Ed Balls tells conference of fight against homophobic bullying

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families told the Labour party conference yesterday that new steps would be taken to stamp out bullying and give every child in Britain “a fair chance in life.”

Ed Balls, who is likely to remain in post in the imminent Cabinet reshuffle, said that all incidents of bullying should be properly recorded in every school.

“No child should be bullied or held back because of their race, their disability or their sexuality,” he said.

Mr Balls told conference that “we have acted” on bullying of every kind in every school.

“To tackle bullying of children with disabilities and special educational needs,” he said.

“To crack down on cyberbullying with mobile phones and on the internet – not just bullying of children, but teachers too – and we have published our first ever guidance to help schools tackle homophobic bullying.”

Stonewall was commissioned to write the groundbreaking online guidance in partnership with EACH (Education Action Challenging Homophobia). It was officially launched in January.

It gives teachers, head teachers, school governors and support staff practical advice on how to recognise, prevent and respond to homophobic language and physical abuse.

It follows on from Stonewall’s wide-ranging study into homophobic bullying published in June 2007, entitled The School Report.

It found that nearly two thirds of LGB students reported instances of homophobic harassment.

That figure jumps to 75% of young gay people attending faith schools.

The survey of more than 1,100 young people found that only 23% of all UK schools explicitly condemn homophobic bullying.

92% of gay, lesbian and bisexual pupils have experienced verbal abuse, 41% physical bullying and 17% have been subject to death threats.

30% of pupils reported that adults have been responsible for incidents of homophobic bullying in their schools.

Nearly every interviewed student had heard phrases like, ‘You’re so gay’, and remarks like ‘poof’ and ‘dyke’ in UK schools.

In her speech at the close of conference yesterday Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the Labour party, emphasised the key pledges made by the Prime Minister on Tuesday.

“We have important plans for the future,” she told delegates.

“Free nursery places for two year olds, free prescription charges for people with cancer, new plans to help older people stay in their own homes, protection against the costs of care for older people and free health checks when you’re over 40.

“We’ve talked this week about all the things that we will do. Now let’s talk about the one thing we will not do. We will not be taking advice from the Tories

“The Tories write the British economy off. But they are wrong. Britain is made of sterner stuff.

“The Tories write the Labour Party off. But they are wrong. This Labour Party is made of sterner stuff.

“The Tories are breathtaking in their arrogance. They smirk in photoshoots of what they describe as the Cabinet in waiting.

“We know that because they put the photos in the Tory house magazine – none other than The Tatler.

“Conference – no party should take the voters for granted like that.”

Ms Harman also accused Tory leader David Cameron of pledging “support to lesbian and gay groups – but he voted to keep Section 28- and it was on a free vote.

“He’s the kind of man your mother used to warn you about.

“You know the kind of man I’m talking about.

“He’ll promise you the world. Promise to make all your dreams come true.

“But if he got his wicked way with – you in the ballot box – you’d never hear from him again.”

Ms Harman declared: “Labour’s fightback has begun.”

The Conservative party conference begins on Sunday in Birmingham.