Campaigners are calling for UK schools to do more to tackle homophobic bullying following a report which found many staff are not sufficiently trained to deal with the problem.
Ofsted’s No Place For Bullying report, published yesterday (19 June), revealed that most anti-bullying training in schools was too general and failed to focus on specifics, leading to many teachers feeling ill-equipped to tackle incidents of homophobia.
Inspectors from Britain’s education watchdog also found that casual use of anti-gay language was common in many of the schools visited.
In 25 primary schools and 15 secondary schools, ‘gay’ was used to refer to something being ‘rubbish’.
Staff members in most of the schools said they heard the word ‘gay’ being used in this way on a weekly basis.
While many pupils were reportedly well aware that such language was not acceptable, it was often seen as ‘just banter’.
SchoolsOUT, which campaigns for the safety of LGBT pupils in Britain, urged schools to teach more diversity in the curriculum to help address the problem of anti-gay bullying.
‘We’ve said since the year dot that our schools are not safe spaces for our children or our LGBT communities,’ said SchoolsOUT spokesman Sue Sanders.
She adds that a recent survey by Kirklees and Lancashire NUT groups into the prevalence of homophobia in schools showed that teachers want training on diversity and her group provides tools which help staff to do this.
‘It’s all out there,’ Sanders said. ‘This survey shows there is a need to adopt it and put it into everyday practice.’
However, Ofsted’s study, which was based on discussions with 1,357 pupils and 797 staff, also found that most of the schools visited had a positive culture and most pupils were considerate of each other.
But admitted in some schools ‘the analysis of behavior and bullying was not always as sharp as it should be.’
Ofsted director of education and care, Susan Gregory, said: ‘Schools must develop a positive culture so all pupils learn in a happy and safe environment.
‘Teachers should receive the right training and support so they have the skills and confidence to teach pupils about diversity and the effects of bullying.
‘This report shows many examples where action to tackle bullying has been very effective and I hope this best practice can be emulated by other schools.’