London school claims to have eradicated anti-gay bullying

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A school in north London says it has virtually eradicated anti-gay bullying by teaching pupils about gay history.

Stoke Newington secondary school was one of the first schools to adopt LGBT History Month five years ago. It is now also a diversity training centre, training other teachers how they can educate pupils about homosexuality and different families.

Pupils learn about Oscar Wilde and Alan Turing, while Andy Warhol and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert also feature in lessons.

Elly Barnes, a teacher at the school and the diversity course leader, said that the key was “educating and celebrating”.

She told the Guardian: “My focus is eradicating homophobia from all schools and educational establishments by giving staff the confidence and resources to do it, along with demonstrating good practice and changing opinions under the banner of ‘educate and celebrate’.

“Many teachers are scared of celebrating LGBT as they are worried pupils will judge them and will assume they are gay,” she said.

“In fact, to them, we are just a blob giving them information. Over the five years, I’ve only had three pupils ask whether I am gay.”

Ms Barnes added that a number of pupils had felt comfortable enough to come out and said: “I used to hear the word gay being used all the time, as a derogatory term. Now we hardly hear that.”

A recent report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission said that two-thirds of gay students are bullied at school. Seventeen per cent said they had received death threats.

Research for gay charity Stonewall in 2009 found that while the majority of teachers see homophobic bullying among children, only one in ten said they had received specific guidance on tackling the problem.