Rural LGBT teachers have worse mental health

Lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans teachers working in rural areas are nine times more likely to experience mental health issues related to their job than their peers in cities, research has shown.

Forty-six per cent of LGBT+ teachers working in villages reported taking time off work due to anxiety or depression linked to their sexual identity and role as a teacher, in a survey carried out by Dr Catherine Lee, head of education and social care at Anglia Ruskin University.

The figure for LGBT+ teachers working in towns and cities was just five per cent.

Around 40 per cent of teachers at village schools believe their sexual or gender identities have been a barrier to promotion, compared with 15 per cent at urban or suburban schools.

Lee conducted an online questionnaire between April and July 2017 to gather information about LGBT+ teachers’ engagement with school communities. She received 105 responses.

The results showed that the experiences in primary and secondary schools are broadly similar, but there is a stark difference between teaching in villages and towns or cities.

Thirty per cent of teachers in rural schools have left a role because of homophobia, compared with 17 per cent in towns or cities.

Respondents from village schools reported feeling their sexual identity is “incompatible” with their identity as a teacher, and cited fears of being perceived as “predatory”.

Lee referenced the findings at LGBTed, a new network established to offer support and information for the LGBT+ community in teaching.

She used the workshop to sign candidates up to ‘Courageous leaders’, a free two-year coaching and mentoring programme to help LGBT+ teachers achieve promotion.

Lee herself is a mentor on the scheme, which is run by Jane Robinson, teaching school director at the Wickford Teaching Schools Alliance in Essex, and funded through the Department for Education’s leadership equality and diversity fund.

“No one should experience barriers that prevent them from progressing in their career because of their identity,” said a DfE spokesperson.

“We want to see teaching become one of the most inclusive professions to work in. We are supporting schools to increase the diversity of leaders from underrepresented groups.”