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Eastern High School students tackle LGBT+ diversity

Cat Chamberlain and Adam Williams, Just Like Us ambassadors with Vic Olphin, chair of Glamazon

Students at Eastern High School, Cardiff, enjoyed a visit from the Amazon LGBT+ Reading Roadshow, a unique new initiative designed to tackle homophobic bullying and boost LGBT+ inclusion in schools.

In partnership with LGBT+ education charity Just Like Us and PinkNews, the Reading Roadshow celebrates the importance of LGBT+ inclusion through literature. Launched in London with musician Will Young and director Chris Sweeney, hosts of the Homo Sapiens podcast, the Roadshow will provide inclusivity workshops and free LGBT+ inclusive books for participating schools. The literature, approved by school literacy experts, includes texts by authors such as Alex Bertie, Lisa Williamson, E.M Forster and Becky Albertalli.

The Reading Roadshow comes as new research commissioned by Amazon from YouGov among more than 1,000 primary and secondary school teachers, has found that:

  • 71 per cent of teachers have witnessed homophobic bullying in school
  • 35 per cent of teachers claim to observe homophobic bullying at least once a month
  • Homophobic bullying is the most common motivation behind bullying in schools (13 per cent), when compared to racism (11 per cent), sexism (7 per cent) and religion (2 per cent)
  • More than half (58 per cent) of teachers would support the idea of businesses discussing the importance of LGBT+ inclusion in schools

The Reading Roadshow builds on Amazon’s long-term commitment to diversity and inclusion, including its sponsorship of this year’s 2019 PinkNews Awards and Amazon Music’s continued role as official music partner for Pride in London. Last year, Amazon launched new transgender guidelines to provide best practice for all employees and introduced preferred pronouns to its internal global employee directory. The company recently launched Amazon Amplify – a programme to boost gender diversity and inclusion across the UK.

The Reading Roadshow is travelling to secondary schools neighbouring Amazon sites around the country – and will be joined by Amazon employees, members of glamazon, Amazon’s LGBT+ affinity group, and Just Like Us ambassadors. Participating schools will receive a free box of books for their libraries containing a selection of books about the importance of LGBT+ inclusion and the experiences of LGBT+ people. All books have been accredited for age appropriateness and educational value by Barbara Band – Chartered Librarian, former president of CILIP, regional chair for the School Library Association and features editor for The School Librarian magazine.

Students at Eastern High School spoke to Amazon volunteers and ambassadors from Just Like Us about how to tackle LGBT+ bullying in their school, before glamazon members read extracts from the book selection.

Simon Johnson, UK Country Manager for Books, Amazon and executive sponsor of the Amazon LGBT+ employee affinity group, said “Diversity and inclusion can make everybody stronger – benefitting communities, schools and across society as a whole. So by meeting positive role models, running workshops which tackle the causes of bullying and opening young minds to literature that challenges stereotypes, we hope the LGBT+ Reading Roadshow has a positive impact on students and builds on the existing work of schools.”

Ben Cohen, Chief Executive of PinkNews, said: “It’s brilliant to see Amazon go above and beyond in its commitment to diversity and inclusion – not just representing those within the LGBT+ community, but right across society. By taking that positive message directly into schools, these role models can be a force for good.”

Armando Di-Finizio, head teacher at Eastern High School, said: “We’re delighted to host Amazon and Just Like Us at Eastern High School today. Part of our work to raise standards right across the school includes ways to create a more inclusive learning environment. Education about what it means to be LGBT+ helps to boost relationships between pupils, teachers and the wider community. We look forward to building on today’s workshop, and the free books for our school library are a fantastic starting point.”