Negotiating the heteronormative in the primary school context: what can teacher educators learn from the experiences of LGBT student teachers?

Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation


Aim: This paper aims to generate a greater understanding of the experiences and challenges faced by LGBT teacher trainees when engaging in their school-based training. It is hoped that this understanding will contribute to the development of future provision within UK HEIs and may also ensure that teacher educators are more equipped to address the needs of LGBT trainee teachers.

Content: It is widely acknowledged that primary school settings continue to reproduce a heteronormative discourse (Neary et al., 2017) that positions heterosexuality as normative and marginalises all other sexualities to the category of ‘other’ (Røthing, 2008; Butler, 1990). Research suggests that despite recent equality and diversity legislation (Equality Act, 2010), LGBT visibility and shifts in perceived notions of family and marital constructs (Neary, 2013; Bradlow et al., 2017), teachers continue to be challenged by heteronormative issues relating to dentity, disclosure and school cultures (Guasp, 2014). This paper discusses findings from a small-scale narrative inquiry that explored the experiences of LGBT teacher trainees in the primary school context during periods of school-based training.

The study aimed to contribute to a small body of research that examines how LGBT teacher trainees manage and negotiate their sexual identities whilst working within heteronormative primary school settings. Five interviews were conducted, four with undergraduate trainees and one with a newly qualified teacher.
Findings identified that boundaried spaces within the heteronormative school setting act as border controls to facilitate the policing of sexualities. The study found that the ‘private and permitting’ staffroom offered freedom to disclose sexual identity and acknowledge LGBT lives. In contrast, the ‘public and prohibitive’ classroom continued to reproduce the heteronormative through the absence of LGBT visibility and the concealment strategies employed by participants. Findings also revealed that agentive ‘moments of interruption’ to the heteronormative structures were dependent on participant self-belief and a sense of autonomy. The findings are significant to teacher educators as they suggest that LGBT teacher trainees encounter unique challenges during periods of school-based training. It is important that ITE training programmes recognise these distinctive experiences and endeavour to improve the training experiences of LGBT teacher trainees by enhancing current provision and wider school partnerships.

The Ambition of Teacher Education: This research raises pertinent questions relating to the struggles LGBT trainee teachers currently face in relation to their sexual identity and their school experience. As teacher educators, inclusive practice and the promotion of equality and diversity lie at the heart of our practice. A greater understanding of the experiences of these individuals will enable programmes to develop provision that is inclusive of this historically marginalised group.

Period10 May 2018
Event titleTean Conference: Teacher Education
Event typeConference
LocationBirmingham, United KingdomShow on map


  • teacher education
  • Diversity
  • Heteronormativity