Following a new survey which has revealed how serious the issue surrounding homophobic bullying is in schools across the county, West Lancashire head teachers have spoken about their commitment to tackling the issue.
A National Union of Teachers survey discovered that 92% of teachers believe that homophobia is a serious issue which demands action; there were 42% who have overheard or observed derogatory homophobic references in their schools on a daily or a weekly basis. Although this figure has dropped from 56% in 2009, 47% have said that they were aware of specific pupils who were being targeted by homophobic bullying on at least a termly basis. There was better news however, with 72% of teachers who consider that their school is vigorously addressing homophobia, this is an increase from 46% in 2009. Although there were almost three-quarters of teachers who said that they would welcome specific training about how to tackle homophobia in the classroom.
There were over 300 teachers from across Lancashire who took part in the online survey, which followed up on the NUT’s first report on the issue in 2009.
The Head teacher at Glenburn Sports College, James Harris, said ‘These findings are not good and they show there is a serious issue, but the fact it’s moving in the right direction is a good thing. One issue is transparency. If there’s open discussion it can be dealt with. Increased transparency leads to it being addressed vigorously. We have a whole range of strategies in place for dealing with bullying of all kinds and have a member of staff trained in dealing with bullying issues. The restorative justice approach in schools leads to positive outcomes – bringing the perpetrator and victim together to look at the impact of the bullying and look at a way forward. We need to be up front about the issues and ensure they aren’t kept under covers.’
Catherine Edens, Burscough Priory head teacher, said ‘My first reaction is that these figures are appalling. The welfare of pupils in school is key and we take all instances of bullying extremely seriously. It’s important that schools continue to address the issue of homophobic bullying and we are committed to doing so.’
Lancashire NUT’s equalities officer and president, Sarah Troughton, said ‘It is a sad indictment of the priorities of our schools that Lancashire County Council’s Education Health and Wellbeing Team has yet to be taken up on its offer of in-service training on tackling homophobic bullying even though, crucially, almost three quarters of teachers state that they need specific training in this area.’
NUT NW Regional Secretary Avis Gilmore said ‘It is good news that the situation is showing improvement but the results highlight the need for more work to be done in this very important area.’