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Homophobic bullying ‘rife’ in schools

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A survey of UK teachers has found a “deeply alarming” amount of homophobia in schools.

The report, released today by Stonewall, is the largest ever survey of both primary and secondary school teachers on the issue of homophobic bullying.

According to the research, titled The Teachers’ Report, more than 150,000 pupils are affected by anti-gay bullying, with boys who work hard, girls who play sport, young people with gay parents, and young people who are thought to be gay all suffering from name-calling and abuse.

Nine in ten secondary school teachers and two in five primary school teachers said pupils experience homophobic bullying, even if they are not gay.

Teachers reported that homophobic bullying was the most prevalent form of bullying after bullying because of weight, coming above racism.

Pupils suspected to be gay and boys perceived to act or dress in a feminine way were most likely to suffer abuse, followed by pupils who are openly gay.

Only two in five secondary school teachers and less than half of primary school teachers said their headteacher demonstrates a clear leadership role when it comes to tackling homophobic bullying.

Two-thirds of secondary school staff and three in four primary school staff blamed homophobic language on television for the frequency of homophobic language and homophobic bullying in schools.

Nine in ten teachers say they have never received training about homophobic bullying.

However, the survey did have some positive findings.

Three in five secondary school teachers and a quarter of primary school teachers said they had addressed sexual orientation in the classroom and ninety-five per cent say they would do so again.

Many teachers reported hearing the word ‘gay’ being used in a derogatory way in classrooms and using this to begin a debate about the use of the word, comparing it to racism.

One teacher said: “If pupils express misunderstanding about what it means to be gay, or show an anti-gay attitude, I confront the issue directly with the whole class so that it removes any mystery or secrecy.”

Those teaching subjects such as English, drama or film studies also reported being able to address the issue in a positive way through texts studied.

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall chief executive, said: “This survey reveals how much remains to be done by our schools to demonstrate to all pupils that homophobic bullying is unacceptable.

“In July last year, 18-year-old Michael Causer from Liverpool was kicked to death by a young man shouting homophobic abuse.

“That young man had not been educated in the 1970s, or the 1980s, or the 1990s. He attended a British secondary school during the last five years. Teachers need support to ensure this tragedy does not happen again.”

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