Will Young: Educating teachers on homophobic language is a ‘priority’

PinkNews logo on a pink background surrounded by illustrated line drawings of a rainbow, pride flag, unicorn and more.

Singer Will Young has claimed that schools are still not doing enough to curb children’s use of “gay” as an insult, saying that teachers should be the “priority” when it comes to educating what counts as homophobic language.

In a recent interview with TES, the gay pop star followed up on his call in October for stamping out anti-gay bullying in schools.

He said that while students and young people should be taught about the damaging effects of homophobia, it is the teachers and headteachers who need the most education.

“It is not just educating the kids, it’s the teachers and the heads – that needs to be a priority.

“In fairness, Ofsted is pretty good when it comes to looking at homophobic language, but I think part of the reason is that language and the use of the word ‘gay’ has not come under the definition of homophobia.

“Secondary school heads don’t see it as being homophobic and many say it happens so often ‘how are we going to tackle it?’ And a lot of the time they see it as just kids being kids.”

According to Stonewall, almost two thirds of young LGBT people have experienced homophobic bullying, and nine out of ten and more than two in five primary school teachers say that homophobic bullying occurs in their schools.

The 34-year-old previously wrote for the The Independent that “this is not a small statistic, this is an epidemic, but still we find teachers not wanting to tackle homophobia.”

In the recent interview, he added: “People used the negative connotation of the word gay when I was at school and that had an impact on me because I knew I was gay from a young age.

“The word has been in the fabric of society and it was particularly present in schools.”

Mr Young said that a zero tolerance approach was now needed from teachers and headteachers alike.

He had voiced his concerns to Education Secretary Michael Gove at an education conference organised by gay rights charity Stonewall.

Of this meeting, he said: “I put it to him that the derogatory use of the word gay should be addressed. I am pleased to say his reaction was attentive and encouraging. Let’s see words turn into actions, Michael”.

Last month, a head teacher in Sussex spoke out in the wake of singer Will Young’s campaign by planning to treat “gay” insults the same as any other offensive slurs.