Equality groups in schools
Updated: Mar 2
Have you ever heard of a school having a group designated to equality?
Since my election to the Welsh Youth Parliament, I have spoken to several politicians, human rights activists, and importantly, young people about the importance of equality groups within schools. As a pupil, and member of a school equality group (Undod), I am a firm believer that having a group such as this in every school, is an effective way to work towards zero tolerence for discrimination in Wales.
In the past few years, several schools have developed equality groups designed to address inequality and discrimination. Perhaps the most well known of these is the award winning, pupil-lead LGBTQ+ group - "Digon'' in Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr. Digon were finalists for the St Davids award in the category of "Young Person" for the outstanding work they've done since they were founded in 2011.
Digon is not the only group that Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr have created. They also have "Balch"- created to fight against racism, "Newidffem" a gender equality group who continue to raise awareness of the importance of equal opportunities for women, and finally "Medru", a group dedicated to equality for disabled people.
So, what are equality groups within secondary school?
Equality groups are groups within high schools that are led by either a pupil or teacher. Activities that equality groups may organise can vary from group to group; from formulating school councils designated to fight inequality, to social activities such a as watching queer based films with peers. There is no specific outline as to what an equality group needs to do to function, which means those interested in forming one, can be creative in whichever way they want!
Why are equality groups within Welsh high schools important?
The main aim of these groups is to promote inclusion and acceptance, support students developing their advocacy, improve leadership and presentation skills, and raise awareness about certain celebrations such as Pride or Black History month. For pupils, equality groups have numerous benefits such as helping them feel more confident in their sexuality, giving them a space to express themselves, and a safe environment to raise their voices regarding issues that are important to them.
"Groups like Digon are important because they create a safe space for LGBTQ+ pupils within school."
Leader of Digon, Maisie Mouncher
Equality groups are also an effective way of getting young people involved in politics. Speaking from personal experience, and from what I've heard from other young people, joining these groups really has motivated more young people to get involved in politics and public life. Young people are the future, so for young people to be encouraged to take their voices and opinions into politics is an amazing experience.
"Digon has also granted me to be a proud member of the Welsh Youth Parliament which will access Digon the platform to address the number of homophobia and transphobia in Welsh schools"
Why should every school have groups that fight for equality?
The equality group in my school changed everything for me!
Pupils can fully express themselves whilst knowing that they will not be judged because importantly, they allow pupils to be heard. An example of where such a space would benefit pupils can be taken from ‘Stonewall’s School Report 2017’. It showed that 45% of trans young people have tried to take their own life. It has been proven that if young people are able to express their true indentity or sexuality to even a small amount of people, then this could have a positive effect on young transgender people's mental health.
In recent months, the Welsh Government has published their aim to be the most LGBTQ+ friendly country in Europe. I truly believe that this is possible, if it is acknowledged that young people want a say in these matters, want to be involved in democracy, and their opinions are just as important as anyone else. It would also be positive to see the Welsh Government doing more to support schools to set up equality groups.
Equality groups truly can help hundreds of pupils and at the very least ,offer them the safe space to be themselves.
Ellis Peares ( he/him, ef )
Ymlaen, dros Gymru
Welsh Youth Parliament member for Cardiff Central • Equalities Officer for Plaid Ifanc - Cardiff and Vale Health Youth board member