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Belong To Primary research launched

Nine in 10 primary school staff in Ireland believe it is important to know about LGBTQ+ inclusivity, according to new research by University of Limerick  

– Research highlights gap between primary staff’s willingness to be LGBTQ+ inclusive and their confidence in how to do so – 

Nine in 10 primary school staff in Ireland believe it is important for principals, deputy principals, class teachers, special needs assistants and support staff to know about LGBTQ+ inclusivity. That’s according to new research, Belong To Primary: New Foundations for LGBTQ+ Inclusivity in Primary Schools, published today (05.06.24).  

The research was conducted at the School of Education, University of Limerick to understand the knowledge levels, views and professional needs of primary school staff in Ireland regarding LGBTQ+ inclusivity, in partnership with Belong ToLGBTQ+ Youth Ireland. The research was funded by an Irish Research Council grant.  

The survey findings show an overwhelming willingness among primary staff to be LGBTQ+ inclusive, but reveal a lack of knowledge, skills and confidence needed to deliver fully inclusive practice for their pupils.  

In total, 1,031 primary school staff across Ireland were surveyed including principals, deputy principals, class teachers, special needs assistants and support staff. Almost a quarter of respondents were principals or deputy principals.  

Key Findings  

Of the more than 1,000 primary school staff surveyed:  

  • School Culture: 
  • 90% believe it is important for those working in primary schools to know about LGBTQ+ inclusivity. 
  • 57% have never taken part in LGBTQ+ specific professional development. 
  • Inclusive Lessons:  
  • 85% think that LGBTQ+ characters should be included in primary lessons in the same way as heterosexual characters. 
  • 24% do not feel confident teaching SPHE/RSE in an LGBTQ+ inclusive way. 
  • 36% of teaching staff never use books and resources with LGBTQ+ people represented. 
  • Coming Out:  
  • 56% either have no formal school supports for a pupil who comes out as LGBTQ+ or are unsure of whether such supports are in place. 
  • Bullying:  
  • 91% think that primary school pupils should learn about anti-LGBTQ+ bullying. 
  • 57% of primary staff feel confident in teaching about anti-LGBTQ+ bullying. 
  • 44% of primary staff heard pupils make subtle derogatory jokes or comments about LGBTQ+ people. 

Primary School Staff Call for Training and Guidance 

In open questions throughout the survey, school staff respondents repeatedly and strongly called for:  

  • A primary curriculum that specifically names LGBTQ+ identities and topics; 
  • Training on LGBTQ+ identities and experiences; and  
  • Guidance on supporting a pupil coming out as LGBTQ+. 

According to recent1 research, for LGBTQI+ young people aged 14-25 in Ireland today, the most common age to realise their LGBTQI+ identity is 12, and the most common age to tell another person about their LGBTQI+ identity for the first time is 14. Within this context, primary school emerges as a crucial time for young people in the development of their self-identity, and perceptions and understandings of others. 

Speaking about the report today, Dr Aoife Neary (she/her), Associate Professor in Sociology of Education in the School of Education, University of Limerick and Principal Investigator of Belong To Primary, commented: The research findings highlight the gap between the willingness and ambition on the part of primary school staff to be more LGBTQ+ inclusive in their schools and their lack of confidence and knowledge required to do so.  

“The findings are clear – more than four in five primary staff believe that LGBTQ+ identities should be represented in our school curriculum. Those who are confident in planning LGBTQ+ inclusive lessons are far more likely to put this into practice than those who do not feel confident in their knowledge of LGBTQ+ inclusive practice. Respondents expressed the need for primary school staff to be resourced with the knowledge, skills and confidence to deliver the support they see as necessary for pupils in their schools.”  

Also speaking on the publication of the report today was CEO of Belong To, Moninne Griffith (she/her), who said: “This research reflects what we at Belong To have been hearing from educators for many years – confidence is key. It is heartening to see the overwhelming support for LGBTQ+ pupils, and LGBTQ+ inclusive environments and practice. International research shows that LGBTQ+ inclusion at primary level is a buffer against bulling at primary and in later years.  

“Primary school staff across Ireland are doing inspiring work to create safe and supportive environments in their schools. We must listen to them on what is required to achieve this and provide the resources and training they are calling for to ensure that all primary-aged pupils, including pupils who identify as LGBTQ+, feel safe, supported and represented in their school environment.”  

A summary of the report’s key findings and the full research report is available to download from the University of Limerick repository here: 

The research project was funded by an Irish Research Council ‘New Foundations Engaging Civic Society’ grant.  


Contact Belong To: 

Notes to Editors 

Sample anonymous primary staff responses to the survey: 

“I try my best to teach lessons in an LGBTQ+ inclusive way but the lack of supports and details on the curriculum leaves my hands tied at times. The Irish SPHE curriculum doesn’t go far enough to allow me to teach in an LGBTQ+ inclusive way.”   

“I think that examples of families of all kinds should appear in textbooks from junior infants, as a natural part of life. Inclusivity is not something that can only be introduced or made conscious after a certain age.”   

“While I fully wish to support any child or adult in their coming out and assertion of their identity, I do not feel enough guidance, support or instruction is there for staff on how to handle it in a way that is both supportive and crucially does not leave them liable in any way if people with opposing or ignorant views disagree.”   

About Belong To Primary 

This research is funded by an Irish Research Council ‘New Foundations: Engaging Civil Society’ grant, enabling a research partnership between the School of Education, University of Limerick and Belong To – LGBTQ+ Youth Ireland. 

The Belong To Primary survey asked staff employed in primary schools across Ireland about their experience, attitudes, knowledge levels, practices and professional needs regarding LGBTQ+ inclusivity, and was conducted online from March to May 2023.  To obtain a representative sample of primary school staff nationally, the survey was distributed via the Department of Education database of contact point email addresses to all 3,231 primary schools in Ireland, to major school management bodies and advertised via the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO).  

About Belong To – LGBTQ+ Youth Ireland 

Belong To is a national organisation supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ+) youth. Since 2003, Belong To has worked with LGBTQ+ young people to create a world where they are equal, safe and thriving. The organisation advocates and campaigns on behalf of young LGBTQ+ people and offers a specialised LGBTQ+ youth service including crisis counselling, information and the provision of LGBTQ+ youth groups. 

Belong To supports educators and schools across Ireland. Stand Up Awareness Week, now in its 15th year, is an opportunity for educators and schools across Ireland to avail of teacher training and second-level school resources. Belong To’s LGBTQ+ Quality Mark initiative supports second-level schools by helping them to create environments that are fully inclusive of LGBTQ+ youth. To find out more, visit 

About University of Limerick 

University of Limerick is a research-led, independent, internationally focused university with almost 18,000 students and 2,000 staff. It is a young, energetic and enterprising University with a proud record of innovation in education and excellence in research and scholarship. 

More information is available at  

Tweet @UL 

1. Higgins A; Downes C; O’Sullivan K; de Vries J; Molloy R; Monahan M; Keogh B; Doyle L; Begley T; Corcoran P; (2024) Being LGBTQI+ in Ireland: The National Study on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of the LGBTQI+ Communities in Ireland. Dublin: Belong To.