'To be attacked is a sign that you are doing something to change the world'

June 8, 2007

A Sunderland University academic speaks out for her award-winning work combating homophobia in schools.

A pioneering academic at Sunderland University has won a major international award for her work on gay rights in education. The American Educational Research Association has presented Elizabeth Atkinson with a "scholar-activist" award, which marks a significant body of work in research into equality.

Dr Atkinson, a reader in Sunderland's School of Education and Lifelong Learning, co-founded the British Educational Research Association Sexualities Group and implemented a national online discussion forum in 2006 on challenging homophobia in schools.

She is currently leading a £650,000 project, No Outsiders, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, which includes researchers in Sunderland, Exeter University and London University's Institute of Education. It has recently attracted international media attention for the children's books being used, which feature gay and lesbian family members.

Dr Atkinson said: "Leaving images of gay relationships out of children's books leaves children of non-heterosexual parents and children who may themselves grow up to be gay with no reflection of their experience."

She is unfazed by hostile reactions and was recently quoted as saying: "To be attacked is a sign of recognition that you are doing something to change the world, and the job of education is to change something for the better."

The No Outsiders project is due to be completed by the end of 2008. Its findings will appear in the Teacher Training Resource Bank, a documentary film and an edited book of teaching ideas.

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