"You can use all the labels you like but ultimately you are talking about a human being."
It might not seem like it at times, but we are genuinely living in a more enlightened age, one where issues of equality, sexuality, identity and gender and are far more frequently discussed and, hopefully, addressed.
And about time too. There have been too many people suffering in silence for too long.
Education in general - and schools in particular - have such an important part to play in supporting and pushing this new spirit of inclusivity and openness, which is why we are delighted that educator and campaigner Claire Birkenshaw has become one of our most recent Associates.
Claire hit the national headlines in 2017 as the first UK headteacher to transition in post and, as you may imagine, it was a tumultuous time for her. The challenges she went through, before and during that time, were made all the worse by fear, intolerance and ignorance – not from the children in her school who were open minded and compassionate but from adults whose view of humanity was limited to ‘people like us’.
It is exactly these views that Claire is working to confront now in her work not only as an Associate but also her speaking engagements with local, national and European governments and advisors as well as her recent appointment as a Lecturer in Childhood and Education at Leeds Beckett University’s prestigious Carnegie School of Education following her work at the university supporting their Centre for LBGTQ+ Inclusion in Education.
Claire gave me a reason to be brave. The daily battles I have pale into insignificance when compared to what she has achieved – quite remarkable and very inspiring
Intelligent, articulate and witty, she has succeeded in helping us to move forward our agenda around inclusivity, equality and diversity. You would need a heart of stone to be unmoved by her courage
Wow! Very inspirational...we have work to do regarding policies to support our children
Since leaving her headship and also coming to terms with finally living as Claire, she has been in demand not only for her personal insights into gender, equality and inclusion but also to open up the wider debate about such matters at national and international levels.
She has addressed both the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Department for Education, is a Child Exploitation and Online Protection Ambassador for the National Crime Agency and has been recognised for her work in a number of ways including a nomination in the 2018 National Diversity Awards as a positive LGBT role model. What’s more, to help raise awareness further in LGBT+ issues and help more people speak up and speak out, Claire has been interviewed for The Guardian and also the BBC World Service.
For an entertaining, honest, heart-warming and challenging speaker to help you address such an important facet of school life and the wider role and responsibility of education, then Claire is very much the lady you need.
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