Schools OUT: Birmingham leads the fight against homophobic bullying by focusing on primary schools

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Schools OUT, an organisation that works towards equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in education, has revealed that the city of Birmingham currently leads the way on tackling homophobic bullying through a program that targets primary schools specifically.

The charity revealed that 10% of Birmingham schools are given specific LGBT-focused education and training each year, thanks to the “highly successful” program known as ‘Educate and Celebrate.’

Among the 40 schools currently targeted however, 12 of them are primary schools, due to an initiative in place aimed at confronting anti-gay bullying at an early age.

Leading the initiative is director Ellie Barnes, the Birmingham LGBT schools advisor who recently placed 21st on this year’s independent Pink List.

Entitled ‘Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools’ (CHIPS), it is a free resource developed for teachers to give them the confidence to engage with students about how to tackle the word “gay” being used in a derogatory way, and to challenge gender stereotypes through inclusive books in ‘Language and Literacy’ curriculums.

This comes after a recent spate of concern about the word “gay” and its implications in the classroom, including one Sussex head teacher who decided to start taking the derogatory term seriously, by punishing its use in the same way as any other offensive slur.

Schools who received CHIPS have so far agreed that it has a positive impact.

The pastoral manager at Cotteridge Junior and Infants in Birmingham said: “The training gave us the confidence to challenge stereotypes and discuss LGBT issues in our school, the books and imagery highlight and celebrate the diversity of family life.”

SchoolsOUT also revealed that Birmingham is due to host the national LGBT History Month pre-launch event on 28th November, in which various workshops in both primary and secondary schools will engage young people in music, art, and history.

Stephen Hughes, the Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council said: “I was inspired by Elly’s work and thought that is the person we need to sort things out in Birmingham so we can be the first city to eliminate homophobic bullying from our schools.

“We are also delighted to be hosting the national LGBT History Month pre-launch as it will give a platform to our schools to take part in workshops and say ‘no’ to homophobia on the Bramall stage on 28th November.”

Last year, Elly Barnes was awarded a commendation under the category of ‘Inspirational teacher of the year’ due to her commitment to educating students and staff about LGBT issues.