The Accord Coalition for inclusive education has called on the Government to uphold its Coalition Agreement pledge to tackle homophobic bullying.
The call follows publication last week of a damming new report by the LGBT rights charity Stonewall, which sets out the prevalence of homophobia in schools, and its greater prevalence within the faith school sector.
The School Report, published this week, revealed that of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils:
• Only half reported that their school said homophobic bullying was wrong, although only 37% attending a faith school said the same
• 26% reported that their teachers did not challenge homophobic language, but this figure rose to 36% for those at faith schools
• Only 31% said that their school responded quickly to homophobic bullying when it occurred, but this figure fell to 24% when looking at those in the faith school sector
• 17% said that teachers and other school staff made homophobic comments. This increased to 22% for pupils in faith schools.
• Even though homophobia was worse in the faith school sector, those attending faith schools were no more likely to report homophobic bullying than those at other schools
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, commented: "Many staff and pupils endure a miserable, and sometimes also concealed experience in schools, due to homophobic bullying and attitudes. This kind of behaviour can have a huge impact on their sense of wellbeing, and in the case of young people, a negative impact on their social and academic development."
He continued: "It has been over two years since the Government published its Coalition Agreement, which stated that it would help schools tackle bullying and 'especially homophobic bullying'. However, the Government has yet to demonstrate in policy terms what its commitment entails.
"Homophobia is worse within the faith school sector, but it is an issue that must be tackled in all educational establishments. The Government must therefore take firm action and work with education providers and faith groups, to ensure that schools better challenge prejudice and actively promote an acceptance of sexual diversity and transgendered people. They have many tools available to them, such as the publication of new guidance and distribution of best practice; better and more thorough school inspections and monitoring, as well making modifications to the statutory school curriculum," concluded Dr Romain.
Some faiths schools are setting a better example. St George’s School, a Christian faith school in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, came second in Accord’s annual Inclusivity Award in 2012. The school earned high praise from the judges for its outstanding and ambitious work in tackling homophobic bullying, which was based in a Christian context of treating everyone with respect and kindness.
However, Stonewall’s 2007 ‘The School Report‘ showed that two thirds of young gay people at secondary schools have experienced homophobic bullying, but in faith schools that figure rises to three in four.
* Accord Coalition: http://accordcoalition.org.uk/