4: Education Authority and Schools - Survey and Interviews
This section of the report presents the responses to the survey completed by EA and school staff and discusses them with reference to the more in-depth interviews carried out with EA and school staff in six Local Authority areas.
| Key |
|EA|| Education Authority|
|S ||Secondary School|
|IS||Independent Secondary School|
The names and locations of respondent Education Authorities and schools remain anonymous throughout this report.
Schools are described in terms of type and denomination e.g. a non denominational Secondary school is 'S- ND' and a denominational Primary school is 'P-D'. Education Authority responses are marked as ' EA'.
4.1 EA and School Policy
In their investigation of multi-culturalism and anti-racism in three Scottish Primary schools, Donald et al. (1995) found that although one school had implemented multi- cultural and anti-racist policy this had not yet affected anti-racist behaviour. The consequence of this was that teachers were not fully aware of, or responsive to, racist attitudes and behaviours. Although it is crucial that EAs and schools develop strong and meaningfully inclusive policies, this policy must clearly relate to and have an impact on practice.
As a result of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act (2000), EAs and schools in Scotland have certain obligations in terms of anti-racist discrimination policy and practice. The McPherson Report into the Stephen Lawrence murder placed Education second only to the Police Service and Criminal Justice System in having a key role to play in combating racism. The RR(A)A places a legal duty on Public Bodies to promote race equality in all aspects of their work. EAs have a legal duty to produce a Race Equality Policy for publicly funded schools and schools must hold a copy. However there is no similar obligation for schools and EAs to have policies which make specific reference to sexual orientation and homophobia. This was reflected in the survey responses and interviews with schools and EAs.
The table below provides a summary of the responses to the policy questions asked in the survey. These are discussed further in the next section of the report.
Table 4.1: Summary of EA and school survey responses: inclusion of homophobic bullying/sexual orientation in Anti-Bullying and Equal Opportunities policies
Type of Policy
Reference to homophobic bullying/ sexual orientation
Reference to racist bullying/ BME issues
Reference to homophobic bullying/ sexual orientation
Reference to racist bullying/ BME issues
4.1.1 Anti Bullying Policy
In the survey, EAs and schools were asked whether their anti-bullying policies included reference to sexual orientation, homophobia or homophobic bullying.
Although almost half of EA respondents (48%) indicated that their anti bullying policies included specific reference to sexual orientation, homophobia or homophobic bullying only a quarter of schools (25%) stated that their anti bullying policies made reference to these issues. This suggests that good practice within EAs may not always be passed down to schools in the Authority area.
22.214.171.124 Generic Policy
Several of the schools which stated in the survey that their anti-bullying policies did not include reference to sexual orientation, homophobia or homophobic bullying felt that that all bullying should be dealt with on an equal basis regardless of the motivation. These schools felt that a generic anti bullying policy was sufficient to deal with homophobia and homophobic bullying.
Not specifically - it would be treated as a bullying issue but not specifically mentioned. (S- ND)
Not specifically, but the policy is inclusive of any form of bullying. (S- ND)
Policy is generic in order to be inclusive. ( EA)
Two EA interviewees stated that a generic policy approach was used in an attempt to implicitly include all pupils. Explicitly mentioning specific groups was seen to be ' just not practical. If you mention someone, you leave someone else out'.
However, some interviewees felt that the generic approach would only serve to obfuscate the real motivations behind bullying behaviours. One EA interviewee stated that a generic policy had been avoided for reasons of clarity as all types of bullying are different and should be treated as such. These EAs mentioned sexual orientation in their Anti Bullying and Equal Opportunities policies alongside race, gender, disability, socio-economic status, language and religion.
Some EAs are shifting towards non-generic policy. One EA interviewee stated that their anti bullying policy was in the process of being updated to make mention of homophobic bullying. The policy will refer to the 'inner being' of the child being a reason for being bullied, one example being sexual orientation. This EA representative stressed that school policies should reflect authority policy, something which is not reflected in the survey findings.
126.96.36.199 Anti bullying policies in Primary Schools
65% of the school survey respondents who did not include mention of sexual orientation, homophobia or homophobic bullying in their anti bullying policies were Primary schools. One of these schools commented: " Decided against as Primary." This suggests that some respondents do not feel that these issues are relevant and/or appropriate for the Primary school and Primary school aged pupils, a theme which is explored further in the Inclusion within the Curriculum section of this report.
None of the 4 denominational school respondents mentioned sexual orientation, homophobia or homophobic bullying in their anti-bullying policies.
188.8.131.52 Homophobia and Race
EA and school respondents were asked about the inclusion of race and BME issues in policy documents.
56% of EAs make explicit reference to racist bullying in their anti bullying policies and 48% of EAs make explicit reference to sexual orientation, homophobia or homophobic bullying in their anti-bullying policies.
In comparison, there is a greater disparity in terms of reference to race and homophobia amongst the schools surveyed. 70% of schools make explicit reference to racist bullying in their anti-bullying policies but only 25% make explicit reference to sexual orientation, homophobia or homophobic bullying.
42% of schools surveyed have anti-bullying policies which make explicit reference to racism and racist bullying but make no mention of sexual orientation, homophobia or homophobic bullying.
4.1.2 Equal Opportunities Policies
74% of EA equal opportunities policies make reference to sexual orientation. However, this reasonably high percentage is not replicated in schools across Scotland. Although sexual orientation is mentioned in a slightly higher number of school equal opportunities policies than anti-bullying policies (25%), the schools which include reference to these issues are still in the minority at 36%. 2 of the 4 denominational schools stated that a reference to sexual orientation was included in their equal opportunities policies.
Although only just over a third of schools have an equal opportunities policy which includes reference to sexual orientation, over 70% of schools make reference to BME issues in their equal opportunities policy.
These survey responses demonstrate that in policy terms, schools are far more developed in terms of race than homophobia.
4.2 Priorities, Expectations and Commitment to Equalities
The survey asked EAs whether there was some commitment to equality in the School Development Plans ( SDPs) in the schools in their area which would potentially promote and support Continuing Professional Development ( CPD) on homophobia and homophobic bullying. School respondents were asked the same question specifically about the SDP in their own school.
CERES' Project 3 Phase 1 report (School Staff Development and Equality) raises some key issues concerning CPD on homophobia and LGBT issues in schools.
- Many schools are reactive rather than proactive in terms of equalities issues - if a problem in need of immediate attention does not present itself then they will not see the need to take pre-emptive action through CPD. This reactive attitude is illustrated by one Primary school survey respondent in this research who, instead of answering 'yes' or 'no' to the question about commitment to equalities in the SDP, simply wrote ' NO NEED.'
- Equalities issues are low on the agenda for many schools. The SDP determines the priorities for many schools and CPD choices follow accordingly. However, one teacher referred to equalities issues as a 'Cinderella' subject, forgotten in a mass of more pressing attainment and discipline related priorities.
A key component of the whole school approach to tackling homophobia is the cooperation and support of staff within the school as they have both the authority and the opportunity to challenge homophobic language and behaviour. Increased information, support and awareness raising through CPD is one way in which to encourage the cooperation, support and confidence of staff.
It would be hoped that a commitment to equality in the SDP would promote and support increased CPD on homophobia and homophobic bullying. Schools were asked whether there was any commitment to equality in their own SDPs, and EAs were asked whether there was commitment to equality in the SDPs of schools in their areas.
Table 4.2: Survey Responses to commitment to equalities in SDP
Commitment to Equality in School Development Plans which would promote and support CPD on homophobia and homophobic bullying
The responses illustrated in the table above suggest that EAs feel that there is a stronger commitment to equalities in the schools in their areas than is actually the case. Although 58% of EAs stated that there is this commitment and the consequent opportunity for increased CPD, only 33% of schools in the survey concurred with this.
The issues of priority, commitment to equalities and expectations placed on schools were explored further in the interviews stage of the research.
4.2.1 Priority and commitment to equalities
Several EA interviewees felt that although equalities issues were high on schools' list of priorities in terms of general ethos, time pressures and competing priorities meant that this was not always translated into meaningful action: " There's lots of talk about happy healthy children - what are we doing about it? Giving them more homework."
One issue which emerged from the interviews with both Primary and Secondary schools was that although equalities issues are generally held in high esteem, sexual orientation is often disregarded as a valid equalities 'strand' and does not receive the attention devoted to issues such as disability or race. For example, all of the Primary schools apart from one stated that equalities issues were high on their agenda but mentioned other 'strands' as illustration of this or resorted to a generalised equality and fairness approach: " Treat everyone the same no matter if they're black or white, disabled or not, whether they're a boy or a girl, it's right across the board and this homophobia would probably come into this as another strand."
Opinions amongst Secondary school interviewees were similar. One HT thought LGBT issues only arose indirectly for pupils through TV, newspapers and magazines and only one Secondary school PT Pupil Support stated that equalities issues were extremely high on the agenda and LGBT issues had their place within this. However, the point was made that schools had to place the highest emphasis on attainment and on funded initiatives - of which equalities is not one.
Special school interviewees were most positive about the inclusion of LGBT issues within equalities priorities. One interviewee stated that she accorded high priority to all equalities issues including LGBT issues " simply because of the type of school it is".
4.2.2 Levels of expectation
Interviewees were asked whether there were any expectations placed on them either from outwith or within the school in terms of tackling homophobia and homophobic incidents.
Although this was not a question directly asked of EA staff, one interviewee brought it up independently and stated that there were exactly the same expectations placed on dealing with homophobic incidents as there are on dealing with racist incidents. When asked if schools were aware of this she admitted that they were in the process of making this clear to schools and that race was still foremost in their minds.
Internal expectations were shown to be influential. One HT stated that although there were no external expectations staff in the school know that she had high expectations of them.
However, the majority of school interviewees stated that there were absolutely no expectations that they tackle homophobia and LGBT issues and that there was the sense that homophobia and homophobic incidents are " really new" to schools. One Primary HT said that there was in fact an expectation that they would not tackle these issues due to the age of children - she said however that this was simply " burying your head in the sand".
A number of interviewees stated that although there are no expectations that they deal with these issues this did not matter as the Anti-Bullying Policy covered all eventualities and, in any case, different types of bullying should not be treated in different ways: " Bullying is bullying - homophobic bullying is not worse or different or better than other types."
4.3 Awareness of Homophobic Incidents
In order to determine the perceived extent of homophobic incidents from an EA and school staff perspective, survey respondents were asked how aware they were of homophobic incidents in their schools and the schools in the Authority.
Agreement over the homophobic nature of an incident is likely to be related to the subjective opinion of those involved. Several survey responses indicated that it was impossible to speak accurately about the perceptions of a wide range of people in their schools and EA areas . Although it is important to reflect on the embodied subjectivity of respondents, it was hoped that the sample would provide a broad overview of perceptions.
4.3.1 Verbal Homophobic Incidents
The graph below illustrates awareness levels of verbal homophobic bullying taking place in schools, as stated in the surveys.
Figure 4.1: Awareness of verbal homophobic bullying in EAs and schools
Almost half of all EA and school respondents stated that they are aware of verbal homophobic bullying taking place. This includes the casual use of homophobic language:
Children use the words 'That's gay' as being the opposite of 'cool'. It's the 'in' words just now. (P- ND)
Unfortunately, the expression 'you're gay' is prevalent. (S- ND)
One problem in gauging awareness was mentioned by EA interviewees who pointed out that many homophobic incidents will be dealt with ' in house' and not fed back to the EA.
Schools were asked how often verbal homophobic bullying had occurred in their schools in the last 12 months. As the question focused on individual schools, EAs were not asked this question. The graph below shows the incidence of verbal homophobic bullying in schools over the previous 12 months.
Although 44% of schools stated that verbal homophobic bullying had never occurred over the last 12 months, the combined total of schools selecting the other options from 'once' to '25+' outweighs this at 51%.
Although a number of respondents stated that they were not aware of verbal homophobic bullying, they did not then answer that it 'never' occurred but instead made an estimated guess at the frequency of such incidents. It seems that respondents understood that although they may not be aware of a problem in their schools this did not mean that it did not exist.
As homophobic incidents are not reported and recorded in the same way as racist incidents, it is difficult for schools to estimate the exact frequency of homophobic incidents.
Any incident that is reported is dealt with swiftly. My concern is that there may be behaviours happening in playgrounds and social areas that staff are unaware of. (S- ND)
4.3.2 Physical Homophobic Incidents
The graph below illustrates awareness levels of physical homophobic bullying in schools amongst school and EA respondents.
Awareness levels of physical homophobic bullying were extremely low amongst both EA and school respondents. The numbers of respondents who stated that they were aware of physical homophobic bullying in their schools stood at 1% for schools and 10% for EAs.
Figure 4.4: Schools: Incidence of physical homophobic bullying in last 12 months
Although the majority of schools stated that physical homophobic bullying was not an issue for them the minority of schools which stated that this has happened at all in the last 12 months is significant: one school reported over 25 occurrences in the last 12 months. Again, the fact that respondents may not be aware of everything that goes on in their schools should not be disregarded.
No reported instances of this. (S- ND)
Am unaware of this taking place but this does not mean that it never occurs. (S- ND)
4.4 Current Practice in Dealing with Homophobic Incidents
Homophobic incidents might be dealt with in a variety of ways by different schools. In the survey, EAs and schools were asked what they thought the most likely course of action would be in the event of a verbal homophobic incident.
The graph below illustrates EA responses to this question. Although respondents were asked to circle the appropriate answer many selected a variety of options.
Figure 4.5: EAs: most likely course of action in the event of a verbal homophobic incident
81% of EAs stated that teachers in their schools would challenge the homophobic language, the next most popular option being to refer the situation to Guidance/ Pastoral Care staff.
30% of EA survey respondents selected the 'other' option either on its own or alongside another of the options. Alternative courses of action not offered in the options provided include:
- Action in line with the school Anti-Bullying Policy.
- Restorative justice and solution oriented approaches
- Contact parents or carers
Figure 4.6: Schools: most likely course of action in the event of a verbal homophobic incident
Most likely courses of action were similar in both EA and school responses. 66% of schools stated that teachers would challenge the homophobic language while 33% stated that they would refer the incident to Guidance/ Pastoral Care.
28% of schools selected the 'other' option either on its own or in conjunction with another of the options. Alternative courses of action not included in the options provided include:
- Referral to SMT, HT or Depute HT
- Inform parents
- Follow school procedure and anti-bullying policy as with other types of bullying
- Record incident in bullying log
- Discussion with the child
- Discussion with whole class in Circle Time or PSE
The problem of respondents being unable to predict what all teachers in their schools would do was highlighted by two Secondary school survey respondents who stated that action would depend on the situation and the teacher. A number of EAs and schools stated that the course of action depended on the situation and the " level of misdemeanour" (S- ND).
One Special school stated that it was " Unlikely that pupils would have the verbal ability to make a homophobic comment." ( ND- SP)
A common sentiment expressed throughout the school surveys was that homophobic bullying should be treated in exactly the same way as other bullying.
Teachers should feel confident about tackling any bullying incidents - no more, no less for homophobic bullying. It is the bullying aspect of the behaviour teachers must tackle. (S- ND, Survey)
For some schools interviewed, confidence came from the belief that homophobic bullying was no different to any other type of bullying and homophobia was no different to any form of discrimination. Words and phrases like 'inclusion', 'equality', 'fairness' and 'positive ethos' were used by many schools and EAs interviewed. However, the framework in which these concepts exist does not appear to include homophobia or sexual orientation to any extent. As discussed previously, sexual orientation is seen to be the most complicated 'strand' within the diversity/equalities matrix and is marginalised in favour of more embedded strands such as racism. For instance, in one Primary school in which the discussion of homophobia and LGBT issues was seen as inappropriate, pupils were said to be very aware of racism and sectarianism but, simultaneously, ignorant of homophobia.
The marginalisation of these issues cannot fail to impact on the ways in which homophobic incidents are dealt with. The most popular course of action in the event of a verbal homophobic incident was to challenge the homophobic language: although this is laudable, teachers need to have the language and confidence to do this effectively. One EA respondent who had suggested that schools in the EA would challenge the language and inform Guidance stated that " the challenge re. The homophobic language is likely to be dependent on the confidence of the teacher." This confidence is unlikely to grow while anti-homophobia, sexual orientation and LGBT issues are marginalised in the school environment.
4.5 Current Levels of Confidence in Dealing with Homophobic Incidents
EAs and schools were asked about current levels of confidence in dealing with homophobia and homophobic incidents. Incidents were divided into verbal and physical, as confidence levels may differ between the two.
The graph below illustrates EA responses to the question of confidence levels of schools in the Authority area in tackling verbal homophobic bullying.
Figure 4.7: EAs: confidence in dealing with verbal homophobic bullying
Confidence levels were reasonably high. A large proportion of EAs (39%) felt that the teachers in their schools would feel quite confident in tackling verbal homophobic bullying and 23% felt that teachers in the schools in the EA would feel confident or very confident in tackling verbal homophobic bullying.
However, 23% of EAs stated that teachers would feel quite unconfident in dealing with an incident like this and 13% stated that they simply did not know. A number of EAs stated that it was difficult to speak for every teacher in every school in the Authority area and that confidence levels would vary depending on a range of factors.
One EA respondent selected both the 'quite confident' and 'don't know' options and wondered whether the added element of homophobia would affect confidence: " I think teachers would be confident in tackling bullying issues in general - however, I'm not sure what a homophobic dimension to that bullying would do to that confidence."
The connection between confidence and training was made by two EA respondents. One respondent felt that confidence levels would depend on how much training had been done in the school and the other, who felt that teachers would be 'quite unconfident', stated that " Many have asked for more public backing and for some training."
One EA interviewee stated that in the event of a homophobic incident, or even if LGBT issues were raised in school, the majority of teachers would not feel confident because of the lack of training and the silence which has surrounded these issues for so many years. Other EA interviewees pointed out the historical context of Section 28 and the anxiety which some teachers still feel about addressing these issues.
Stated confidence levels were far higher amongst school respondents, as shown in the graph below.
Figure 4.8: Schools: confidence in dealing with verbal homophobic bullying
87% of schools would be confident, quite confident or very confident in tackling a verbal homophobic incident while only 10% of schools would feel at all unconfident.
School, unlike EA, respondents added no additional comments or qualifications to this section. Similarly, none of the respondents stated that they did not know the answer to this question which suggests either that they felt certain in their answers or felt the need to demonstrate certainty about confidence levels in their schools.
When the issue of confidence was explored during the interviews with schools, interviewees were more ambivalent with only a handful stating that they were entirely confident. For these few schools, confidence stemmed from strong systems of documentation and referral, and the belief that a homophobic incident should be dealt with in the same way as any other type of bullying incident: " With any bullying you've got to get to the roots of it. If the roots are homophobia then that will be dealt with."
As illustrated in the graph below, EAs demonstrated higher confidence levels in schools dealing with physical homophobic incidents than verbal homophobic incidents.
Figure 4.9: EAs: confidence in tackling physical homophobic bullying
32% of EA respondents stated that schools would be confident or very confident in dealing with physical incidents and 43% stated that schools would feel quite confident. Only 10% of EAs stated that schools would feel quite unconfident. 10% of EAs did not know the answer to this question.
As physical violence is perceived to be more 'serious' than verbal incidents, action is perhaps seen to be less related to the personal confidence of individual teachers and more to do with official procedure and policy within the school. As a result, EA respondents may have taken a more decisive line on this issue and stated higher levels of confidence.
One EA survey respondent who stated that schools should feel 'quite confident' pointed out that dealing with a physical incident effectively does not always mean that the motivation behind it will be fully addressed:
Dealing with any physical assault or bullying is probably OK. Doubtful if the homophobic nature of the incident will always be consistently dealt with. Very very few physical homophobic incidents recorded (can't think of any in fact) - not to say they don't occur. ( ND-S)
Another survey respondent agreed with this, stating that the physical nature of the incident would take prominence over the reason behind the incident. Similarly, one Secondary school interviewee emphasised that staff would deal with an incident on the basis of respect rather than " go into it [the homophobia] in detail".
A number of EA interviewees stated that the general ethos in the schools in their area meant that teachers would not feel comfortable ignoring any type of bullying, including bullying with homophobic motivation. However, two stated that the " personal prejudices" of staff may influence the ways in which these issues are dealt with and that the emphasis on race awareness training in recent years means that the message has been conveyed that racism is more important than homophobia.
Figure 4.10: How confident are teachers in tackling physical homophobic bullying
Interestingly, although EAs demonstrated a higher level of confidence in dealing with physical homophobic bullying compared to verbal homophobic bullying, school respondents showed lower levels of confidence. Although 70% of schools stated that they were very confident, confident or quite confident, 27% of schools stated that they felt quite unconfident, unconfident or very unconfident.
A number of school interviewees stated that staff lacked confidence and needed training, support and the opportunity to build up experience in tackling incidents and in including LGBT issues in equality/diversity activities. One Primary HT reflected that:
The homophobic issue it's new in schools, we don't know how to deal with it, what's the most appropriate way, do you come down heavily on the child or a light touch approach - and it's that that takes confidence away from teachers, they don't know how to deal with it because it hasn't been in place… I mean everyone's looking for guidance on how best to deal with it really.
Another school interviewee agreed with this: " Some staff are scared because often they don't know the answers." However, she also stressed that others are " entrenched in bad behaviour" and would feel that equalities issues had nothing to do with their jobs. This interviewee had been " horrified" by some of the attitudes she had witnessed during race equality training.
The issue of who exactly should be feeling confident within the school was also brought up. Two Secondary schools felt that there was a difference in confidence levels amongst different levels of staff with teachers perhaps feeling less confident than Senior Management Team ( SMT) and Guidance staff.
4.6 Confidence Building Measures
The research phase of this project is not only about understanding the current situation and barriers to change in Scottish schools but also about looking at ways in which these barriers can be surmounted. Issues of confidence have been highlighted in previous sections of this report and it was therefore essential to know what would make schools and EAs feel more confident in tackling homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools.
The graph below illustrates levels of EA and school support for a range of confidence building measures suggested in the survey. Respondents were asked to select all options which they felt might be helpful and space was provided for other suggestions.
Figure 4.11: EAs and schools: confidence building measures
Support for the full range of confidence building measures was higher amongst EAs than schools. However, generally speaking, EAs and schools agreed on the most useful confidence building measures. Guidelines were the most popular option followed by increased CPD and leadership, parental approval and inclusion within the curriculum.
Only 9% of schools stated that school staff were confident enough already to tackle all forms of homophobia and homophobic bullying. However, 2 of these 8 schools also selected other confidence building options. Similarly, 5 of the 9 respondents who stated that they did not see the need for such measures as it was not a problem in their schools also selected other confidence building options. This suggests that these schools felt that they could become even more confident or that these measures would be a positive development for other schools.
The above confidence building measures and other suggestions will be discussed with reference to both additional survey comments and interviews with EAs and schools.
4.6.1 Clear national and local guidelines
Section 28 and the silence which has historically surrounded the issues of homophobia and sexual orientation within school has resulted in a lack of certainty about how to tackle homophobia. Therefore, clear national and local guidelines for dealing with homophobia in schools was the most popular option amongst both EA and school respondents.
Several EAs and schools, both in the survey and in interviews, commented that guidelines needed to be both specific and practical, focusing on the " right ways" to deal with these kinds of incidents. One interviewee suggested that the guidelines should contain examples of incident scenarios, containing 'do's' and 'don'ts' of dealing with actual behaviour. It was also highlighted that the guidelines should take into account the needs of the bullied and the bully and that they should advise teachers on the " appropriate language" to use in these situations, i.e. what they should and should not say.
One HT interviewed felt that high quality guidelines such as these would be the only way to override the objections of some teachers and raise general levels of confidence.
4.6.2 Increased SD/ CPD
Although 46% of school respondents agreed that LGBT and homophobia related CPD would increase confidence in tackling homophobia and homophobic bullying only 33% of schools have a commitment to equality in their School Development Plans which would promote and support this kind of CPD.
All of the EA interviewees and the majority of school interviewees felt that SD/ CPD was essential to raise awareness of these issues and ways of dealing with homophobic incidents. It was suggested that initial LGBT awareness training in which staff were encouraged to explore their own values and attitudes was necessary as one representative recalled the resistance which some teachers put up to participating in anti-racist CPD. The quality of training was highlighted as " bad training will, with the best will in the world, do more harm than good." Interviewees also highlighted the need for CPD in this area to have the full support of EAs and the SMT within schools.
One EA interviewee felt that CPD specifically focusing on LGBT issues would be unhelpful and due to capacity issues, time pressures and competing priorities it should be covered in more generalised equalities CPD in a " broad brushstroke".
However, how popular CPD sessions on these issues would be was debated. The problem of competing priorities was mentioned by many interviewees, even those who were strongly in favour of raising awareness through CPD. One HT said that if something " was not a huge issue" then CPD would not get done. Another interviewee stated that schools generally know what their CPD priorities will be for the following three years and that this is unlikely to change even if new courses are introduced. One interviewee advised careful planning and sufficient notice to schools to ensure uptake.
There is also the danger of some schools attending single CPD sessions on homophobia and LGBT awareness and then feeling that they have no more to do. One HT whose staff had attended a number of CPD sessions on equalities in the last few years stated that " it's fairly well laid down what we're doing. We've kind of moved on now."
The issue of responsibility and ownership was raised but not resolved. One HT felt that CPD would be useful but class teachers would " shy away from it" and see it as an issue only for Guidance teachers. This HT felt that this was probably the case and that issues surrounding bullying and sexuality would not be disclosed to class teachers by pupils.
Personal attitudes were also highlighted as a possible barrier to uptake; one HT felt that CPD on these issues would be treated with a " high measure of scepticism - as in 'what now?'" similar to the way in which some teachers reacted to Sex Education.
" You'd have a hard time persuading the majority of the teachers that it was relevant, particularly older staff. Many of them just teach their subjects and wouldn't see it as important, they'd say 'I'm not going to talk about this'"
Another HT said that although CPD might be useful some teachers would not want to deal with these issues because of their " own personalities and prejudices".
4.6.3 Inclusion in the curriculum
As stated previously, although discussion regarding homophobia and homophobic bullying is not widespread across the curriculum at the moment there does appear to be backing for greater inclusion, mainly at EA level.
Inclusion in the curriculum will be discussed in greater detail in the next section of the report as it involves a number of complex issues regarding attitudes towards appropriateness, age sensitivity and methods of introducing these issues to pupils.
4.6.4 Parental approval
The views of parents were highlighted by many to be a potential problem. Some schools stressed that what is needed is parental information and awareness raising rather than parental approval.
I feel any negative or politically incorrect comments I have ever been aware of in 14 years here have been an echo of uninformed parental comments. As public information/education improves parental attitudes to including and accepting any individual will too - the children are less likely to be imprinted with the negativities of parents. In other words - educate the parents - we can do the kids! (P- ND)
Not parental approval but educating and informing parents too. Many of various prejudices of pupils stem from home environment and parental attitudes based on ignorance for the most part. (S- ND)
Section 28 is undoubtedly still an issue and was mentioned several times in the surveys and during the interviews.
Many not inclined to 'promote' or be seen to 'promote' homosexual lifestyles even after the law has changed. (S- ND)
[Teachers need] Reassurance that no negative actions would follow from their being open in discussion of homosexuality with young people. Sadly, it is a concern for some teachers. (S- ND)
Although they differed in the extent to which it concerned them, all of the EA representatives were aware of potential backlash from parents if homophobia or LGBT issues were addressed in schools. Most agreed that parental influence, along with messages from the media, often lay at the root of pupils' prejudices. All EA interviewees agreed that it was a minority of parents who would object to these issues being addressed and that many would react either neutrally or supportively. However, the possibility of backlash meant that teachers were " walking on eggshells, they're not relaxed".
A number of interviewees suggested potential solutions. The need to get parents " on board" was seen as necessary. Several suggested that the issue should be approached with parents in terms of a broader anti-discrimination framework, treating homophobia as 'just' another form of discrimination. Another suggestion was a multi agency approach involving school staff, health professionals and the police to demonstrate a joined up and dynamic approach. One PT Pupil Support mentioned that as part of the Health Promoting Schools initiative her school was holding two days of sexual and mental health and wellbeing workshops. This included evening sessions for parents and she suggested that this was one place in which LGBT issues could be broached.
However, those schools which were mostly firmly behind the discussion of these issues felt that as the decision to discuss homophobia and LGBT issues was entirely justifiable there was nothing wrong with schools having the confidence to simply go ahead, and defend this to parents while involving them in workshops or information seminars: " This could be some children's reality [being LGB or T] , I'm not prepared for them to be discriminated against."
The issue of strong leadership was highlighted as essential by EA survey respondents and by a number of EA and school interviewees. One interviewee stated that, ultimately, the HT determines the ethos of the school and what staff members must do. Therefore, to be effective, developments must be top down. One HT, who was firmly supportive of challenging homophobia wherever possible in her school, stated that staff could have any attitudes that they wanted but they should not expect that she would not challenge them.
As EA staff and the SMT within the school are in the leadership roles which determine the ethos and direction of the school it was suggested that training should initially be targeted towards them with whole school training following this. However, an EA representative pointed out that the 'top down' approach should be tempered by training at the " grassroots level" as this is where real differences will be made.
4.6.6 Reporting Mechanisms
Many EA and school interviewees questioned the benefits of introducing reporting mechanisms for homophobic incidents similar to those used in racist incidents. In addition, it was felt that legislation would need to be passed before mechanisms such as these would be used in schools: " If the legislation's not behind it, it ain't gonna happen."
However, one interviewee from an EA which has a system of recording homophobic incidents stated that it was useful to an extent, despite many incidents going unreported and remaining outwith the EA's knowledge. This interviewee also put forward the idea of a remote reporting system; she stressed however that this should not remove the onus from schools to tackle these issues head on.
However, another interviewee felt that adding another layer of reporting would be pointless: " Oh it would be completely mad, it would make our job so difficult". This HT felt that inclusion and non-discrimination was less about paperwork and form filling and more about the wider policy, practice and culture of the school.
4.7 Inclusion of Anti Homophobia and LGBT Issues within the Curriculum
Awareness raising and information for the whole school community is necessary to transform a culture of homophobia where it exists. Including the discussion of homophobia within the formal curriculum helps to raise awareness of LGBT issues amongst all young people and allows them to question their own attitudes and behaviour. The inclusion of LGBT issues in the curriculum may help to alleviate the isolation often experienced by LGBT young people and 'normalise' these issues throughout the whole school community.
The curricular questions in the survey were designed to ascertain:
(i) Whether the discussion of homophobia is currently included anywhere in the curriculum
Also, as the discussion of homophobia cannot be successfully integrated into the curriculum without the support of school staff, the survey also addressed:
(ii) Whether EAs and schools believed that it would be appropriate to include the discussion of homophobia within the curriculum.
The survey suggested a range of subjects in which homophobia could be discussed. Respondents were asked whether homophobia was discussed in any of these subjects at the moment. The second question asked whether respondents felt it was appropriate to discuss homophobia in any of these subjects.
Personal and Social Development ( PSD)
Religious and Moral Education ( RME)
Respondents could also select 'None of these subjects' or state an 'Other' subject. Space for comments was included in the question.
4.7.1 EA Survey Responses and Interviews
Figure 4.12: EAs survey response: inclusion in curriculum
In the graph above, the first column - named 'currently' - indicates whether homophobia or LGBT issues are currently discussed in each of the named subjects. The second column - named 'appropriate' - focuses on whether respondents thought it appropriate to discuss homophobia and LGBT issues in these subjects. The named subjects focused on Secondary school subjects but were intended to indicate broad areas of study for Primary schools.
Is homophobia discussed in any of the following subjects in the schools in your Authority?
Options: PSD, English, RME, Geography, History, Modern Studies, None of these subjects, Other Subjects (please specify)
EA respondents felt that PSD is the most likely location for discussion regarding homophobia and LGBT issues followed by, in order, RME, English, Modern Studies, History and Geography. Only 3% of EAs stated that homophobia and LGBT issues were not discussed in any subject.
It is important to note that many EA respondents stated that they could not speak definitively for every school and every teacher in the Authority area. Qualifying comments included:
"Would hope that schools cover these aspects in PSE but we do not monitor the content of PSE courses until a School review takes place."
"The EA does not hold this information. Programmes will vary from school to school."
"It is difficult for me to speak for all schools in the Authority. Practice currently varies from school to school and some schools may address homophobia in some subjects. There is no overarching Authority policy."
In which subjects, if any, do you feel it would be appropriate to discuss homophobia?
Options: Options: PSD, English, RME, Geography, History, Modern Studies, None of these subjects, Other Subjects (please specify)
What is possibly more important from the EA perspective is whether EA staff believe the discussion of these issues are appropriate for the schools in their area. In these terms, EA survey respondents showed support for greater inclusion and discussion, although 3% still felt that it would be inappropriate in any subject. For every named subject, EAs stated that the number of schools currently discussing homophobia was lower than appropriate.
Additional EA comments were supportive but were tempered by qualifications such as: " Dependent on the relevance of homophobia to the issues being studied/discussed..."; "… appropriate to the age and stage of pupils"; "… if context is correct."
This cautious support was also characteristic of interviews with EA representatives. Every EA representative expressed some support for addressing homophobia and LGBT issues in schools in the EA. However, it was discussed very much as a complex and delicate area to negotiate. One EA interviewee talked about Section 28 and the fear which still surrounds the discussion of homophobia and LGBT issues in schools. She felt that the issues of homophobia and sexual orientation and the silence surrounding them in schools are similar to those surrounding domestic violence some years ago in terms of sensitivity. This interviewee highlighted a general lack of awareness and a need to raise the level of knowledge amongst both EA and school staff.
Some EA interviewees tempered their support for inclusion by mentioning issues such as constraints placed on Secondary school teachers who must concentrate solely on their subjects with no time to " open the can of worms." An interviewee stated that capacity issues for schools were a key problem as there was no space to address all equalities issues separately and in enough depth. He suggested that schools should be looking at the common themes between the strands and developing pupils' transferable attitudes related to all equalities areas.
One interviewee stated that although these issues should be explored everywhere he presumed that teachers would be less than receptive to moves to change the present situation. Another EA interviewee agreed, saying that inclusion within the curriculum is the " bigger ticket" as some may see it as " promoting a lifestyle".
4.7.2 School Survey Responses and Interviews
Figure 4.13: Discussing homophobia within the curriculum
Is homophobia discussed in any of the following subjects in your school?
Options: PSD, English, RME, Geography, History, Modern Studies, None of these subjects, Other Subjects (please specify)
The school survey responses showed that PSD was the most common subject in which these issues were discussed, followed by RME, English, Modern Studies, History and Geography. Although EA respondents had been hesitant about speaking for all schools in their areas, their responses match with those given by schools. Only 13 schools, all of which were Primaries, stated that these issues were not discussed in any subject.
School interviewees mentioned the same range of subjects above with Primary respondents mentioning the P6/7 Living and Growing curriculum as a particular focus and Special school respondents highlighting Circle Time, components of Environmental Studies and general discussions on 'feelings' and emotional health. Drama was suggested as another subject in which homophobia could be addressed.
Two of the three Special schools and three of the Secondary schools interviewed stated that they included discussion of homophobia and LGBT issues in some context.
Two Secondary school interviewees stated that there was no focus on homophobia or LGBT issues but discussion might occur if raised by pupils. One HT declared that the school captains, when asked, replied that " it was not an issue". The PT Guidance in the same school indicated that ad hoc discussion was usually related to relationships, health and bullying.
One Special school HT stated that it was currently discussed only if raised by pupils but that the discussion of homophobia should definitely be discussed as part of general anti-discrimination or anti-bullying lessons and would be in the future.
In which subjects, if any, do you feel it would be appropriate to discuss homophobia?
Options: Options: PSD, English, RME, Geography, History, Modern Studies, None of these subjects, Other Subjects (please specify)
Only 4 survey respondents (3 Primary, 1 Special) stated that the discussion of homophobia was inappropriate in all subjects. The remaining respondents showed support for the discussion of homophobia in a range of subjects. In each subject the number of schools currently discussing homophobia within the curriculum was lower than the number of schools and EAs who thought it would be appropriate to do so. This suggests that there exists among schools a baseline of general support for including the discussion of homophobia within the curriculum.
"Equality issues should be addressed everywhere!" (S- ND)
"There may be opportunities in all these subjects to tackle issues of homophobia." (P- ND)
Although there appears to be support for greater inclusion of these issues in the curriculum amongst schools, this support is moderated and qualified by the following comments made and concerns raised in both the survey and interviews with schools. The majority of additional and qualifying comments in the survey were made by Primary respondents, confirming that issues of sexual orientation and homophobia are particularly contentious for Primary schools.
184.108.40.206 Generic Approach
One interesting feature of both the surveys and the interviews is that some schools believe that addressing the particular needs of individuals or 'groups' of individuals is a direct negation of - and mutually exclusive to - equality and respect for all. The issue of a broader and more generic anti-discrimination and equalities approach was brought up by 3 schools:
"This is a primary school and so we do a lot of work on treating everyone equally but do not especially mention sexual orientation." ( ND-P)
" As a primary school we discuss all forms of discrimination generically when teaching and address specific issues as they are raised by pupils." ( ND-P)
"Within our school the emphasis is on respect for others - we do not single out particular groups for special attention as this would be contrary to our policy." ( ND-P)
Discussing homophobia and LGBT issues as part of a wider anti-discrimination framework is certainly a valid way to approach inclusion in the curriculum. However, the danger lies in anti-discrimination being addressed only or mainly in terms of the other equality strands while leaving out the trickier areas of sexual orientation and homophobia.
220.127.116.11 Proactive or Reactive Discussion
9 schools commented in the survey that rather than include the discussion of homophobia formally within the curriculum these issues would only be dealt with if pupils raised the issue.
"Homophobia would only enter the debate if a pupil brought it up." ( ND-P)
"This would be dealt with if/when the issue was raised by pupils. There would not be a planned session dealing with homophobia." ( ND-P)
This is similar to the cautious support displayed by the EAs. Several school survey respondents made qualifications regarding appropriate context and only "if necessary" ( ND-P).
This was also common amongst school interviewees as most stated that they would not actively bring up these subjects. Many felt that they implicitly addressed the issue of anti-homophobia under the generic themes of 'fairness', 'respect' and 'tolerance' for all types of people but, still, homophobia was dealt with explicitly only on an ad hoc basis if a pupil brought it up in class. One Primary HT mentioned that this is sometimes a " grey area" where pupils want to discuss issues which are not " appropriate" for the whole class.
However, some schools interviewed did make an effort to actively bring these issues up with pupils. Two Primary school interviewees stated that they tried to address these issues wherever possible as children were now regularly exposed to " harmful stereotypical images" of LGBT people in the media. One of these interviewees was determined that both staff and pupils should take LGBT issues seriously and proceed beyond the " giggle barrier". This was the same for the other interviewee who wanted to " make these issues normal" and move beyond the " underground, sniggery thing" that happened every time they were discussed - even, she regretted to say, in the staffroom.
Several interviewees stated that they were aware of LGBT parents in their schools. One Primary HT interviewee who had mentioned this said that she therefore had " no idea why people would delay it" as " what type of message is this sending to them [the children of LGBT parents] if you remain silent?"
18.104.22.168 Age and Innocence of Pupils
As with any other topic addressed in schools, the discussion of homophobia or other LGBT issues would have to be age and stage appropriate: any other approach would be ineffective and unsuitable. However, rather than viewing the discussion of LGBT issues and homophobia as a matter of, for example, citizenship, general anti-discrimination work or relationships education, some schools appeared to view it in terms of the discussion of same sex sexual activity alone. This appears to heighten anxiety, uncertainty and the refusal to engage with these issues.
This seems to be far more a Secondary issue when sexuality becomes more apparent. (P- ND)
Homophobia would only enter the debate if a pupil brought it up. It would not be considered appropriate otherwise as it would clash with the level of understanding reached in their Sexual Education Programme. ( ND-P)
Some interviewees felt that Primary school children were not yet aware of LGBT issues and there appeared to be a reluctance to draw their attention to them. This fear of "forcing" the issue and bringing it to a child's attention "too early" suggests that some school staff are working at a heterosexist baseline from which non-heterosexual relationships are seen to be risqué, unsavoury and something to protect children from.
The issue of 'innocence' amongst children and young people and when to introduce these issues also concerned survey respondents and interviewees. One survey respondent stated only that " Do not believe that it is relevant or desirable to discuss homophobia with primary age children." ( ND-P). Other interviewees were more ambivalent: " It shouldn't not be talked about but it's difficult, at what stage do you do this?" For schools of this opinion the appropriateness and relevance of the issues depended on teachers gauging the awareness levels of the children they were working with.
Young people are paradoxically portrayed as being 'innocent' and unaware of homophobia and LGBT issues - and therefore unprepared to be involved in discussion of these issues - but simultaneously capable of expressing homophobic language and attitudes.
Maybe you could say the opposite, maybe we shouldn't be raising it, kids might be reactive to it - sometimes you find that children, when you put ideas into their heads, they think 'oh right, didn't know about this' and maybe start to call someone 'gayboy' whereas if you don't raise awareness of it maybe they don't think of saying something like that. (Primary HT, Interview)
As discussed in the literature review, although homophobic language is very much part of young people's everyday discourse it is not considered to be as offensive as, for example, racist language (Thurlow, 2001). In the schools survey, several respondents defended their pupils' use of homophobic language by mentioning their age and innocence. Although they agree that homophobic language is unacceptable, it is nevertheless seen as not that serious.
Young children sometimes use the word 'gay' as a term of name calling - it is not used with only specific individuals but as a general name calling. This is not acceptable but I'm not sure that I would call it homophobic bullying. (P- ND)
Some children are more aware than others - some say 'you're so gay' or 'you poof' as insults and don't necessarily know what that means. (P- ND)
Children in this primary use the verbal terms gay, poof, homo to hit out at pupils they fall out with. Pupils are discouraged from name calling in our anti-bullying practice… In many cases they do not fully understand the terms but understand they don't like them being used. The incidents are quickly forgotten and pupils are friendly again! (P- ND)
Issues of age and levels of 'innocence' will vary from school to school and from child to child. However, if children are using homophobic language then this must be treated seriously rather than relying on arguments of innocence and lack of awareness. Indeed, including the age and stage appropriate discussion of homophobia and LGBT issues in the classroom may serve to raise general levels of awareness and reduce the occurrence of homophobic language and behaviours.
Some survey respondents highlighted their school location as justification for not discussing homophobia or LGBT issues.
This is dealt with very sensitively as the children are very young and sheltered in many respects due to the location of their school and home i.e. rural. ( ND-P)
This may be more of an occurrence in Secondary Education or city schools. ( ND-P)
As this is a rural primary school this is not an area we feel the need to spend a great deal of time on. ( ND-P)
Recent research stated that the experience of LGBT people outwith the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh was felt to be difficult due to greater invisibility, greater perceived homophobia within rural communities and the power of the church in rural areas (McLean and O'Connor, 2003). A mapping exercise conducted by LGBT Youth Scotland in the Scottish Borders found that there was a lack of awareness of LGBT issues in the community at large, a lack of positive LGBT role models and no significant challenges made towards stereotypes of LGBT people ( LGBT Youth Scotland, 2005). Clearly, the statements made by these school survey respondents both confirm and sustain these attitudes and behaviours.
22.214.171.124 Staff Attitudes
Including LGBT issues and the discussion of homophobia within the curriculum is, to a large extent, a personal choice for teachers. One Secondary school respondent made reference to the personal attitudes and values of teachers and the impact that this may have on the discussion or non-discussion of these issues: "The input will often vary depending on the subjective view of the staff, not necessarily linked to their age!" ( ND-S).
The personal attitudes of school staff towards these issues were mentioned by a number of interviewees as impacting on how homophobic incidents are dealt with and whether homophobia and LGBT issues were likely to be discussed within the classroom. The age of staff was highlighted as a particular barrier with older teachers being seen to be less likely to want to engage with these issues. However, school staff are obliged to provide a safe, supportive and healthy environment for all of their pupils. There appears to be the need to stress the importance and relevance of engaging with these issues with all staff alongside the potential consequences of not engaging with these issues.
126.96.36.199 Religion and Denominational Schools
As the sample of denominational schools was small it is difficult to generalise about attitudes or approaches in Scotland's 418 denominational schools. However, based on the Roman Catholic stance towards 'homosexuality' and recent comments regarding gay teachers (Gordon, 2005), it is possible that the discussion of homophobia and LGBT issues might be especially contentious for denominational schools.
In the survey, comments regarding religion came from non-denominational schools.
We teach that God loves all men/women - He does not necessarily approve of some of our behaviour - but people are free to make their own choices and are responsible for their own actions. (P- ND, Survey)
The one denominational school interviewee stated that the discussion of homophobia and LGBT issues were inappropriate for the Primary school and would not be addressed as children did not come in contact with these issues and neither staff nor parents would approve. This stance, whether rooted in religious belief or not, was nevertheless similar to that of some staff in non-denominational schools. This interviewee suggested that LGBT issues would have to be tackled in Secondary school at around the age of 15 " rightly or wrongly" so that pupils could " protect" themselves when they start going out to pubs and clubs. When asked what would happen if legislation was put in place which obliged schools to address these issues, the interviewee answered that denominational schools would " take direction from the Church" as they did with the issues surrounding Sex Education.
Non-denominational school and EA interviewees were asked about 'ways forward' in introducing anti-homophobia work and the discussion of LGBT issues into denominational schools.
Although the main focus was on Roman Catholic schools in Scotland, children and young people from a wide range of religious backgrounds attend school in Scotland. One Primary interviewee mentioned the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu girls withdrawn from Sex Education classes and stresses that it is important to take care not to " step on any cultural toes". However, he feels that this may result in children receiving misinformation in the playground which is not being corrected in the classroom " We have to educate children for the world but at the end of the day there's nothing we can do about that [religion issue]".
The feeling that 'there's nothing we can do about that' was prevalent and the majority of EA representatives and schools said that they did not know or were not qualified to answer this question: "It's really outside the Authority's control."
188.8.131.52 Methods of approaching homophobia and LGBT issues with pupils
Schools and EA interviewees put forward a range of suggestions about ways in which to approach these issues with pupils. As one method may work well with one group of pupils but not with another there needs to be flexibility in ways of approaching these issues and awareness amongst staff that there are multiple methods available which can be adapted to their own needs.
The consensus from school and EA interviewees was that the discussion of homophobia and LGBT issues should be situated within a broader equalities and anti-discrimination framework. One HT felt that treating the topic too explicitly could generate increased homophobia from pupils and discourage participation: " I'm not going to that poof class." This approach, as stated previously, is valid provided that homophobia and LGBT issues are addressed fully and effectively within this framework.
Interviewees suggested the following methods:
- Open discussion through Circle Time. One interviewee mentioned a specific homophobic incident in which a pupil was being bullied because his brother was gay and stated that Circle Time had been effective in airing the issues and raising awareness and sensitivity amongst the whole class.
- Resources such as DVDs, CDROMs, worksheets and lesson plans to encourage discussion and reflection and challenge stereotypes and misinformation. One interviewee pointed out that " If you just say away and teach it and there's no resources or materials then it maybe doesn't get done as there's so many other things." Audio visual resources were highlighted as crucial by Special school respondents as pupils' discussion skills may be underdeveloped.
- External speakers and workshops to 'normalise' the issues
- Increased partnership working with the LGBT voluntary sector to share expertise. LGBT Youth Scotland already conduct successful workshops and awareness raising sessions for pupils in a number of schools in this representatives area and although she felt that responsibility should still lie within the school she also felt that this was an extremely effective way of getting messages across to pupils.
- Drama productions such as Theatre in Education with supporting resources. One interviewee had recently seen a production addressing domestic violence and had found it effective in getting sensitive message across to pupils.
4.8 Additional Survey Comments and Interview Questions
Closed questions were used in the survey both for ease of completion and the need for quantitative data at this stage in the research. However, an open ended question was included at the end of the survey to allow respondents to raise points which had not been previously addressed or further expand on their survey responses.
4.8.1 LGBT School Staff
I am surprised that no mention is made of gay teachers. The incidents I am aware of in this school did not target a pupil but teachers. I believe I handled it well but since a pupil name calling a teacher isn't 'bullying' it isn't covered here - and it's an issue. (S- ND)
One Primary school HT interviewed stated that although there were several gay teachers in the school they would never be open about their sexual orientation because of the immediate link with paedophilia. This is unsurprising given that 26% of respondents in a 2003 Scottish survey felt that gay men and lesbians are unsuitable to be primary school teachers (Bromley and Curtice, 2003). School's Out, a national organisation which works towards equality in education for LGBT people, estimate that there are only 50 'out' teachers in the whole of the UK (Donald, 2005).
Homophobia, heterosexism and homophobic bullying are issues for the whole school community and can affect school staff as well as pupils. Although the issue of LGBT staff is outwith the scope of this particular research, it is an important point to consider for the future.
4.8.2 Transgender Issues
In the school and EA interviews there were varying opinions on whether Transgender issues should be discussed alongside issues of sexual orientation.
One EA representative felt that, although schools in the area might feel that tackling transgender issues alongside LGB issues was a " step too far", the EA would be supportive because ignoring the topic would be " ignoring a section of the population." This was broadly supported by the other representatives who qualified this support by suggesting that it may only be suitable for Secondary age children and that teachers would need initial transgender training and awareness raising to build confidence as there was a great lack of understanding.
Only one EA representative, although tentatively accepting of the introduction of lesbian and gay issues, felt that the discussion of Bisexual and Transgender issues are not appropriate in the primary school, or even perhaps at secondary level in any depth.
None of the Primary or Secondary school staff interviewed had addressed transphobia or transgender issues before.
Some interviewees were positive about the possibility of addressing these issues alongside homophobia and other LGBT issues. However all interviewees, from both Primary and Secondary schools, were extremely unsure about how to go about this and would need more information in order to understand the issues and address them effectively. One Primary HT admitted that she had seen a number of children over her years as a teacher who may have been dealing with gender identity issues. Another Secondary HT pointed out that sexual orientation and gender identity can be easily confused and that she had taught pupils who teachers had assumed were gay but were possibly, in retrospect, experiencing more complex gender issues.
Some interviewees felt that these issues would be discussed if they came up in the classroom and that this often depended on the age and maturity of the children in the class: " I take my lead from the children". However, one Primary HT felt that transgender issues were " just too confusing for them [the pupils]" and the age factor was introduced again as it was said that older teachers would not feel comfortable talking about this.
" Personally I think it's a bit heavy for this stage, for an 11 or 12 year old to be going into that at the moment is a bit much, personally speaking. Talking about gays and lesbians is fair enough as they're part of society but it's just a bit much, I think some adults would find difficulty with approaching it. Personally I would leave it til they were older.
4.8.3 Wider National Awareness Raising
A number of survey respondents and interviewees, while talking about LGBT awareness raising amongst parents, pointed to the fact that local and national awareness raising campaigns were necessary to tackle homophobia in wider society. An EA interviewee pointed out that " It's not that we [ EAs and schools] don't have a part to play, we just can't do it all."
Like other issues under Equal Opportunities an awareness raising at national level requires to be undertaken. (S- ND)
Major national/local campaigns on homophobia - similar to those on anti-racism. (S- ND)
Summary of Research with EAs and Schools
In this sample of Scottish schools and EA representatives there was demonstrated a wide and often disparate range of responses to homophobia, homophobic bullying and the discussion of sexual orientation and LGBT issues. These ranged from blindness/denial towards LGBT issues (due to factors such as the age of children or the rural location of the school), to their pragmatic supposed inclusion in the broad spectrum of diversity/equalities procedures to considered attempts to address issues of sexual orientation in a distinct, thoughtful, educative and responsive manner.
In terms of both policy and practice, a number of respondents and interviewees advocated dealing with homophobia within a general generic equalities and anti-discrimination framework. However, there is evidence to suggest that LGBT issues are often marginalised within this framework. Dealing with these issues in terms of more general anti-discrimination discussion is a valid approach provided that the discussion of sexual orientation, homophobia and LGBT issues is not excluded in favour of what are perceive to be more embedded and developed equalities strands such as race and disability. Schools and EAs should not assume that they are covering all equalities areas while only addressing some.
A number of EAs and schools stated that they do not know everything that goes on in the school and may be unaware of some incidents. Although a number of EAs and school survey respondents stated that they felt confident in dealing with different sorts of homophobic incidents, almost all respondents also selected other desirable confidence building measures. Clear guidelines on how to deal with homophobic incidents was the most popular option for both schools and EAs. This reflects the new and sensitive nature of these issues in schools.
Although homophobia is sometimes discussed in schools this is done inconsistently and often on an ad hoc basis with the personal attitudes of staff having a part to play in this. Survey respondents and interviewees made a number of suggestions - resources, external speakers, increased work with the voluntary sector, drama productions - regarding ways in which to raise anti-homophobia issues with pupils. As opinions on what would be most effective varied and are likely to be dependent on the needs of particular classes it is important to provide a flexible, adaptable and diverse range of supporting resources. Parental support in introducing these issues to the classroom was also highlighted and suggestions were made about ways to achieve this: increased information through workshops, the integration of LGBT issues into a more general equalities framework and multi agency initiatives.