Homophobic bullying 'almost epidemic' in Britain's schools - 150,000 victims

A major survey of Britain's secondary schools has revealed that almost two thirds of lesbian and gay pupils (156,000 children) have been victims of homophobic bullying.

The School Report, the largest poll of young gay people ever conducted in this country, presents a shocking picture of the extent of homophobic bullying undertaken by fellow pupils and, alarmingly, school staff.

Key findings are:

  • Sixty five per cent of lesbian and gay pupils have experienced homophobic bullying
  • Of those, 92 per cent (143,000) have experienced verbal homophobic bullying, 41 per cent (64,000) physical bullying and 17 per cent (26,000) death threats
  • 97 per cent of gay pupils hear derogatory phrases such as 'dyke', 'queer' and 'rug-muncher' used in school
  • Half of teachers fail to respond to homophobic language when they hear it
  • Thirty per cent of lesbian and gay pupils say that adults - teachers or support staff - are responsible for homophobic incidents in their school
  • Less than a quarter of schools have told pupils that homophobic bullying is wrong

The survey of 1,145 young people, conducted by the Schools Health Education Unit for Stonewall, also highlights the consequences of bullying for gay pupils. Seven out of ten of those who have experienced it say it has adversely affected their school work. Half of those bullied say they have missed school as a result.

"These deeply disturbing figures should serve as a wake-up call to everyone working in education," said Matthew Batten, Stonewall Cymru's Policy Officer. "This is a damning legacy of Section 28, which deterred schools from tackling anti-gay bullying for so long. This remains one of the few sorts of bullying about which too many schools still take no action. It blights the lives not just of gay children but of thousands of pupils perceived to be lesbian or gay too."

The report does demonstrate significant benefits when schools intervene. In schools that have said homophobic bullying is wrong, gay young people are 60 per cent more likely not to have been bullied. The incidence of anti-gay bullying remains higher in 'faith schools'.

Matthew Batten added "We know in Wales many teachers want to do the right thing by tackling homophobic bullying but feel they don't have the tools to do so or they worry they won't have the support of senior colleagues. Schools and local authorities that are engaging with our Education for All campaign are realising that they can make a real difference."

Young gay people in Wales who are experiencing homophobic bullying said:

"I can't tell anyone because, basically, no-one knows that I am gay… I got punched in the corridor today for example, and I can't tell a teacher because it will involve coming out." Nick, 14, secondary school (Wales)

"I was once threatened by a friend's brother over an instant message that he would beat me to death on the streets if he saw me or torch my house whilst I'm sleeping in it." Sean, 16, secondary school (Wales)

Click here to read the full report.

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