Homophobic language and bullying is widespread in UK secondary schools. Ninety percent of secondary school teachers say pupils in their schools are bullied, harassed or called names for being – or perceived to be – lesbian, gay or bisexual. Three quarters of gay pupils report experiencing verbal abuse; and almost three-in-ten report being physically bullied.
The good news is that things are improving. Over the past five years, the proportion of gay pupils who report that their schools take homophobic bullying seriously has increased markedly. At the same time, the number of gay pupils who feel unable to speak out about being bullied has declined.
Our research shows that secondary schools which take an active, positive approach to tackling homophobic language and bullying get the best results. This is what Secondary School Champions offers to your school: a partnership with Stonewall, Europe’s largest gay equality charity, aimed at creating a safe and welcoming learning environment for pupils of all backgrounds.
A wall display at Morley Academy, a secondary school in Yorkshire.
You will meet your legal requirements under the Equality Act and from Education Scotland inspections. New changes in the law require schools to take proactive action. The Equality Act 2010 introduced for the first time a duty on schools requiring them actively to tackle issues such as homophobic bullying and the protection of those who might experience it. Being part of the programme will help to ensure you are complying with the Act. During school inspections, inspectors from Education Scotland evaluate the extent to which all young people are cared for, treated fairly and with respect, and listened to. They look at anti-bullying policies and how the school promotes equality and diversity. Inspectors also evaluate how the learning needs of all young people are being met. If bullying or unfair treatment are found to have an adverse impact on young people’s health and wellbeing, learning or achievement, this will be taken into account in deciding the overall evaluations of the school’s performance.
You will help your students reach their potential. Celebrating difference and tackling homophobic bullying helps to promote an environment for students that is conducive to optimal learning and development. Homophobic bullying can have a profoundly damaging impact on young people’s secondary school experience. A third of gay pupils experience bullying which leads them to change their future educational plans and three in five say it harms their academic performance. By working with Stonewall to mitigate the worst harms of homophobic bullying, you can help push your students towards their academic goals.