University Tips Blog
LGBT rainbow ribbon in the shape of heart. On a white background
A headshot image of the author, Claire Owen

by Claire Owen

Student Recruitment Officer (Midlands) at Lancaster University

posted on 29 Feb '24

Supporting LGBTQ+ students in schools and colleges

Claire Owen is a Student Recruitment Officer at Lancaster University and has worked as a Careers Adviser for over 15 years in school and college settings within The Midlands region.

Thinking about my time at both secondary school and 6th Form College, I struggle to remember any conversations within the classroom around gender identity and sexual orientation. This was largely due to the Section 28 legislation which prohibited opportunities to discuss LGBTQ+ issues in a positive light throughout the 1990’s.

This November marks 20 years since Section 28 was repealed in England and Wales. Inclusive LGBTQ+ education is so much better than it was but let’s be honest, there is still work to be done. Regardless of your role in education, everyone can help change lives by creating safe and supportive spaces allowing LGBTQ+ students to feel less isolated. So now, is a great opportunity to remind teachers and advisers how they can support their LGBTQ+ students.


Having worked as a Careers Adviser before joining Lancaster University, I have listened to LGBTQ+ students question why UCAS want to know personal information around their gender and sexual orientation when applying to university. Some LGBTQ+ students genuinely worry that their answers may play a part in the assessment of their application, concerns which are sadly understandable given the context and history. Teachers and Advisers have a role to play in reassuring students that this data is purely for the monitoring of equality, diversity and inclusion and that this data isn’t shared with universities or colleges until after the point of acceptance by students. And only then is it used to make sure support is in place for them throughout their time at university.


Gender stereotyping about jobs starts at a very young age and it’s still the case that many young people only consider jobs they have been exposed to by their immediate family. Teachers and advisers play an important role in tackling stereotypes in the workplace. As new career sectors in our society emerge, such as digital and green careers, it’s important that schools and colleges promote the pathways into these industries to all students equally.

Love text with students spelling this out with their hands


Developing LGBTQ+ initiatives in educational settings doesn’t have to be onerous. The smallest of initiatives can have a hugely positive affect on the mental health and future prospects of LGBTQ+ students. One top tip could be as simple as encouraging staff to use pronouns in email signatures and Microsoft Teams profiles to affirm inclusion.

Introducing LGBTQ+ clubs and societies in schools and colleges are an excellent way to develop a sense of acceptance and belonging for LGBTQ+ students. Working towards the Rainbow Flag Award is a great way to show your school or college’s commitment to improve the lives of all the young people that you work with, their families and staff members too!

Anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, can support LGBTQ+ students. Many schools colleges and universities have introduced LGBTQ+ Ally Networks. A fabulous opportunity allowing all staff and students to actively support the LGBTQ+ school/college community.


Starting university can be both daunting and exciting. LGBTQ+ students may have more research to do and may have more questions they want answered, compared to non-LGBTQ+ students, particularly if they are considering a move away from home. LGBTQ+ students may be extremely interested to find out how friendly and inclusive towards LGBTQ+ students a university is and how accessible LGBTQ+ support and health services will be. Teachers and advisers can play a pivotal role in helping students to access this really important information and to consider the key factors that are important to them as a university applicant.

Sadly, it is still the case that some LGBTQ+ students do not have family support. Homophobic and transphobic beliefs in society still mean that young LGBTQ+ people may have less support or even begin their university journey without any family backing at all. It is important to be aware of and create space for these conversations and look into additional support (financial, practical, and emotional) for young people in such situations.


Stonewall is a leading charity for LGBTQ+ people in the UK.

If you work in a school or college and want to know more about how you can support LGBT+ students, take a look at the CPD accredited training and membership programmes for schools and colleges in the UK on their website.

Note from UniTasterDays

Check out Episode 25 of The Uni Guide Podcast - for a fantastic overview of support at university for LGBT students.

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