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Promoting Equal Opportunities in Education - Project Two: Guidance On Dealing With Homophobic Incidents: Phase 1 Report and Recommendations

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3: Literature Review

As stated in the methodology, a literature review was conducted in order to contextualise this piece of research with an overview of previous work on the nature, extent and effects of homophobic incidents in schools alongside examples of good practice both within and outwith the UK.

3.1 Research into attitudes towards discrimination

3.1.1 General attitudes towards discrimination

Research into attitudes to discrimination in Scotland (Bromley and Curtice, 2003) examines the attitudes of the Scottish population towards issues such as ethnicity, gender, disability and sexual orientation. The research investigates what Scottish people believe is the extent of discriminatory attitudes in Scotland, the extent and character of discriminatory attitudes in Scotland and why people hold these attitudes.

This research shows that general attitudes are discriminatory towards gay men and lesbians. Many respondents were aware of this with almost half of all respondents stating that there was a lot of prejudice against gay men and lesbians.

  • 19% of people believe that equal opportunities for gay men and lesbians have gone 'too far'.
  • 26% believe that gay men and lesbians are unsuitable to be primary school teachers.
  • 18% would prefer not to have a gay man or lesbian as their MSP
  • 60% of people feel that it is a 'waste of money' for local authorities to spend money on support services for gay men and lesbians.

In addition, while just over two thirds (68%) said that Scotland should get rid of all types of prejudice, one quarter (26%) also felt that there were sometimes good reasons to be prejudiced: 'Evidently some kinds of prejudice are still socially acceptable for a considerable minority of people in Scotland.' (Bromley and Curtice, 2003).

First Out: report of the findings of the Beyond Barriers survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland (Morgan and Bell, 2003) presents the outcomes of a survey investigating the needs, experiences and concerns of LGBT people in Scotland (n=924). Respondents felt that some of the main issues facing LGBT people in Scotland today were bigotry and discrimination, equal rights and acceptance and acceptability, all of which have relevance in the school environment.

Safety was a key concern for respondents: 68% of respondents had been verbally abused or threatened by someone who had assumed they were LGBT at some point in their lives and those aged under 24 were more likely to state that this had occurred in the last 12 months. Almost one quarter of respondents had been physically assaulted at some point and for 13% this had occurred in school or University; this percentage would no doubt have been even higher had more young people been included in the survey. Comments from respondents included:

School never dealt with any homosexual issues or even gave information on people to talk to.

When I was at school and was the victim of homophobic bullying, I had nobody to turn to regarding the specific type of bullying. (Morgan and Bell, 2003)

As a result, one of the key areas which respondents would like to see further research into was issues surrounding bullying at school and in the workplace.

3.1.2 Young people's attitudes towards discrimination

One of the findings of the Attitudes to Discrimination in Scotland report was that young people are more aware of prejudice than their older counterparts. YouthLink Scotland, the national youth agency for Scotland, surveyed 3,096 11 to 25 year olds on what it means to be young in Scotland. One of the areas explored was that of equality. 84% of 11 to 16 year olds and 78% of 17 to 25 year olds believed that respect for others is what makes someone a good citizen.

Questions regarding attitudes towards LGBT people were not included in the survey but the young people appeared to be predominantly non-racist with at least seven in ten regarding the use of terms such as 'chinky' or 'paki', speaking negatively in private about people from different ethnic backgrounds and being verbally offensive to people from different ethnic backgrounds to be either slightly or strongly racist (YouthLink Scotland, 2003).

Bullying can be an issue for all young people. NCH, a national charity working with vulnerable and excluded children and young people, surveyed young people using their services (n=623) about their experiences of education and found that, for a quarter of respondents, bullying was the single biggest issue they faced at school (Allard and McNamara, 2004). The young people questioned in focus groups were sceptical about the effectiveness of school or governmental anti-bullying initiatives, believing that even if bullying was tackled in class and the playground it would happen elsewhere. They also felt that teachers were not interested in helping the situation: 'I was bullied and the teachers did nothing about it'. The young people using NCH services were likely to be seen as somehow 'different' due to being in care, being in trouble with the law, being young carers or being disabled. This can perhaps be likened to the perceived differences of LGBT young people. In relation to this, NCH suggest that:

… practice has also shown that schools can employ strategies that make it harder for bullying to flourish and easier for children to seek help. These include practical measures to 'shut down' opportunities for bullying, such as ensuring that breaks are effectively supervised, utilising peer mentoring approaches so that children support each other in challenging bullying cultures, and tackling bullying as part of a whole-school approach to creating a positive, respectful learning environment. The evidence is that schools with a cooperative and participative ethos tend to have lower levels of bullying. (Allard and MacNamara, 2004)

3.2 Homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools

3.2.1 Homophobic bullying and its effects on young people

Homophobic bullying is when individuals are victimised as a result of being LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender), being perceived to be LGBT or having LGBT parents, relatives or friends. It is said to have taken place:

… when general bullying behaviours such as verbal and physical abuse and intimidation is accompanied by or consists of the use of terms such as gay, lesbian, queer or lezzie by perpetrators. (Douglas et al., 1997)

In the school setting, homophobic bullying can be expressed through name-calling, social isolation, public ridicule, the spreading of rumours, teasing, having belongings stolen and being sexually assaulted. This can take place in all areas of the school and its surrounding areas but 'low level' bullying such as name-calling is thought to take place most frequently in the classroom and the corridors (Rivers, 2000). Constant victimisation may mean that young people internalise these homophobic attitudes and the names or labels repeatedly used become an integral part of their identity at school (Rivers , 1998). It is unsurprising then that many LGBT young people feel unable to 'come out' at school, a decision which can leave them isolated and unsupported.

This isolation is often compounded by a fear of rejection from parents and other family members. 'Coming out' is not only a task for the individual who identifies as LGB or T, the process also has an impact on the collective identity of the family. As the majority of heterosexual parents assume that their children will also be heterosexual, the family is often an inadvertent source of negative attitudes towards, and stereotypes of, lesbian and gay sexualities long before young people identify as such (Valentine et al. 2003). Indeed, a UK survey found that 61% of violent acts committed against lesbians and gay men were carried out by family members (Hunter, 1990). Rejection from the family home also puts many LGBT young people at risk of homelessness and risk taking behaviours (O'Connor and Molloy, 2001).

A life of secrecy and lies can hinder young people's emotional development, reinforce their own homophobia, undermine their self-esteem and confidence, and inhibit them from connecting with the lesbian and gay `community'. (Valentine et al., 2003)

Homophobic bullying in school is a barrier to participation in education. One Head Teacher describes the effects which homophobic bullying can have on young people:

Diminishing or total loss of self confidence, likewise self esteem, withdrawing into a shell, not communicating, obviously being very unhappy and that affecting friendships, affecting their work, motivation towards school, being off school and feigning illness with parents and refusing to come to school. (Warwick et al., 2001)

In the long term, low educational attainment will influence entry into further or higher education and future career prospects. Negative experiences in the formal learning environment may also discourage those bullied to engage in learning at a later date. In addition, long-term mental health issues can be triggered by bullying and continue into adult life; suicide and attempted suicide are far more likely in those young people who identify as LGB or T than in the general youth population. In one study, over 50% of LGB people who had been bullied at school had considered self-harm or suicide and 40% had attempted self-harm at least once (Rivers, 2001, Remafedi et al. 1996, Remafedi, 2002). A recent Scottish study (Johnston, 2005) found that over a quarter of survey respondents who had been homophobically bullied had performed worse at school while over a third had suffered from depression or anxiety, a third had self-harmed and a third had had suicidal thoughts. These mental health issues are discussed at greater length in section 4.2. of the literature review.

Recent Northern Irish research was commissioned by the Department of Education as part of their statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (Youthnet Northern Ireland, 2003). 44% of the LGBT young people surveyed had been bullied at school because of their sexuality. There were clear connections between early school leaving, poor educational attainment and homophobic bullying. Over two thirds of the young people who left school earlier than they would have preferred had experienced bullying of this kind and 65% of those who had achieved low results had also been bullied. Mental health issues were also an issue in Northern Ireland: almost one third of the participants in the survey had attempted suicide and it was found that young LGBT people were five times more likely to be medicated for depression (Youthnet Northern Ireland, 2003).

Homophobic bullying is distinct from other types of bullying in its 'pervasive and covert nature' (Adams et al., 2004). Although homophobic language is often used only as a convenient verbal weapon and may not reflect the bully's actual attitude towards LGBT people, it is the casual use of such language which makes it both common and somewhat acceptable in school and wider society. As shown by the survey discussed earlier (Youthlink, 2003), racist language is perceived as taboo for many young people. However, homophobic language is seen to be somehow not as 'serious' as other types of discriminatory language.

This can be illustrated by research carried out in two English and Welsh secondary schools in which young people were asked ' What words do people at school use for slagging someone off? Write down as many words as you can'. Responses were grouped into categories such as 'sexist', 'scatological', 'homophobic' and 'racist' and participants were asked to rate these pejoratives in terms of which were worst: 'that is, carrying the sense of their being either antisocial or immoral, or both.' (Thurlow, 2001). Homophobic insults accounted for 10% of all of the insults reported, significantly more than racist items (7%). However, only 28% of the homophobic insults were rated as 'worst' whereas racist language was seen as far more taboo with 55% of racist insults rated as 'worst'. The responses of the young people showed that although abusive homophobic language was very much part of their everyday discourse it was not considered to be particularly offensive:

After all, they reason, these are not bad words- not like racist words. Homophobic pejoratives are certainly hurtful, though, if you are homosexual. (Thurlow, 2001)

In one study based in Scotland researchers based in the classroom witnessed:

… revulsion over the idea of sex between men; "accusations" made that particular teachers "are gay"; use of the word "poof" as a general derogatory term; and violence being threatened against particular pupils who were "suspected" of being gay. These kinds of comments were not a feature of every class, but were audible in a considerable number… Many pupils are exposed to and are the target of homophobic comments on a regular basis. (Buston and Hart, 2001)

The use of homophobic language begins in Primary school, albeit without the sexual connotations which adults may associate with it, and their use in this early years setting establishes an 'asexual' early homophobia (Plummer, 2001). Primary school is a location in which sexual and gender identities are produced and the boundaries which define gender-specific hegemonies are established. Homophobic performances in primary school playgrounds and classrooms are more related to gender roles than sexual orientation and practice (Renold, 2000 and 2002). Homophobic and misogynistic language and behaviour are the methods by which some boys assert and consolidate their own emerging masculine heterosexual identities. Homophobic practices such as these 'are a means of regulating and policing the boundaries of hegemonic heterosexual masculinities' (Renold, 2000). Gender binaries are set in place at an early age: femininity is directly associated with gay men and lesbianism conflated with masculinity. Therefore, homophobic insults may be used against those young people - especially young boys - who do not adhere to the traditionally dominant traits of their own gender.

A boy who is different, stands apart from the group, is a loner, is smarter than other boys, who adheres to adult authority in preference to peer group codes and/or who doesn't participate in team activities can provoke homophobic targeting. (Plummer, 2001)

The main demand on boys from within their peer culture (but also, sometimes, from teachers), up to the sixth form at least, is to appear to do little or no work, to be heavily competitive (but at sport and heterosex, not at school work), to be rough, tough and dangerous to know. (Epstein, 1998)

3.2.2 Homophobic bullying and schools: barriers to progress

Clause 28 Section 2a of the Local Government Act 1988, commonly known as Section 28, stated that there was no place in any school for teaching which advocated homosexual behaviour, treated homosexuality as the 'norm' or which somehow encouraged homosexual experimentation by pupils. It also forbade teaching the acceptability of homosexuality as a 'pretended family relationship' ( DES, 1987).

Despite the fact that this legislation applied only to local authorities, many schools believed that it applied directly to them and that therefore any discussion of 'homosexuality' was prohibited. Equally, some schools may have viewed Section 28 as a way in which to avoid addressing 'uncomfortable' issues such as these and others perhaps saw it as a legitimation of their own homophobia (Epstein, 1994 in Douglas et al., 1999, p.54).

In addition, misinterpreted legislation will undoubtedly have caused great discomfort for the many LGB or T teachers in the UK. The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulation of 2003 now outlaws any discrimination or harassment in the workplace on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation. However, even in 2005, sexuality remains an issue in denominational schools with a senior Scottish bishop recently stating that there is no place for gay teachers in Catholic schools (Gordon, 2005).

LGBT sexualities and identities are marginalised and silenced within the education system from the very beginning: these issues are rarely, if ever, mentioned during Initial Teacher Education ( ITE). Nixon and Givens (2004) explored the experiences of six lesbian and gay trainee teachers during their time at Trainee Teacher College and found that all believed that 'coming out' in school to colleagues had the potential to harm their teaching careers. The trainee teachers demonstrated internalised homophobia as all had, at times, doubted whether they, as lesbians and gay men, should become teachers. These students had "taken on for themselves the easy conflation of homosexuality with paedophilia."

One female trainee teacher pointed out that 'We were talking about race and religion at one point and it did come up and they said, "Well, you can't talk about it in schools so don't get yourself into that situation" It was very much brushed under the carpet - I think it should be addressed. If we're addressing all the other sort of areas that discrimination occur in, you know we talk about sex, we talk about gender, we talk about race, religion, then why aren't we talking about homosexuality? It seems to be an area which is a `no go' area.' (Nixon and Givens, 2004)

Section 28 was repealed in Scotland in 2000 and in the rest of the UK in 2003. Jenny Broughton, national coordinator for Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays ( FFLAG), states that it "went out not with a bang, but with a whimper. Many schools are blithely unaware that anything has changed, or choose to ignore that it has" (Hastings, 2004).

However, these changes must be acknowledged:

To make schools safer and more productive places for lgb-identifying young people (and, we would suggest, all young people) we believe it is important to acknowledge the significant cultural changes that have taken place around sexuality in the last 20 years and, as a matter of priority, to consider doing things differently. (Ellis and High, 2004)

School policy often discourages young people from reporting homophobia and homophobic bullying. Although the vast majority of schools have an anti-bullying policy, many do not include explicit reference to homophobic bullying. In one study in English and Welsh schools, it was found that although 99% of schools had an anti-bullying policy only 6% made reference to lesbian and gay bullying (Douglas et al. 1999). Similarly, in a survey carried out in the Republic of Ireland, 93% of Social, Personal and Health Education ( SPHE) teachers reported that their school had an anti-bullying policy but 90% stated that the policy did not include any reference to 'lesbian and gay related bullying' (Norman, 2004). Only half of the schools surveyed in England and Wales had a school confidentiality policy and of those that did, only 15% made reference to sexual orientation issues. Reporting homophobic bullying involves the young person disclosing personal information regarding his or her sexuality or perceived sexuality. If pupil confidentiality cannot be ensured and if it is uncertain whether the bully will be punished in any case, it is very likely that homophobic bullying will continue unreported and unchallenged.

Often, bullying takes place between young people. However, it is also important to note that school staff can also be complicit in bullying by either actively bullying pupils themselves or by providing no support for the young person who is being bullied (Rivers, 2000). Teachers are often aware of homophobia and homophobic bullying in their own schools. Research carried out with 307 secondary schools in England and Wales showed that 82% of teachers were aware of pupil-to-pupil homophobic verbal bullying and over 1 in 4 teachers were aware of young people being physically attacked during homophobic bullying (Douglas et al. 1999 and 2001). There must, therefore, be barriers present which discourage teachers from tackling homophobia and homophobic bullying.

Respondents in an earlier study by the same researchers (Douglas et al., 1997) cited the following discouraging factors:

20.9%

Parental disapproval

18.9%

Inexperienced staff

14.0%

Unsupportive staff

13.7%

Concern about the image of the school

11.6%

Pupil disapproval

11.4%

Governor disapproval

9.5%

Other

These findings are supported by the survey of teachers in Irish Second-Level schools who were hindered in improving their work on sexual orientation by many of the same barriers (Norman, 2004). 'Disapproval' from a variety of sources is clearly a key concern and it is interesting to consider whether this disapproval had ever been directly expressed or whether teachers simply thought that this might be the case (Biddulph, 1998). Douglas et al. (1997) asked respondents what they thought would support their work on dealing with sexuality issues:

29%

More resources

24%

Training and support

20%

Strategy and policy

14%

Other

13%

Change in attitudes

These answers demonstrate the gaps in school policy and practice which act as barriers to improvement: lack of school policy commitment and strategic drive alongside a lack of resources, training and guidelines. Many teachers may be unsure of how to proceed in this area, and many may be hindered by the absence of support from senior management or a culture of homophobia within the school as a whole.

The heterosexist curriculum supports and sustains the school culture of homophobia. LGBT issues are marginalised in the classroom where a 'presumption of heterosexuality' dominates (Mac an Ghaill, 1991, Epstein and Johnson, 1994 in Buston and Hart, 2001). Recent doctoral research carried out in schools in Dumfries and Galloway explored teachers' discourses on LGB pupils (McIntyre, 2005). Interviews with teachers in the area revealed a tendency towards 'assimilation'. Teachers felt that it was inappropriate to give specialised attention to LGB pupils as all pupils should be treated 'equally' and in the same way. However, McIntyre argues that the rhetoric of equality within a heterosexist institution such as the school means that, in effect, all pupils are treated as if they are heterosexual while their individual differences and needs are denied.

Furthermore, a potential focus on non-heterosexual pupils as 'disadvantaged', while excluding their existence-and that of their families-from relevant aspects of the curriculum, both marginalises this group and leaves few openings for a consideration of the need to educate all young people for a society in which sexual identity is extremely diverse, and discrimination against non-heterosexuals is rife. (Atkinson, 2002)

Currently, the most likely location for any discussion regarding sexuality is in Sex Education. However, if the overall atmosphere of the class is heterosexist then valuable sexual health information will not be conveyed to LGBT young people. Indeed, the inclusion of LGBT issues only in sex education classes - and often only when talking about risk, protection and Sexually Transmitted Infections - over sexualises LGBT issues and propagates the idea that 'homosexuality' is only about sexual practice.

SHARE (Sexual Health and Relationships Education) is a 2-year sex education course for 13-15 year olds coordinated by Healthy Respect, the Lothian based sexual health National Demonstration Project. Although the SHARE programme does not provide sessions which deal exclusively with LGBT issues, it does offer advice on how to be more inclusive when approaching and discussing these issues ( LGBT Youth Scotland, 2003a). During SHARE lesson observations it was noted that teachers' approaches to dealing with LGBT issues varied (Buston and Hart, 2001). In classes where good practice prevailed, homosexuality was normalised alongside heterosexuality and relevant information was disseminated to pupils. However, some teachers were explicitly homophobic, providing misinformation based on stereotyping and making inappropriate jokes. In other classes, although no overt homophobia was present heterosexism remained, for example in defining sexual activity as vaginal intercourse alone.

Buston and Hart identified the barriers to good practice, some of which are similar to those by Douglas et al. (1997): confusion regarding Section 28, teacher discomfort, lack of guidance from senior management and fear of negative pupil reactions:

Adverse pupil reactions was the most commonly talked about constraint [ to good practice], and we can see the irony in this: heterosexist sex education is being justified and perpetuated by the contention that pupils are too homophobic for issues of gay and lesbian sexuality to be discussed or even acknowledged. (Buston and Hart, 2001)

A whole school approach to the problem of homophobia and homophobic bullying is necessary:

The constitution of heterosexuality as the norm, through policy, during lessons and by way of everyday conversations, jokes and gossip creates a context within which certain young people (and also teachers and parents) come to think of themselves as, in some way, less than normal. This is why making schools safer places for lesbian and gay pupils is not just a matter of the provision of, say, the telephone number of a helpline, but is a whole school issue affecting all of those linked to a school community. (Warwick et al. 2001)

The resources listed in the Good Practice section of this literature review have all been produced in recent years and represent fledgling attempts to surmount the barriers listed above.

3.3 Policy context

3.3.1 Education

Tackling homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools is not a matter of choice. The following represents only a handful of the recent policy documents which explicitly or implicitly emphasise that the whole school community is obliged to address these issues.

It has been recognised that bullying is a problem in schools and several government publications and initiatives have been prepared in an attempt to combat the problem. However, until recently, these initiatives have made no explicit mention of LGBT issues. In 1994, prior to devolution in Scotland, the then Department for Education and Employment published Bullying: Don't Suffer in Silence. Updated versions make explicit reference to homophobia as a cause of bullying and suggest strategies with which to tackle this ( DfES, 2000 and 2002). Stand Up For Us, which will be discussed further in the good practice section, is dedicated solely to the problem of homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools (Jennett, 2004). However, as well as resources such as these which explicitly refer to the problem of homophobic bullying, the wider principles of equality of opportunity and respect for diversity have been highlighted in a number of reports.

National Priorities in Education (2000) and How Good is our School? (2002)

The Scottish Executive's vision for children and young people is of a Scotland in which every child matters and is given the best possible start in life. Social inclusion for all has been a key component of New Labour's agenda since 1997 and Inclusion and Equality is one of the five National Priorities in Education set by the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. Act 2000 (Scottish Executive, 2000). Local authorities and schools are required to show how these Priorities are being delivered through local action. One of this priority's main outcomes is that ' Every pupil benefits from education' and a key performance measure for this outcome is adherence to quality indicator 5.3 'Equality and Fairness' of HGIOS.

In a high performing school equality issues will be discussed openly among and between pupils and staff and diversity will be recognised and valued in the school as a whole. This indicator makes explicit reference to the sexual orientation of pupils:

Positive steps are taken to ensure that pupils, parents, and staff are treated equally, with respect and in a fair and just manner. Culture and language, disability, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and special educational needs are not barriers to participation. There is a whole-school approach to issues of equality and fairness, such as racial harassment and sexual discrimination. Pupils are assisted to feel confident in recognising and addressing discrimination. Staff, pupils and visitors to the school feel valued, safe and secure. ( HMIE, 2002)

HGIOS also stresses the importance of support for pupils and fostering a whole school ethos of openness and trust. Quality indicator 4.1 Pastoral Care requires schools to ensure the care, welfare and protection of pupils and meet the emotional, physical and social needs of individual pupils by ensuring that their needs and concerns are dealt with sensitively, confidentially, with dignity and privacy ( HMIE, 2002).

New/Integrated Community Schools (1998 and 2002) and Curriculum for Excellence (2004a)

Another key outcome in the 'Equality and Inclusion' National Priority is the number of schools adopting the New Community Schools - now Integrated Community Schools - approach.

This approach is one which the Government believes is fundamental in raising educational attainment and promoting social inclusion. It is directed at areas of social deprivation and aims to involve pupils, families and the wider community in learning by providing a multi-disciplinary range of services from the education, social work, healthcare and health promotion sectors (The Scottish Office, 1998). It is hoped that this service integration will result in greater levels of support for pupils, something which is seen as crucial by the government: 'Support in schools must meet the needs of all children and young people, whatever the choices and experiences they face.' (Scottish Executive, 2004c)

Similarly, the 2004 Curriculum for Excellence argues that the 3-18 curriculum should be adapted to enable all young people to benefit from education and 'support them in developing concern, tolerance, care and respect for themselves and each other' (Scottish Executive, 2004a, p. 11). This, it is clear, cannot be achieved without direct engagement with the problem of homophobia in schools. Young people who are bullied on the grounds of their sexual orientation are being excluded from the benefits of education and being denied opportunities and life chances. By allowing this to continue in any sense, schools are teaching nothing about tolerance, care or respect for others and are, in fact, conveying the message that this behaviour is acceptable both in school and in later life.

Better Behaviour - Better Learning (2001)

Links between behaviour and learning are also made explicit. Several recent publications include recommendations for bullying policy and practice, guidance on dealing with bullying and advice for the monitoring and reporting of violent and bullying behaviour. Better Behaviour - Better Learning (Scottish Executive, 2001) has been implemented in schools across Scotland:

Given the close links between pupil learning and behaviour, promoting positive behaviour in schools must be a key element in ensuring the best possible educational outcomes for our children. Furthermore, teaching young people to manage their relationships with others in positive ways is also an important end in its own right. For pupils, acquiring the ability to manage their behaviour and relationships appropriately is a key part of preparing them for life in an adult society, including the workplace. ( HMIE, 2001)

Being Well, Doing Well - a Framework for Health Promoting Schools in Scotland (2004)

This policy document emphasises the "physical, social, spiritual, mental and emotional health and well-being of all pupils and staff" and states that school should:

  • ensure a safe, supportive and challenging atmosphere
  • value and care for all pupils, their families and staff
  • encourage a sense of belonging and promote self-esteem and respect among all pupils and staff

In terms of the curriculum, the document states that Health Promoting Schools should have approaches to personal and social development and health education that take account of pupils' health needs and of the range of factors that influence their values, attitudes, behaviour and health. They should pay particular attention to helping pupils establish values, attitudes, knowledge and skills that will enable them to make well-informed decisions about their lifestyle.

In terms of ethos and behaviour, inclusive Health Promoting Schools include and value all members of the school community and demonstrate "respect, fairness and equality of treatment for all." Again, although specific groups of people are not mentioned in this document, the rhetoric implies inclusion and respect for all and attention to the needs of all young people, a concept which implicitly includes LGBT young people.

3.3.2 Health

As discussed earlier, homophobic bullying can have long lasting and detrimental effects on the health of LGBT young people. The Young LGB People's Health Needs Assessment carried out in Glasgow concluded that suicidal ideation was up to two or three times higher amongst LGBT respondents and that this was often a direct reaction to the discrimination 80% of the young people had experienced (Coia et al. 2002). Research carried out by LGBT Youth Scotland into suicidal thoughts and feelings amongst gay and bisexual young men in Edinburgh found that they were at higher risk than members of the general population ( LGBT Youth Scotland and Gay Men's Health, 2003a).

  • 54% of gay and bisexual respondents had seriously considered taking their own life, compared to 13% of men in the general population who have ever considered suicide.
  • 27% of young gay/bisexual men have attempted suicide compared to 4% of the general population.
  • Suicide attempts were most common in those young gay/bisexual men aged 14 to 20.
  • 28% of respondents had at some point deliberately injured themselves with no suicidal intent. This compares to 2% of men in the general population.

The INCLUSION project, a partnership between Stonewall Scotland and the Scottish Executive Health Department, presented research into the health needs and health inequalities of LGBT people in Scotland ( INCLUSION Project, 2003). It uncovered a number of further physical and mental health issues.

  • Unusually high rates of suicide and attempted suicide amongst the LGBT population.
  • High levels of sexual risk-taking amongst gay men and limited sexual health knowledge and information amongst lesbians.
  • High levels of alcohol, drug and tobacco use across the LGBT population.
  • Gay men and heterosexual women are similar in disordered eating patterns. Choose Life: a national strategy and action plan to prevent suicide in Scotland (Scottish Executive, 2002a) forms a key part of the work of the National Programme to Improve Mental Health and Well-Being and aims to address the rising rate of suicide in Scotland. However, although it identifies children and young people as an at-risk priority group and states that issues relating to sexual orientation may create risks and pressures for these young people, the publication lacks extensive discussion of the connection between suicide and sexual orientation. The suicide and mental health research listed above firmly suggests that further policy development and action is necessary to combat these problems.

The Children and Young People's Mental Health draft consultation (Scottish Executive, 2004b) suggests that some groups of children and young people are at greater risk of developing mental health problems than their peers. It is acknowledged that LGBT young people are in this category and may require additional support. The publication recommends links with local authorities to establish policies to identify and support young people in schools and other settings who need additional or specific emotional support.

However, an example of a publication which does not refer explicitly to LGBT issues is the National Care Standards: Early Education and Childcare (Scottish Executive, 2002). This report states the importance of providing an environment in which children's emotional and social development is considered. According to this, young people should receive support from staff who respond to his or her personal, educational, emotional and physical needs and should be made to feel comfortable in an environment of mutual respect, trust and open communication. For LGBT pupils or for any pupil who is suffering bullying on the grounds of sexual orientation, this must mean an engagement with LGBT issues from his or her school and a commitment to tackling homophobic bullying.

Although these publications do not focus solely on the links between homophobia and poor mental health, it is clear that this connection does exist. As with the publications which focus on education, the emphasis placed on inclusion for all can and should be taken to include LGBT young people and their own specific needs.

Young people who are subjected to bullying because they are (or are perceived to be) lesbian, gay or bisexual deserve no less than our best efforts to protect, support and empower them if we really care about their health and well being. (Douglas et al. 1999)

3.4 The Rights of the Child

The appointment of Kathleen Marshall in 2004 as Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People has demonstrated a new emphasis on children's rights in Scotland. Homophobic bullying and its effects on the attainment, health and wellbeing of young people can be viewed from a human rights perspective.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the basic rights of children and the obligations of governments to fulfil those rights. Especially relevant articles in this context include the right to information, the right to education and the rights of young people to express their views about decisions which have an impact on their lives:

Article 12 - The right to have their say in all matters affecting them: 'States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.'

Article 13 - The right to information: As long as it does not damage the child or anybody else he or she 'shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.'

Articles 28 and 29 - The right to education: 'States Parties recognize the right of the child to education' which will develop 'the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential… respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations…' and prepare 'the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin.' ( OHCHR, 1990)

The LGBT Youth Charter of Rights, based on the UNCRC and developed by LGBT young people across Scotland, sets out the rights which LGBT young people should have but which are often denied to them due to homophobia, heterosexism and a general lack of awareness. The LGBT Youth Charter of Rights makes clear reference to some of the issues surrounding homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools, including the rights to personal safety, education and information:

You have the right to be kept safe from harm:

  • We believe that LGBT young people have the right to be protected from violence and homophobic hate crimes including bullying, gay bashing and domestic abuse.

You have the right to education:

  • We believe that places of learning should recognise and value diversity, and support both staff and pupils to come out
  • Young people should be able to easily access information and an education which develops their personality, knowledge and abilities and which is relevant to their lives. ( LGBT Youth Scotland, 2004)

3.5 Examples of Good Practice

This section identifies examples of good practice in the UK and elsewhere. This includes practical resources designed to tackle homophobic bullying and encourage the discussion of sexuality issues in the classroom. Included also are examples of schools resources from other equality areas which could be adapted for use in this context.

3.5.1 UK Initiatives and Resources

3.5.1.1 Talking About Homosexuality in the Secondary School (Forrest et al. 1997)

Talking about homosexuality in the secondary school is by Avert, an HIV and AIDS charity, and is aimed towards those people working within and supporting secondary schools. This resource is especially useful in its whole school approach. It acknowledges the concerns and doubts which teachers, young people, school governors, parents and carers may have in dealing with these issues and suggests strategies to overcome these doubts. The publication includes:

  • Introductory facts such as 'definitions of homosexuality', 'terminology and language', 'what is homophobia?' and 'the effect of homophobia.'
  • Case studies and stories focusing on lesbian and gay youth issues followed by statements designed to provoke thought and discussion: 'Society encourages people to be anti-gay' and 'Verbal bullying can be as harmful as physical bullying.'
  • Emphasis that attention to homophobia and tackling homophobic bullying is a crucial part of the positive school ethos.
  • Ways in which information on lesbian and gay support can be made available to staff and young people in schools.
  • Suggestions of ways in which teachers and other school staff can identify the knowledge and skills which they need in order to discuss these issues in the classroom environment or on an individual basis with young people.

3.5.1.2 Stand Up For Us ( DfES, 2004)

Stand up for us is a government commissioned resource for schools in England and Wales and is intended to complement Bullying: don't suffer in silence ( DfES, 2002). This resource aims to help schools tackle homophobia in the hope of creating a safer and more inclusive environment for all pupils.

Stand up for us lists the English and Welsh education legislation which teachers are obligated to follow and reminds them - as some resources do not - that challenging homophobia and homophobic bullying is not a choice but a legal duty.

The importance of the whole school approach is stressed in this resource. It encourages the use of a checklist when challenging and responding to homophobia and homophobic bullying. This checklist targets the whole-school environment and addresses the areas to be considered when challenging homophobia and homophobic bullying (adapted from Jennet, 2004):

  • Leadership, management and policy: Developing an inclusive ethos which targets homophobia and ensuring that all staff are involved in this; up to date policy and procedures with which to tackle homophobic bullying; robust system of recording, monitoring and evaluating progress.
  • School culture and environment: School's commitment to challenging homophobia made explicit to all members of the school community through staff handbooks, induction materials, policy documents etc.; inclusive language used; appropriate training and guidance for all staff; support for LGB staff to be open about their sexuality; identify and target the physical locations in which bullying likely to take place; celebrate diversity and ensure that resources reflect different family units; generic information and support includes information for LGB pupils.
  • Staff professional development, health and welfare: Staff must be supported if cultural change and a whole-school approach is to be successful; professional development and training such as workshops, literature, coaching, discussion provided; LGB teachers offered equal conditions of employment with regards to compassionate leave etc.; disciplinary procedures regarding staff-to-staff and staff-to-pupil homophobic bullying made explicit.
  • Assessing, recording and celebrating achievement: the input and achievements of pupils is recognised and applauded; targets set with pupils' help; impact assessment methodology used to measure the effectiveness of the school's work.
  • Teaching and learning: Teachers must feel personally comfortable with discussing sexuality issues sensitively and without embarrassment; the right environment must be created to allow effective discussion and learning.
  • Planning and resourcing the curriculum: Making use of opportunities within the mainstream curriculum in which to discuss attitudes, sexuality and prejudice; inclusive resources used; engagement with external LGB support services to support curriculum planning and delivery
  • Support for pupils and allowing them to have a voice: Involve young people in school's commitment to tackling homophobia and homophobic bullying, e.g. needs assessment based on consultation with pupils; confidentiality and anonymity respected; relevant staff able to support pupils with regards to sexuality issues; information about support services made freely available.
  • Partnerships with parents, carers and communities: Parents and carers made aware in prospectus and parents handbook that there are processes in place for them to raise issues about homophobic bullying; parents and carers made aware that information about their sexuality would be welcomed by the school and would remain confidential.

Stand up for us also provides a sample homophobic incident log on which staff can record homophobic comments and events around the school. This, it is hoped, will highlight 'low level' abuse as well as more serious harassment and help to establish what action needs to be taken. The resource also offers practical advice in supporting young people who disclose information regarding their sexual orientation.

Stand up for us and Talking about homosexuality in secondary schools emphasise the importance of involvement and commitment from the whole school. This type of approach is critical if strategies or resources are to have their desired effect. These initial strategies are designed to lay the solid foundations for a school environment in which sexual orientation can be discussed confidently and constructively and homophobic bullying is challenged wherever it occurs.

3.5.1.3 A Guide for Teachers on LGBT Issues ( LGBT Youth Scotland and Healthy Respect, 2003b)

As one of the main barriers to dealing with these issues is a lack of teacher experience and confidence, this resource suggests ways in which LGBT issues can be integrated into the existing curriculum as well as ways in which teachers can support LGBT young people on an individual basis. The importance of working constructively with parents is emphasised.

This resource is useful from a Scottish perspective as other resources focus on English and Welsh schools. Although homophobic bullying manifests itself in similar ways all over the UK, the issues involved in tackling the problem may differ according to the education system. The guide is valuable in raising teachers' awareness of the issues surrounding homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools and providing practical suggestions regarding anti-homophobia work.

3.5.1.4 Tackling Homophobic Bullying in Secondary Schools (Bolton Health Promotion, 2000)

Tackling Homophobic Bullying in Secondary Schools is an attempt to engage with and combat homophobic school culture and one which has had proven success.

The project was piloted in Bolton during 2000 and is now used in all Primary and Secondary schools in Greater Manchester. It was delivered by the multi-agency Bolton Homophobic Bullying Forum which incorporated representatives from areas such as the Health board, the Local Education Authority, Bolton Victim Support, and Greater Manchester Police. The Forum gathered information via surveys of headteachers and PHSE teachers, focus groups of young people and incident logs in order to ascertain levels of homophobic bullying in the two pilot schools.

The forum then delivered Awareness Training to school staff and informed pupils about the effects of homophobic bullying using a Theatre In Education ( TIE) resource. The vast majority of pupils indicated that they enjoyed the production and three quarters said that they had sympathy for the main character who was homophobically bullied. Discussion amongst pupils led to the drawing up of Homophobic Bullying Charters. These pledged to offer support regarding sexual orientation issues, ensure equal rights for all in the school, create more opportunities for the discussion of homophobia and its effects around the school and, crucially, punish those who use homophobic language. The project also had a positive impact on teachers. They claimed that they felt more confident with the prospect of dealing with homophobia in school and the majority found the Awareness Training Sessions to be useful as this allowed the sharing of ideas and suggestions for strategies to deal with incidents.

The development of a video resource and toolkit for use in schools called Living It means that this example of good practice can be used elsewhere in the UK.

3.5.1.5 Theatre in Education ( LGBT Youth Scotland, 2003c)

LGBT Youth Scotland, in association with Healthy Respect, launched a TIE production in three Edinburgh secondary schools in 2003 ( LGBT Youth Scotland, 2003c). 96% of people returning evaluation forms stated that they found the experience enjoyable and 71% of young people were able to state at least one thing that they had learned from the production. The experiences of LGBT Youth Scotland and Bolton Homophobic Bullying Forum suggest that creative solutions to sensitive issues are received favourably by both young people and staff.

3.5.1.6 Sectarianism: don't give it, don't take it (Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland ( CERES et al. 2005) and Educating for Race Equality - a toolkit for Scottish teachers ( CERES et al. 2002)

These resources are examples of good practice in other equalities areas which can be adapted and used to tackle homophobic bullying.

Educating for Race Equality is an anti-racism staff development resource for Scottish teachers commissioned by the Scottish Executive in response to the McPherson Report. It offers staff in publicly funded pre-school, special, primary and secondary schools with materials and support for the delivery of anti-racism education. The resource contains

  • Information and advice on legislation related to equality, faith and festivals.
  • Advice on raising awareness about and tackling racist bullying and incidents.
  • Examples of good practice in Scottish schools and the ways in which these are connected to curriculum, policy, parental involvement and whole school ethos.
  • Staff development exercises (videos, quizzes, discussion topics) and suggestions for conducting a school audit on race equality based on HGIOS
  • Terminology and FAQs

Sectarianism is a complicated area which involves issues of religion, culture and history and, like homophobic language, sectarian language is often used casually without awareness of its true meaning. The Anti-Sectarian resource is aimed towards teachers, youth workers and young people. It explains the context of sectarianism in a clear and thematic fashion alongside relevant pieces of legislation. Examples of good practice in schools are highlighted to help schools develop their own lesson plans and connections with HGIOS quality indicators are made explicit.

The online resource, alongside the CDROM, provides games, scenarios and further resources for young people and also emphasises that teachers and youth workers must consider their own values and attitudes before successfully incorporating the resource into their work ( CERES et al. 2005).

The Anti-Sectarian resource is especially useful because a formal evaluation of the pilot programme has also been published (Rae, 2005). This provides useful guidelines about what works and what does not in schools and is a valuable starting point when considering anti-homophobic bullying work in Scottish schools.

The evaluation highlighted several outcomes which are clearly desirable for any type of anti-homophobia resource.

  • Teachers who had believed that sectarianism did not exist as an issue now accept that it does. Some had been unsure of how to tackle the subject but stated that they had grown in confidence during the pilot. It was revealed that time set aside for planning and preparation by teachers was crucial and practitioners stated that it was crucial to examine their own attitudes before beginning work with the resource.
  • The topic was integrated into subjects such as Scottish Curriculum 5-14 areas of: English Language, Personal, Social & Health Education, Religious & Moral Education, Information & Communication Technology, Environmental Studies, History, Geography and Modern Studies. Teachers were free to adapt the lesson plans to suit the specific needs of the class and the school as a whole and pupils were also allowed flexibility. "The children and their responses decided our direction. The children led, and teachers responded to that."
  • Creative elements of the resource were warmly received by the young people: the games and drama scripts were the most popular and effective parts of the resource. Young people in all the pilot areas reported that they had had fun using the resource.
  • Parents were made aware of the pilot and the Pastoral Care Team reassured parents that the Anti-Sectarianism project would be subsumed within the context of the positive behaviour, citizenship and anti-bullying policies and procedures.
  • Teachers and youth workers provided evidence that attitudes had changed as a result of using the resource and pupils themselves stated that the project had changed their attitudes. At the beginning, very few could give a definition of sectarianism. The project raised their awareness of language as prior to this, they had "used the words" without understanding the meanings behind them. Some pupils became passionate about the issue, taking it home and challenging their parents' value systems. One pupil stated: "It makes you think before you speak."

3.5.2 Non- UK Initiatives and Resources

It is useful here to highlight a selection of initiatives and resources from outwith the UK. The problem of homophobia and homophobic bullying is a global issue and lessons can be learned from anti-homophobia work in other countries.

3.5.2.1 New Zealand: Safety in Our Schools Action Kit (Out There, 2004)

A survey of young people in New Zealand schools revealed that almost half of the non-heterosexual pupils had been physically bullied at least once during the previous twelve months, one third of all pupils said that they did not feel safe in school and 23% of non-heterosexual students reported a significant number of depressive symptoms that were in need of professional intervention. The action kit suggests work in schools surrounding:

  • Professional development and training
  • Visibility of LGBT staff, pupils and role models
  • Support for LGBT pupils and staff
  • Policies and processes for addressing homophobic bullying, harassment and derogatory use of language
  • LGBT issues in the curriculum
  • Visible and positive messages and information: an LGBT social support group, posters, inclusive health education.

Many of these action points are very similar to those mentioned in the UK literature, resources and initiatives. Homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools is a global issue and possible solutions are not unique to Scotland or the UK.

3.5.2.2 Canada: Human Sexuality Program, Toronto (Solomon, 2004)

For the last 12 years the Human Sexuality Program within the Social Work Services of Toronto District School Board has been working with LGBT young people, teachers, parents and families. This programme delivers anti-homophobia workshops to classrooms of all ages in the district. The Toronto District School Board equity policy clearly stipulates that schools must create and maintain safe, welcoming and inclusive learning environments for LGBT young people and young people with LGBT parents. This has led to a great demand for support, advice and workshops, and in recent years much of this demand has come from teachers of elementary school pupils (ages 5-14).

This paper focuses on the responses of elementary school children to a same-sex families workshop which involved a video, general discussion and brainstorming of ideas. One follow-up to the workshop is for young people to write letters or journal responses to the facilitator which gives some the opportunity to say things they did not want to say during the workshop. Some responses were positive: ' My piano teacher is gay and I thought that was weird. But after the [video] and what Helen and Steven [workshop facilitators] talked about, I don't think it's that weird anymore.' Other responses were more negative and surrounded the appropriateness of the subject matter for younger age groups: ' They shouldn't be telling this two us now, they should be telling us this in grade 9, not grade 5 or under. My mom said that is so stupid. We aren't adults we shouldn't be learning on gays and lezbeains, that's their life not ours.' Negative responses are replied to via letters and follow up visits each year from the Program facilitators.

This programme, as well as demonstrating how much more advanced other countries are in terms of anti-homophobia initiatives, demonstrates the importance of evaluation and the measurement of effectiveness and impact. This paper also emphasises the importance of beginning anti-homophobia work in early years education and continuing this work throughout school to consolidate and develop learning and awareness.

3.5.2.3 United States of America:

The Harvey Milk High School (Hetrick-Martin Institute, 2005)

The Harvey Milk High School was founded in 1985 in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education. The school is dedicated to the educational needs of at-risk LGBT young people and aims to provide them with the skills and support necessary to move safely and successfully into higher education, career, and life. The existence of a school specifically for LGBT young people is a contentious issue, debated even within the LGBT community, but highlights the seriousness of the situation and the fact that homophobic bullying can, in some cases, lead to exclusion from mainstream education and unconventional and controversial solutions such as these.

The Safe Schools Coalition: a public private partnership in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth (Safe Schools Coalition, 2005)

The Safe Schools Coalition aims to support LGBT young people and help schools in America and elsewhere become safe places that are free from homophobia and homophobic bullying. The Coalition provides resources such as posters and publications for school and helps to raise media awareness of homophobia in schools. It also provides training for teaching professionals and conducts and disseminates research to policy makers and teaching professionals.

Making Schools Safe (American Civil Liberties Union, 2001)

The Making Schools Safe program is a model training workshop which emphasises to schools that they have a legal responsibility to address a school culture which ignores or allows homophobia. It also provides schools with the skills and resources they need to tackle homophobia in the form of lesson and workshop plans, handouts, additional LGBT information and step-by-step guidance. The focus of the program is a workshop for teachers on how to create a safe environment for everyone, but especially for young people who are LGBT, whom others perceive as LGBT or who have LGBT family members.

The workshop consists of three main threads

  • An interactive panel presentation by one or two LGB graduates from the school in which they discuss their experiences.
  • Presentation by an lawyer about the duties of educators to promote a safe environment and to end homophobic harassment.
  • Series of exercises designed to help teachers deal with homophobic attitudes in schools, including video clips and role-playing scenarios. Practical suggestions about how to address name-calling in the classrooms and hallways, and how to build support for a whole school approach.

This approach is interesting as it takes an uncompromising and practical approach. It states that attendance should be mandatory for all school staff to show the seriousness of the issue and it stresses the legal ramifications involved in ignoring homophobia in schools.

In addition, an interesting feature is the involvement of former pupils in the panel presentation who are able to articulate the ways in which homophobic bullying affected their school career. A key problem in schools is a lack of visibility for the LGBT community and, managed correctly, this may prove to be a worthwhile workshop feature.

3.5.2.4 Europe: GLEE Project: creating safe and affirming schools for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and staff (Glee Project, 2002)

This is a European Commission funded project developed by practitioners across Europe and the USA. It is designed to allow primary and secondary school teachers to develop an action plan with which to tackle homophobia in their own school communities. It aims to:

  • Raise awareness of the extent and effects of homophobia and heterosexism on all members of the school community
  • Develop strategies to combat heterosexism and homophobia in school policies, practices and curricula to create a safe learning environment for all

The course provides workshops filled with scenarios and case studies which raise questions for discussion. One of the most interesting features of the course is the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network ( GLSEN) workbook, a tool for measuring, describing and improving the school climate. This involves a school assessment survey which asks questions regarding school policy, the curricular inclusion of LGBT issues and general attitudes towards LGBT issues within the school. Depending on its score, a school is placed into the categories of Hostile School, Resistant School, Open School or Inclusive School. Although these categories should not be seen as absolute, they and the questions which the workbook asks are a convenient way for schools to confront issues that they may not have previously considered and develop a clear understanding of the current needs and priorities. This resource is valuable in its audit and assessment techniques and its emphasis on the school climate and culture: before confronting homophobia in schools it is first necessary to gain a clear picture of the current situation.

In addition, rather than simply mentioning heterosexism the GLEE project includes heterosexism alongside homophobia at every opportunity and it is treated as an equally serious issue for schools to consider. UK resources do not have the same emphasis on heterosexism and the GLEE Project may therefore be useful in providing a fresh slant on the issue for schools.

3.6 Summary of Literature Review

The main points which emerged from the literature review are listed below.

  • Homophobic bullying in schools affects the whole school. It affects LGBT young people and staff, young people and staff who are perceived to be LGBT and young people and staff who have LGBT families or friends. It also has a negative effect on the whole school ethos and culture.
  • Homophobic bullying is a barrier to participation in education. It can lead to low levels of educational attainment, absenteeism and early school leaving. Allowing homophobic bullying to continue unchallenged means that LGBT young people are unable to realise their full academic potential.
  • Homophobic bullying can affect mental health. It can lead to problems such as depression and self harm and there is a clear link between sexual orientation and a far greater likelihood of suicide.
  • Homophobic bullying and the use of homophobic language begin at an early age. Targets for homophobic bullying may be those young people who do not adhere to traditional gender identities.
  • Homophobia exists at an institutional level in the education system. Homophobia and LGBT issues are not discussed in ITE and teachers may believe that disclosing their sexual orientation will harm their teaching careers.
  • Homophobic language is not perceived to be as serious or as offensive as other types of discriminatory language and few schools make specific reference to homophobia in their anti-bullying policies. This will undoubtedly affect the ways in which homophobic bullying is dealt with in schools and the likelihood of young people reporting incidents of homophobic bullying.
  • Teachers are often aware of homophobia and homophobic bullying but feel unable to challenge it for a variety of factors.
    • Lack of policy and guidelines from senior management
    • Concerns about disapproval from staff, parents or pupils
    • No staff confidence or experience due to lack of training in this area.
  • Schools have an obligation to tackle homophobia and homophobic bullying. Under the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. Act 2000, schools are required to show how the National Priorities in Education are being delivered locally. Education and health policy publications emphasise the importance of inclusion and support for all pupils.
  • Several factors must be considered when thinking about tackling homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools.
    • School policy and senior management support
    • Staff training, support and professional development
    • Curriculum
    • Parental consultation and involvement
    • The extent to which homophobia as an ingrained part of the school culture
  • Several approaches might be useful in tackling homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools.
    • Whole school approach
    • Input from external agencies and multi agency working
    • Creative solutions: drama, games, quizzes etc.
    • Evaluation and feedback from staff and young people regarding anti-homophobia work.
  • Homophobia and homophobic bullying must be addressed as part of a wider equality programme which explores the diversity of our schools and communities. Resources and initiatives from these other areas - e.g. racism, sectarianism - can be utilised when looking at ways in which to challenge homophobic bullying.
  • Homophobia and homophobic bullying occur in similar forms all around the world. Resources and initiatives found elsewhere can be adapted for the Scottish schools setting.

3.6.1 Limitations of the Literature Review

It is important to note that homophobia and homophobic bullying is an under-researched area. The following points identify some of the main gaps in the literature which will require further research in the future.

  • The specific needs, concerns and experiences of transgender young people.
  • The specific needs, concerns and experiences of bisexual young people.
  • The experiences of young people with physical and learning difficulties in either mainstream or special education.
  • Homophobic incidents in Scottish schools: this will be developed by the Homophobic Incidents Project.
  • The current, rather than retrospective, accounts of young people in schools: this, again, is addressed in the following research.