Luke Pollard

Labour & Co-operative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport

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Labour to tackle homophobic bullying in schools

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‘Every classroom, dinner hall and playground free from homophobia’ – Tristram Hunt announces Labour’s plan to eradicate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender bullying in schools. 

Labour today published our plan to eradicate LGBT bullying in every classroom, playground and dinner hall. The plan has the backing of Stonewall as well as other leading rights campaigners. As a member of LGBT Labour, the Labour Party's campaign for LGBT equality, I'm delighted Labour is taking the issue of homophobic bullying seriously and announcing a plan to deal with it. 

The last Labour Government made huge strides towards equality for LGBT people. Labour in Government:

  • achieved an equal age of consent
  • ended the ban on LGBT people serving in our armed forces;
  • ended discrimination against Lesbian & Gay partners for immigration purposes;
  • given LGBT individuals and couples the right to adopt children;
  • scrapped the homophobic Section 28 (Clause 2a in Scotland);
  • become a signatory of the Treaty of Amsterdam, which gave the EU powers to end discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation;
  • banned discrimination in the workplace and in vocational training with the introduction of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations;
  • created the Equality and Human Rights  Commission (EHRC) which gives LGBT people statutory body protection;
  • included homophobia in the definition of hate crimes
  • increased sentencing for homophobic hate crimes;
  • removed outdated offences such as gross indecency and buggery;
  • produced and implemented the Gender Recognition Act, allowing Trans people to have their true gender recognised in law;
  • created the Civil Partnerships, allowing LGB people to have their loving relationships recognised by law and have the same benefits as married couples;
  • outlawed discrimination in good and services (with no exceptions);
  • launched a campaign in the UN for the Decriminalisation of Homosexuality focusing on the nine countries where it is still punishable by death;
  • awarded statutory rights for fertility treatment for Lesbians on the NHS
  • introduced the Equality Act

 

Despite all the huge progress there remains a big issue that needs to be tackled: homophobic bullying in schools  Under the plan announced today, Labour will:

1. Ensure that all new teachers are trained to tackle homophobic bullying;

2. Provide support for those teachers already in the system to receive training to tackle homophobic bullying;

3. Make age appropriate sex and relationships education compulsory in all schools;

4. Promote mental health services for young people living with the consequences of homophobic bullying;

5. Provide a national best practice ‘toolkit’ to equip schools with the resources to tackle Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic bullying.

 

The announcement follows a Taskforce set up by Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt, to consult and make recommendations on new measures to tackle homophobic bullying in schools and beyond. Tristram made the announcement  at the beginning of LGBT History Month.

Tristram said under a Labour Government schools have a duty to show a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to homophobic bullying:

“The presence of homophobic bullying in our classrooms, playgrounds and dinner halls is deeply troubling, and it is very real. The use of homophobic language and other forms of homophobic bullying is damaging the life chances of so many young people. It has a daily effect that limits learning, and causes people long term damage. There is no place for it in our society – and never should it be ignored in our schools. Schools have a duty to show a zero tolerance approach to the use of homophobic language and bullying.”

Tristram said that only by introducing new measures, will we rid the shadow of Section 28 that has been cast over our schools:

“The legacy of Section 28 – a most pernicious piece of legislation – casts a shadow over our education system, both for those that are new to the schools workforce and for those who worked in schools whilst it was in operation. That is why repealing Section 28 alone, is not enough. We need new training for new and long-standing teachers, and others in the school workforce. Strategies for education, dealing with both prevention and resolution. And we need to act urgently to prevent the plight of homophobic bullying that is damaging the lives and life chances of thousands of pupils.”

Stonewall, a charity that works on a cross-party basis, welcomes the announcement. Hannah Kibirige, Senior Education Officer at Stonewall, said:

“Homophobic bullying and language are endemic in Britain’s schools, with a devastating impact on young people’s health, wellbeing and attainment. Through our work with more than 12,000 schools across the country, we know that teacher training is vital to tackling the problem. We have seen progress under this and the previous Government, but more still needs to be done. We welcome this commitment and will be calling on future governments to ensure that every teacher is equipped to tackle homophobic bullying and that every young person can reach their full potential.”

The scale of the plight of homophobic bullying has been revealed in figures from Stonewall (published today) that show of the current estimated 215,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils in schools:

  • 52,000 will miss school in response to homophobic bullying;
  • 37,000 will change their future educational plans because of homophobic bullying;
  • The school work of 70,000 will suffer because of homophobic bullying.

The figures show that whilst some schools are tackling homophobic bullying, for thousands of other young people, the discrimination that they face is not being dealt with effectively. Schools in Plymouth have made huge progress on tackling homophobic bullying but there are still too many young LGBT people who are being bullied today. 

You can download the report here.

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