Visibility and School Leadership Support: A counselling psychology exploration of the accounts of LGBQ+ teachers working within English Secondary Schools

  • Roshini Prince-Navaratnam

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


Background: Research exploring LGBQ+ teacher experiences are limited within England, though this field is slowly developing. In the past two decades, the UK has undergone significant changes in areas such as, legislation and policy on sexuality. However, within institutional settings, namely education, the literature suggests that secondary schools perpetuate heteronormativity, thus limiting the visibility of LGBQ+ representation in schools. Therefore, being a visible non-heterosexual teacher encompasses complex and multidimensional processes. The literature further indicates that this culture continues to negatively impact LGBQ+ teacher experiences despite changes to legislation and policy. Objectives: This study explores the accounts and perceptions of LGBQ+ teacher experiences in English secondary schools, specifically examining the visibility of LGBQ+ teachers within schools and how their accounts and perceptions may influence their visibility. This research further investigates teacher perceptions of school support regarding matters of sexual identity and what is needed going forward. Methods: A qualitative design was adopted to explore the experiences of 7 LGBQ+ teachers working in English secondary schools. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, and reflexive thematic analysis was used to analyse the transcripts. Findings: Five major themes and 15 sub-themes were generated, these include: 1) Fear of persecution; 2) Strategies to maximise safety of sexual identity; 3) Expectations, extra work, and emotional costs; 4) School responses to LGBQ+ issues; and 5) “I think it depends on your school”. Conclusion: LGBQ+ teachers encounter various obstacles which they must navigate using strategies to conceal their sexual identity. Teachers describe the emotional impact of concealing their sexual identity, including feelings of guilt and frustration. Teachers vary in their perception of their school support; however, analysis suggests that many LGBQ+ teachers are burdened with additional work surrounding LGBQ+ matters without support from their Senior Leadership Teams. Teachers perceived school actions towards LGBQ+ visibility as ‘tokenistic’ and part of a tick box exercise to meet standards without genuine consideration. The implications of the study suggest that changes on a meso and macro level are required to implement change including, curriculum changes, changes to the physical structures within schools and a whole school approach to creating an inclusive culture for LGBQ+ individuals.
Date of Award31 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJo Shuttleworth (Supervisor), Catherine Atkinson (Supervisor) & Laura Winter (Supervisor)


  • LGBQ+
  • Sexual Identity
  • Education
  • Visibility
  • Secondary School

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