LGBT applicants view teaching as vehicle for change

LGBT applicants for teacher training are more likely to consider the job a vehicle for social change, according to a study.

Research conducted by academics at NUI Galway is part of a larger ‘Diversity in Initial Teacher Education (DITE) in Ireland’ project. It analysed responses to an anonymous, online questionnaire from applicants, for the Professional Master in Education programme offered by various universities.

Of 746 survey respondents, 595 completed the section identifying sexual orientation. More than 91% identified as heterosexual or straight, and just under 4% identified as non-heterosexual.

Of that latter group, 80% identified as Catholic, although attendance at religious services was lower among them than among the respondents who said they were heterosexual.

The majority of non-heterosexual respondents had positive second-level school experiences, although there were some references to bullying.

The authors of the study referred to the 20.2% in the overall number of people who filled out the questionnaire, but who did not include details of their sexual orientation as possibly indicating “high levels of discomfort with the topic of sexualities among ITE applicants”.

“Considering the covert and overt, social, institutional, and religious barriers, and the continuing discriminatory employment legislation affecting LGBT teachers in the Irish context, it would not be surprising if LGBT ITE applicants preferred to keep their sexualities hidden, even in an anonymous questionnaire, similar to the many LGBT teachers who remain silent and invisible in Irish schools,” the study said.

It also said initial teacher education had “a significant role in challenging and interrupting marginalisation and discrimination embedded in everyday schooling and life”.

Acknowledging the small size of the sample who identified as LGBT, it said any findings could only be indicative, but the study concluded that LGBT applicants “are highly motivated and committed to a teaching career” with a “strong desire to ‘fight inequality’ and to ‘make a difference to the lives of children and young people’.”

The research was conducted by Manuela Heinz, Elaine Keane, and Kevin Davison and is published in the Journal of Education for Teaching.


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