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The London Marathon shows London is a 'Tale of Two Cities'

I'm running for those Londoners being denied the chance to share in our city’s successes.

It’s that time of year again. Twitter feeds and Facebook pages are a sea of "justgiving" requests. Families from Greenwich to Tower Hamlets are busy painting "good luck" signs and stocking up on jelly babies. And come Sunday morning, over 650,000 people will head down to watch the biggest mass participation race in the world – the London Marathon. Like many Londoners, it’s one of my favourite days of the year. But this year things are a little different for me. I’m running!

The London Marathon epitomises everything that is great about the city that has been the backdrop of my life, and, like millions of Londoners, has made me the person I am today. Along the 26.2 mile route I’ll be passing through six different London boroughs. From the high streets of Deptford and Woolwich, to weaving my way between Canary Wharf skyscrapers and then on to the Embankment, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, my route on Sunday will most definitely be one of contrasts.

The same of course, can be said for our city. Growing up on the Henry Prince estate in Tooting, times could be tough in the Khan household. Having come to London in the 1960s, my bus driver Dad never dreamed I would grow up to run my own law firm, let alone be elected as an MP for the community I grew up in. But my family story sums up what London is all about; countless opportunities to make a better life for you and your family provided you work hard and get on. In the London Marathon’s 33rd year, I wonder if that is still the same today.

Today’s London is a city facing big challenges. Rising numbers of Londoners are being left behind by our city’s success as inequality widens and poverty grows. The story of our city is in real danger of becoming "a tale of two cities". And those Londoners who are being denied the chance to share in our city’s successes? That’s who I am running for this Sunday.

When I was asked to join the Evening Standard’s Dispossessed Fund team by my friend David Cohen, I tried to come up with an alibi, any alibi to get me off the hook. The furthest I’d ever run was an out-of-breath 10 kilometres around Tooting Common and my Mars bar addiction didn’t make me the best candidate! But once David told me about the work the charity does to tackle poverty and inequality across London, I couldn’t say no.

Through its funding of over 700 organisations across London, the Dispossessed Fund has now touched the lives of more than 100,000 Londoners. And in the last two months I’ve had the privilege to meet many of them. As I make my way through south London on Sunday I’ll be thinking of young brothers Zack and Kamil, whose parents fled war-torn Somalia and are now being given every opportunity through the brilliant Klevis Kola Foundation. As I running through Greenwich, I’ll be thinking of Lorraine, Lana and Debbie, just some of the "MP’s team" ensuring the views of those with learning disabilities are heard through their work with Advocacy in Greenwich. And as I make my way through Poplar, the smart, switched on kids like Muhin and Mizanur being supported by Streets of Growth to live normal teenage lives, free of gang violence and intimidation.

So come Sunday, that’s what I’ll be running for - London. Knowing the money I have raised so far means the Dispossessed Fund can help even more people like Zack, Lana and Muhin will be a real boost to keep going. But the 35,000 runners and I, the majority of whom are running for fantastic charities and causes, need your support to cheer us around the course. Let’s get out there and do what we do best London. Because despite the challenges we face, London isn’t broken. Far from it. The marathon is our annual opportunity to celebrate that community spirit we showed during the Olympics – and that Londoners are capable of wonderful achievements when united by common ambitions.

You can follow Sadiq’s progress on Twitter at @SadiqKhan and #YesWeKhan and support the Dispossessed Fund at virginmoneygiving.com/SadiqKhan

Sadiq Khan is MP for Tooting, shadow justice secretary and shadow minister for London.
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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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