Equality went back to school with a new campaign in partnership with Barnardo’s and the NSPCC. Education for All specifically targeted homophobic bullying in secondary schools across the country, eventually extending into primary schools in 2010.
It was a significant shift for Stonewall, focusing on cultural change instead of just legislative change, which had dominated our work up to that point.
The campaign had a wide range of elements. Spare Tyre’s Burning, written by Clair Chapwell and covering issues of identity and homophobia, toured England and Wales in 2005. And Rikki Beadle Blair’s play FIT was adapted for film in 2010 as part of the campaign, with the DVD sent to every secondary school in the UK.
Our campaign tools included the Different Families, Same Love posters and postcards and curriculum guidance Oh No! Not the Gay Thing! which advised teachers on how to bring same-sex relationship issues into the classroom.
It also saw the launch of School Role Models, where lesbian, gay and bi people visited school to speak at assemblies about their lives, experiences and the need for equality.
One of the most high-profile of these was Ian McKellen, who visited 54 secondary schools in two years. In one comprehensive school in Kent, he told pupils: "Until I visited secondary schools recently, I hadn't realised how much anti-gay bullying goes on.
By talking frankly about my own life as a gay man and listening to the concerns of staff, students, parents and governors, I hope the visits may make a difference and also give confidence to gay students about their lives in the future."
Explaining how a boy had been recently killed in a homophobic hate attack by teenagers, he said: "The girl who stamped on his head might have used 'gay' to mean anything rubbish and useless. And that probably convinced her that gay people were rubbish and useless – and don't deserve to live. I'm not useless, but when you use that word as an insulting adjective, that's what you're saying about me. So please, watch your language. Because if you don't, you mightn't watch your actions."