Minister says ‘schools must be sanctuaries’ as nine in 10 secondary school teachers and two in five primary school teachers say children and young people currently experience homophobic bullying, name calling or harassment in their schools.
Vernon Coaker MP, Minister of State for Schools and Learners condemned homophobic bullying and hailed new measures in the Equality Bill to help reduce it. Speaking at Stonewall’s annual Education For All conference on Wednesday July 1, the Minister and former teacher recalled confronting bullying in his teaching days and praised the charity’s work to reduce it in recent years.
Joined by Fiona Blacke Chief Executive from the National Youth Agency who also gave a keynote speech, the Minister commended Stonewall’s Education Champions Programme which focuses on preventing and reducing homophobic bullying.
‘The Teachers’ Report’, Stonewall’s survey of staff in primary and secondary schools across Great Britain, demonstrated that homophobic bullying is widespread and frequent. Speaking at the Education for All conference the Minister was ‘astonished’ by the research and said that ‘These statistics make you realise the importance of why the Minister is there. Our schools must be sanctuaries where people are free to learn and discover in the knowledge that their views, their culture, their abilities, and their identity will be respected.’
‘Bullying has the greatest impact on failing in learning,’ agreed Fiona Blacke.
Recalling his teaching days in Nottingham when he had to address bullying the Minister said, ‘My approach was always to nip it in the bud as quickly as possible with a no nonsense approach. First, you’ve got to make it absolutely clear to pupils and to parents too what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Second, you’ve also got to have very clear procedures so that teachers know how to deal with bullying and pupils and parents understand what the consequences of bad behaviour will be and that it will be tackled. But the main thing is that you have to challenge bad behaviour at every level and provide support to those who do so.‘
The Equality Bill and a review of National Strategies into teacher training needs are designed to help address bullying. Over twenty local authorities are now working with Stonewall through the Education Champions programme, which launched at last year’s conference, to tackle homophobic bullying in their local schools.