MPs say Catholic schools fail to tackle gay bullying

A protester holds a rainbow flag outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on June 3, 2013, as protesters gather in support of same-sex marriage

A committee of MPs has attacked Roman Catholic church-run schools for refusing to implement government guidelines on setting up anti-homophobic bullying policies.

The investigation into all bullying in schools was instigated by Liberal Democrat MP and education spokesman Stephen Williams.

“Bullying is a matter of child welfare, not one of theology,” Mr Williams told

“If you can’t learn in a safe environment then school has failed in its primary mission.”

Last year Archbishop Vincent Nichols, who is head of the Catholic Education Service, told the education and skills select committee that specific issues of bullying should not be singled out.

He insisted that the Church had no problems with a person’s sexual orientation, but “sexual intercourse belongs within marriage.”

“I hope the Archbishop will examine his conscience and put the welfare of children first,” commented Mr Williams, who is gay.

All schools are required by law to have an anti-bullying policy, but many do not collate figures on how much bullying goes on.

The committee expressed concern that this may be to protect the school’s reputation.

The report also highlights the rise of cyber-bullying, where children are harassed by email or text message.

The committee heard evidence from charity Anti-Bullying Alliance that between 30-50% of young people in secondary schools attracted to people of the same sex will have directly experienced homophobic bullying compared to the 10-20% of young people who have experienced general bullying.

The committee also took evidence from Stonewall and Education Action Challenging Homophobia about the experiences of gay children and the children of gay parents.

“They told us that homophobic bullying in schools is not reported, as there is no duty on schools to record the data,” said Mr Williams.

“Our report recommends that all types of identity-related bullying, whether it’s homophobic or to do with special needs or racism, should be recorded by schools.

“They need to record and have policies in place on all the different types of bulling.

“They have to specifically address each different reason why a child could be bullied, often about something they cannot do something about.

“Children who are being bullied because they are autistic or have special educational needs is very distressing.”

The Department for Education and Skills will now formally respond to the recommendations of the report.

Next week the department will announce new powers for teachers such as the right to confiscate mobile phones and use force to break up fights or restrain violent pupils.

New parenting orders will see parents held responsible for the behaviour of their children.

“Our recommendations can certainly be implemented,” said Mr Williams.

“All forms of bullying can be tackled by the wider curriculum, such as drama classes, citizenship and also PHSE should cover sexuality in particular.”

To read the full report click here