Homophobia in schools 'needs to be taken more seriously'

Homophobic bullying in schools needs to be taken more seriously, according to gay rights charity Stonewall.

The report, the organisation's first on the issue for five years, also says despite progress being made, there is more to be done.

The organisation surveyed 1,614 lesbian, gay and bisexual people between the ages of 11-19.

Fifty-five per cent said they were targeted because of their sexuality.

The government says it is doing more to tackle homophobia in schools.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has welcomed the report but agrees more needs to be done.

A spokesman said: "There are many ways in which schools can send messages out to pupils, staff and families to combat negative stereotypes, including recognising the significant contribution made by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"We also note that a school's response to homophobia is now one of the criteria on which Ofsted will judge their success.

"Such moves will, we hope, make it increasingly plain that homophobia has no place in a modern school and, through schools, in society itself."

'Name-calling'

Daniel Shepphard was bullied at school when he came out at 13.

He is now 17 and has bad memories of his school days.

He said: "Every day I went into school I knew that something new was going to happen.

"I didn't know if it was going to be name-calling, notes on my back or if I would get smacked or get my underwear pulled down.

"I was waiting for new ways to get bullied."

The mental strain got so bad that he self-harmed and says he often contemplated taking his own life.

"Goodness knows how many times I put a knife to my wrist," he admitted.

"All the aggression that the bullying put into me had created so much tension inside me that I needed to get it out."

Daniel did not feel open enough to discuss the reason for being bullied at school and eventually had to change schools and move area.

'Not tolerated'

Stonewall wants homophobia to be treated as seriously as racism in schools.

They say far too often this isn't happening.

The charity's report says that 44% of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils skip school because of bullying and that homophobic bullying of gay pupils is lower in schools that explicitly state that homophobic bullying is wrong and where schools teach and address gay issues.

Wes Streeting, Head of Education for Stonewall, said: "Schools should make it clear that homophobia is not tolerated and if necessary be taken to the highest levels."

The government says it is tackling homophobia in schools and that the current guidelines make it clear that teachers should be able to deal with sexual orientation.

They also said that they are reviewing their education guidance to strengthen sex and relationships education among young people and would publish the outcome of the review and of any changes later this year.