Stonewall says homophobic bullying ‘endemic’

Written by: HTU | Published:

Homophobic bullying is still endemic among pupils despite increasing awareness of the issue and more resources for schools and teachers.

Homophobic bullying is still endemic among pupils despite increasing awareness of the issue and more resources for schools and teachers.



However, Alastair Tallon, education director, at lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) charity Stonewall, said that the progress which has been made has meant that the environment in schools is “beginning to change".



Speaking to Headteacher Update, Mr Tallon said that after bullying about weight, homophobic bullying is still the second most prevalent.



Stonewall's 2007 School Report research found that almost two-thirds of LGB young people experience homophobic bullying in UK schools, while 98 per cent hear phrases such as “you're so gay".



In 2009, its Teachers Report study found that 75 per cent of primary teachers hear similar insulting homophobic remarks while two in five hear words like “poof", “dyke" or “queer".



Nine in 10 of all teachers said that they have never received training on how to tackle and prevent homophobic bullying.



Stonewall is due to update its School Report research from September, but Mr Tallon says that the support situation has improved with a range of resources and guidance having been produced by Stonewall and others.



He explained: “There are many more resources for schools and teachers and although it's still endemic, the environment in which it is happening is beginning to change."



Among the guides issued by Stonewall are publications called Challenging Homophobic Language, Supporting Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young People, and Including Different Families.



Stonewall held its annual Education for All conference last week (Friday, July 1) when it launched a new primary resource.



So far is has been sent to around 4,000 primary schools in its Education Champions network, although other local authorities and schools will receive the resources in due course.



The resource includes a DVD entitled Celebrating Difference, which looks at all the different types of families that children may come from, including same-sex parents as well as foster parents and children who live with grandparents.



It also offers guidance on how to tackle homophobic language in the playground, advice on discussing different family situations, and other materials such as posters.



Elsewhere, Stonewall has also been pushing for the issue to be included in teacher training. Mr Tallon added: “For some teachers, it's a difficult issue and that comes down to the issue of training, both as part of CPD but also by initial teacher training providers. Teacher training providers are now coming to terms with the issue and are dealing with it."



Mr Tallon also stressed that homophobic bullying did not just affect LGB students: “People are often bullied when they are perceived to be gay. It is important that people understand that this is not a minority issue, it's much broader."



The Stonewall conference last week featured an address from schools minister Nick Gibb. His appearance came after prejudice-related bullying, including homophobic bullying, was given a high profile in the recent education White Paper, which said that schools must “create a culture of respect and understanding".



The document also pledged that the government would work with organisations like Stonewall to spread best practice.



Mr Gibb said: “Tackling poor behaviour and bullying are top priorities for the Coalition government. We are supporting schools to take a zero tolerance approach to all forms of bullying. We need to send the message that homophobic bullying, of any kind and of any child, is completely unacceptable. No child should have to suffer fear, victimisation or disruption as a result of bullying, either on or off school premises. Homophobic language should become as unacceptable as racial slurs."



During his appearance, Mr Gibb presented Cambridgeshire County Council with a special award after the authority came top of Stonewall's 2011 Education Equality Index, which measures the steps councils take to tackle and prevent homophobic bullying.



Elsewhere, Mr Tallon is hoping that the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, which came into effect in April, will also have an impact. The Act requires schools to be able to demonstrate how they are fostering good relations with community groups, including LGB groups. Mr Tallon said that Stonewall's work will help schools to answer this question.



For details on the Equality Act 2010, visit www.equalities.gov.uk/equality_act_2010.aspx and to register your interest in the new primary resource, visit www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school


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