Pupils are being encouraged to set up US-style LGBT+ activist groups within schools as part of landmark efforts to make Scottish education more inclusive.

A guide to establishing Gender and Sexual Orientation Alliances (GSAs) has been included in a Government-backed suite of online materials aimed at promoting equality, tackling prejudice and reducing bullying.

The LGBT Youth Scotland document states that GSA groups create safe spaces for young people who might benefit from their support. It also seeks to stimulate activism, assertiveness and organisation.

Among the activities it suggests are reviewing an establishment’s bullying policy to ensure it is inclusive, asking for LGBT+- themed texts to be provided if there are none on school library shelves, offering to talk with staff about key issues, and fundraising.

GSAs emerged in the 1980s, with the first such alliance formed in November 1988 at Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. The groups have also been known as Gay-Straight, Gender-Sexuality or Queer-Straight alliances, and are found mainly in the US and Canada.

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LGBT Youth Scotland's guide is aimed primarily at young people and contains practical advice for setting up a GSA in school. It has been labelled as suitable for the third, fourth and senior phase levels within Curriculum for Excellence. These broadly cover S1-6, as well those undertaking college study.

The document also includes information for teachers, who would normally support the process of establishing a GSA. In a message to schools and staff, it cites previous research indicating that a significant majority of LGBT+ pupils have experienced homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying, with fewer than half feeling confident about reporting it.

“Young people who attend a GSA are more likely to report that they feel safe in school and are less likely to be absent,” the guide states. “They can also be useful spaces to help them identify the support available to them. So setting up a GSA is a good first step in insuring LGBT young people in your school feel safe, respected and included.”

The guide is one of a range of education and teaching resources created to embed inclusive approaches. Their launch has been hailed as a world first.

Along with facts and worksheets on well-known LGBT+ figures, the material includes information about disabled people and women who may have been overlooked in the past due to their minority status. Among the featured individuals are gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, writer Virginia Woolf, footballer Megan Rapinoe and Scottish Green politician Patrick Harvie.

HeraldScotland: Patrick Harvie (pictured, left, with Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater) features in the new education materials.Patrick Harvie (pictured, left, with Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater) features in the new education materials.

Parents, teachers and young people, as well as LGBT+ organisations such as Time for Inclusive Education (TIE), helped to develop the resources.

However, union bosses suggested the roll-out had been rushed and questioned whether many teachers would feel prepared. Seamus Searson, general secretary at the SSTA, said: “We feel that teachers aren’t ready in schools at the moment to actually carry this forward. It’s a typical example of the Government’s desire to make things right and give respect to everybody - but teachers at this point aren’t really ready for it.

“Some of them will be up to speed and be able to deal with it but the vast majority of teachers - I can put my hand on my heart and say they’re not ready for this. There’s lots of issues for them to be discussing themselves, how they manage it, how they cope with it, how they deal with youngsters.

“All teachers need to have equalities training on the latest developments, because teachers are going to have to face these issues in school, and it’s how they cope with that. What we don’t want is teachers saying things or doing things that will suddenly find them on a charge because they’re against what the policy is.”

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Senior figures at parents organisation Connect welcomed the launch but said they would be keen to see “similar resources” rolled out to tackle other forms of discrimination.

“Young people are the future and we count on them to build a better world,” said executive director Eileen Prior.

“We very much look forward to similar resources and a similar focus on tackling racism, sexism and other discriminatory behaviour in schools from the Scottish Government and Education Scotland, particularly in the light of high levels of sexual harassment in schools being reported by girls and young women.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Youth Parliament said: "LGBT young people suffer disproportionately from bullying in schools, and it is vital that we do all that we can to support them and prevent it in the future. This means listening to what LGBT young people have to say and meaningfully engaging with them to build more inclusive places of learning.

"We welcome the development of this resource, which is a practical guide to support young people and school staff to come together and share concerns and solutions."

HeraldScotland: Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville welcomed the new materials.Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville welcomed the new materials.

TIE co-founder Jordan Daly said: "I experienced bullying and prejudice at school for being gay, and it had a detrimental impact on my confidence and wellbeing for some time.

“This new website, and the supporting resources, which have been co-developed with teachers across Scotland, will support teachers to take a proactive, educational approach to tackling prejudice. Most importantly, this work will empower young people and provide them with an opportunity I didn't have at school - to feel valued, confident, and proud of who they are."

In her online introduction to the materials, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “The central ethos of Scottish education is one of inclusion. Inclusion is the cornerstone to help us to achieve excellence and equity in education for all our children and young people.

"By delivering LGBT inclusive education, we have reaffirmed our commitment to putting the needs of each and every child and young person at the heart of our approach, enabling us to get it right for every child.”