‘More teacher training’ needed to tackle homophobic bullying

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Teachers should be given more training to deal with anti-gay bullying, the House of Lords heard yesterday.

Responding to questions, schools minister Lord Hill of Oareford agreed that teachers should be trained to spot signs of homophobic bullying and that changes to Ofsted’s remit would give the school inspection body more time to look for such issues.

He said: “We have updated our advice to schools to make it clear that prejudice-based bullying such as homophobic bullying should not be tolerated.

“This advice signposts schools to specialist organisations, such as Stonewall, that can support them. Accountability in how schools tackle bullying will also be sharpened through the new Ofsted inspections framework.”

Lord Collins of Highbury, who is openly gay, said: “We need more than just words; we need tools to do the job. Will the minister therefore give an undertaking that Ofsted will investigate how schools respond to homophobic bullying when visiting them in future?”

Lord Hill responded: “Without wishing to be too prescriptive about everything that Ofsted will look for, as the noble Lord will know the whole purpose of our slimming down the inspection framework for Ofsted to concentrate on four core areas-including behaviour and safety-is precisely so that they have more time to look for the kind of issues that the noble Lord is concerned about.”

In answer to a question from Lord Laming about the need for better teacher training, Lord Hill said proposed new standards had been published.

He added: “However, the noble Lord is obviously right; we want to make sure that teachers responsible for classrooms are properly and broadly trained in maintaining a good environment in which to learn, which will include an important focus on maintaining order and discipline and trying to minimise bullying.”

Writing for epolitix.com, Lord Collins, who is the general secretary of the Labour Party, said the current Education Bill does not give details of how teachers will be given more training.

He said: “I have real concerns that the government seems to be willing the ends, but not the means, to tackle homophobic bullying in schools.

“While they have set out an admirable objective, they have failed to state how they intend to train teachers to the highest standards and with the required skills – an ambition that underpins the core aim of this legislation.”

According to research by gay rights charity Stonewall, 90 per cent of secondary school teachers and 40 oer cent of primary school teachers see homophobic bullying among pupils.