition to the Scottish Government. Despite gathering considerable support – including from MSPs – the parliament’s Public Petitions Committee closed the TIE petition, but that only ended up being a catalyst for further progress. Over the next few months the campaign attracted more and more backers as momentum continued to build.

READ MORE: Survey reveals overwhelming parental support for LGBT-inclusive education

By the end of 2018 the government had accepted all 33 recommendations from its LGBT Inclusive Education Working Group, and at the beginning of the following year an implementation group was established.

In September 2021, the national platform for LGBT Inclusive Education – – was launched as Scotland became the first country in the world to officially embed inclusive education in the school curriculum.

To my mind, the success of TIE is the most impressive political campaign, and the most important educational development, in my lifetime.

The campaign may have been launched fifteen years after the repeal of Section 28, but the ghost of that vicious legislation was still haunting the landscape of Scottish education.

I went to high school from 1998 until 2004, and the idea that young people, or teachers, could have been openly out back then was, for the overwhelming majority, simply unthinkable. To be completely honest, I’m not even all that sure how much had changed by the time I entered teaching in 2011.

READ MORE: Degrading, demeaning and isolating - how Section 28 affected teachers

A generation of legal suppression, isolation and cruelty – which were the true goals of Section 28 – had created an environment that, even in the absence of legislative hostility, told LGBT young people that there was something wrong with them.

Banning teachers from “promoting” homosexuality had had the effect of stripping all mention of LGBT people, issues and history from the curriculum. Pupils learned about Alan Turing’s mathematical genius and war time achievement – and that’s where it stopped. English classes studied Edwin Morgan’s stunning love poem, Strawberries, but the full context was kept hidden away.

We censored education in order to appease bigots. That’s the truth.

But enough is enough.

I spent more than a decade teaching and I firmly believe that ending the de-facto Don’t Say Gay culture is the route not just to truly inclusive education, but to a far better and more effective education system overall.

Assemblies are part of that, as are workshops and teacher training programmes. Cosmetic changes also matter: seeing posters about LGBT issues in schools helps to send an important message to young people, for example.

READ MORE: In charts: parental support for LGBT-inclusive schooling

READ MORE: ‘We need more support’ – trans students on their experience of Scottish schools

But the curricular focus is the key because that is where true normalisation can be achieved.

No more censorship. No more cowardice. No more teaching our children about a world that doesn’t actually exist.

There has, of course, been a backlash against this sort of proposition. There always is. Some particularly angry people are particularly opposed to the idea of inclusive education, just as they’re opposed to most other signs of progress. They want young people kept in the dark, lied to, and vulnerable.

But we always knew those people were just a vocal minority, and now we’ve got the data to prove it.

So let’s be absolutely clear: things are so much better than they were during my time at school.

And they’re not just better for LGBT pupils – they’re better for absolutely everyone. We are all diminished (intellectually, emotionally, socially, and personally) by the kind of culture that oppressed, and too often continues to oppress, LGBT people in our schools and our society.

But we must also guard against complacency, because the job is not finished, and progress can always be undone.

For all our sakes, that cannot be allowed to happen.