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Shrewsbury International School Bangkok Riverside, 1922 Charoen Krung Road, Wat Prayakrai, Bang Kholaem, Bangkok 10120, Thailand



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1922 Charoen Krung Road, Wat Prayakrai, Bang Kholame, Bangkok 10120, Thailand

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This week Shrewsbury International School Bangkok, Riverside welcomed an esteemed activist and founder of ‘Educate and Celebrate’, the organisation that promotes and transforms schools into LGBTQ+ friendly places. Dr Elly Barnes MBE, has a mission to equip communities with the knowledge, skills and confidence to incorporate gender identity and sexual orientation into the fabric of society.

Schools are often identified as places where staff are not given adequate training on how to deal with sexual orientation or issues surrounding gender. Educate and Celebrate responds to these needs by engaging with students and stakeholders on a journey of inclusion. Our young people are often the most at risk when it comes to issues surrounding bullying or exclusion and therefore, educational institutions are a great place to spread this message.

Having Dr Barnes in Thailand was a great opportunity for Assistant Principal (Students) Mr Nick Loudon and the safeguarding team to invite her and her message to Shrewsbury for a whole day of CPD that included training for pastoral staff and activities for selected junior and senior students.

Focusing on five core areas, Dr Barnes encourages the school community to create positive whole-school change through training, policy adaptation, curriculum, community involvement and environmental change.

The key activity for our students centred on the development of Dr Barnes’ PRIDE youth network, which brings together similar schools from around the world to proliferate the ideas underpinning gender and sexual equality. This network has grown to over 110 schools at last count and it is something that Ms Barnes is incredibly proud of.

“To have societal change, you must think big. That way we all have something to aim for. In this case, I want to build a network at Shrewsbury that will spread across Thailand and beyond. Students can help affect this change and build a society where all genders, disabilities, races, religions and sexualities are welcome”, she announced proudly to students.

Mr Nick Loudon believes it is important to create a culture of acceptance in schools, so students feel safe in their community and able to be themselves.

“Students who feel accepted will perform better academically and socially if they feel like they have a network of their peers who accept them for who they are regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is something we aim to nurture at Shrewsbury”, he said.

“The techniques Ms Barnes brings to the school can be duplicated into other areas, such as the consideration racial equality issues, for example. Information sessions for students and CPD sessions for teachers creates a discussion model for all kinds of inclusion processes. I am proud to work in a school such as Shrewsbury which has this ethos”.

Dr Barnes’ rapport with students was instantaneous. She encouraged students to think outside the square using activities that both challenged and educated them. Using a method that allowed students to ask questions anonymously, she eliminated any nervousness students had. Consequently, a discussion about acceptance was able to happen, and attendees were engaged from the outset.

By the end of the session, students had created the Shrewsbury arm of Dr Barnes’ ever-growing PRIDE network and a good starting point for continued discussions around societal equality. It was pleasing to see the maturity as they produced a manifesto that included ideas like eliminating slurs and slang used in a negative light against the LGBTQ+ community and having a PRIDE day at school to create awareness.

In the staff CPD sessions, Dr Barnes helped teachers to understand different tools to help create an environment where discussions about inclusion could happen naturally. She was also on hand to answer the questions and concerns of teachers wanting clarification on the best way to deal with certain situations relating to sexuality and gender.

The teachers present will all be an active part of the PRIDE network and plan on supporting any student-led initiatives in the future. We all look forward to the outcomes of what was an informative, entertaining and educating day.