Report: 99 percent of gay pupils hear homophobic language in school

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A report launched today has found that 55 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils in Britain’s secondary schools experience homophobic bullying, while 99 percent hear the word ‘gay’ being used disparagingly at their schools.

The University of Cambridge research for Stonewall’s School Report 2012, launched at its Education for All conference, included a national survey of 1,614 young people.

It found that nearly a quarter, 23 per cent, of gay young people had attempted to take their own life, and more than half, 56 per cent, deliberately harm themselves.

99 per cent of gay young people hear homophobic language using the word ‘gay’ in a disparaging way, using it as an insult or to imply something’s inferiority.

However, a quarter of gay young people, over a third in faith schools, said teachers never challenge homophobic language.

In schools where teaching staff never challenge homophobic remarks, the rate of homophobic bullying is far higher than in schools where such language is always challenged at 71 per cent compared to 43 per cent.

Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said: “It’s unacceptable that over half of gay young people face a daily nightmare of homophobic bullying, and deeply worrying that many schools and teachers still fail to challenge it effectively.

“Thankfully Stonewall’s years of work with thousands of schools and local authorities has reduced the overall level of homophobic bullying significantly. But we won’t rest until every single gay young person in this country can walk through their school gates every morning without fear of being bullied just because of the way they were born.”

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “Homophobic bullying, of any kind and of any child, is completely unacceptable. No child should have to suffer fear, victimisation or disruption as a result of bullying, either on or off school premises. Tackling poor behaviour and bullying are top priorities for the Coalition Government.

“Working with Stonewall and other groups, we are supporting schools to take a zero tolerance approach to all forms of bullying. We are also clear that homophobic language should become as unacceptable as racial slurs.”

Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg, speaking at Stonewall’s Education for All Conference in London today, paid tribute to Stonewall for making a ‘vital contribution’ to discussions about homophobic bullying.

He said: “Every school and college must be a safe environment for everyone learning and working there.

“Stonewall’s School Report sets out challenges for schools, the Department for Education and Ofsted. It also makes recommendations for local authorities and academy chains – it’s vital that these are adopted.”

Today’s report updates Stonewall’s 2007 School Report, which found that nearly two thirds of young people were being homophobically bullied. Homophobic language remains as prevalent today as it was in 2007, although twice as many young people today report their schools say homophobic bullying is wrong (50 per cent, up from 25 per cent in 2007).

Janice Hawkes, assistant director of children’s services and chair of Barnardo’s LGBT national forum, joins Stonewall in its call to put a stop to homophobic bullying:

“Young people shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed of who they are but it’s happening all the time, whether it’s in school or on the streets.

“We need to work more constructively with teachers to help make them aware of bullying amongst young LGBT people in their care. Dealing with discriminating comments appropriately can help prevent bullying.”

The School Report 2012 can be downloaded at