We are passionate about putting young people and their lived experiences at the heart of Diversity Role Models’ work and so we invited students from all over London and the South East to join us for a two-hour session to launch our Student Voice Group.

The 15 students present came from seven different schools and ranged from 13-18 years old. At the group they were able to share ideas and connect with one another, inspiring each other to be student leaders who can advocate for inclusion and equality at their schools. Working with these young people gives us greater insight into their experiences in schools and helps us meet the needs of those in education today. These conversations will help us ensure that our workshops, resources and training courses reflect the ever changing needs of young people.

They told us how they are impacted by LGBT+ exclusion and bullying and what form that takes at their schools, from threatening to out someone to the use of homophobic slurs. They also shared their thoughts and ideas for how our volunteer Role Models' stories could have even greater impact in schools. They were keen that they should focus on talking about how LGBT+ people can overcome adversity and have lots of opportunities to succeed and share practical ideas for how to turn their peers into allies for LGBT+ inclusion.

We were inspired by the students’ passion for creating schools where everyone feels included and supported to be themselves. They came up with lots of ideas for how to improve their own schools as well as what best practice in education looks like to them, such as by having gender neutral toilets, an inclusive curriculum and ensuring all teachers have the necessary training so that they understand that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language is not 'just banter'.

The London Student Voice Group will meet regularly in the New Year. We also have plans to launch similar groups in the regions where we work, starting in the North West. The voice of the student is critical in understanding the challenges that young people face and we are grateful for the support from the student volunteers, teachers, and parents/carers that helped make the day such a success.