Family & Education

Flying the rainbow flag at King Solomon High


It may be cold, dark and grey outside, but King Solomon was awash with rainbow colours last week as it raised awareness for LGBT issues.

For five days, the Redbridge school's halls were lined with posters and rainbow flags, while classes and activities were dedicated to promoting awareness and tolerance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.

Deputy head Sam Walters oversaw events, which raised £900 for the Terrence Higgins Trust, an anti-HIV and sexual health charity. He said he hoped other modern Orthodox schools would follow their lead.

"School is a challenging time in any young person's life," he said. "We don't just have a duty to prepare our students for exams, but to ensure their personal development. It is imperative that we do all we can to support our students through whatever issues they are facing.

"For many students, LGBT week was one way of doing this. The school had a real sense of acceptance. For a Jewish school, it was a big step forward."

I wish my school had taken such a stand when I was bullied

Highlights included workshops run by Jewish LGBT advocacy group Keshet UK, whose representatives spoke to pupils about the prejudices faced by people who are both gay and religiously committed, and talks presented by gay rights activists who shared their own experiences of homophobia.

Lessons were also given an LGBT focus; for example, years seven and eight history classes learnt about Alan Turing, the pioneering mathematician who played a fundamental role in cracking German codes during the Second World War. Just a few years later, Turing was prosecuted for homosexual acts, at a time when being gay was still illegal.

Throughout the week, pupils wore rainbow badges, and were able to sign their names to the school's "never be a bystander" wall. Events culminated on Friday with a non-uniform day, where the whole school came in wearing rainbow colours.

"It really was inspirational to see the governors, senior leadership team, parents, staff and student body unite to deliver one key message of 'equality, acceptance and tolerance'," Mr Walters said. "We will certainly be doing this again next year as we feel that raising awareness of LGBT issues, particularly those surrounding the use of homophobic language, is so important.

Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North, was one of the first to commend the school. "I'm immensely proud to be the MP for King Solomon," he tweeted. "I wish my school had taken such a stand when I was bullied."

A Board of Deputies spokesperson added: "Well done to King Solomon High for demonstrating its commitment to British values."

Mr Walters said that students had embraced the week, with its core message of tolerance, with open arms.

Ryan Irving, 14, said: "Our school showed that equality matters and that supporting the LGBT community through school is so important."

Rachel Freedman, 15, added: "I'm proud to be a student in a school that supports the LGBT community."

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