The following information is specific to the Welsh context, legal powers, advice services and policy development.
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In Wales responsibility for education is devolved to the Welsh Assembly Government; giving us a unique opportunity to make a real change to lives of Wales's pupils, students and teachers.
Section 28 of the Local Government Act was finally repealed in England and Wales on 18 September 2003. Prior to this, the Welsh Assembly guidance, Sex and Relationships Education in Schools (2002) clearly stated that Section 28 did not prevent "objective discussions of homosexuality" in the classroom, effectively repealing Section 28 a year earlier in Wales.
The Welsh Assembly's Respecting Others: Anti- Bulling Guidance (2003) acknowledges the existence of bullying in relation to sexual orientation and identifies that homophobic bullying is not restricted to pupils who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Anyone who is thought to be 'gay,' who is perceived to be 'different' or who does not conform to traditional gender roles can be subjected to homophobic bullying.
Respecting Others advocates a whole school approach to tackling bullying. This will include discussing same-sex relationships and sexual orientation in Personal and Social Education, raising awareness of discrimination and homophobia across the taught curriculum and acknowledging homophobic bullying in anti-bullying policies, behaviour policies and Equal Opportunity policies. The need to challenge homophobic language is also highlighted. The word 'gay' is widely used as an insult and needs to be challenged in the same way as racist language is challenged. Respecting Others has cross-party support.
In addition, Estyn, the Wales education and training inspectorate, include evaluation of the effectiveness of school bullying policies as part of their inspection criteria.
In 2006 a review of the implementation of the Respecting Others guidance was commissioned by Jane Davidson, Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning. The evaluation found that those policies which identified and tackled bullying across all 'strands' including those that specifically discussed how homophobic bullying is manifest and how it should be addressed, were consistently the most effective (Evaluation of Anti-Bullying Policies in Schools in Wales, 2006).
Homophobic bullying causes permanent damage to young people and blights the schools and colleges where it takes place. Making all young people - regardless of their sexuality - feel included and valued is a major opportunity for the educational system to transform the lives of a significant number of pupils and students.
Homophobic / heterosexist bullying can affect all children in school, and indeed teachers, parents and governors. Children can be bullied whether they are affirmed in their identity as lesbian, gay or bisexual, questioning their sexuality, or because someone thinks they may be LGB.
Straight pupils are also bullied because someone thinks they are LGB can often be 'bullied' into picking on LGB students to 'prove' that they, themselves, are straight. This homophobic & heterosexist bullying affects the whole school culture, and the way we all develop as adult citizens.
In 2005 Stonewall Cymru launched Education for All in Wales, a campaign to ensure that access to education is not limited by a person's sexual orientation, and that schools and education systems can deal appropriately with homophobia and homophobic bullying. Stonewall Cymru works with a broad-based coalition of organisations, including the Welsh Assembly, local authorities, voluntary and community organisations and LGB and youth groups to develop a Wales-wide action plan to tackle this problem.
For more information about how you can challenge homophobic bullying in Wales visit our Education for All section.
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.
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'.
Click here to read the full report.