Schools Out letter to the Education Secretary about the recent white paper

December 01, 2010

To: The Right Honourable Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Education
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

01 December 2010

Dear Mr Gove,

I am writing re-your recent white paper and commitment to eliminating homophobic bullying in schools.

You rightly say that two-thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils are bullied because of their sexuality, while straight students are often subjected to anti-gay abuse too. It’s also good to see you say: “Schools should take incidents of prejudice-based bullying especially seriously. It is important that they educate children about the differences between different groups of people and create a culture of respect and understanding.”

We welcome these supportive comments.

Like you, I would commend the achievements of St George’s School in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. LGBT History Month patron Sir Ian McKellen has visited the school and worked with the pupils; apparently with great success. Perhaps you would also like to commend the achievements of Stoke Newington School in Hackney, where homophobic and transphobic bullying has been eradicated after five years of the school celebrating LGBT History Month. The school is now an Equality and Diversity training centre, where newly empowered heads with their own budgets can send teachers for equalities training from professionals who still work in the classroom.

I note that in your answer to Iain Stewart’s question in the Commons you said you needed to work with organisations such as Stonewall and the Anti-Bullying Alliance. I hope that you also wish to work with us, as Schools OUT has been campaigning for LGBT people in education since 1973. My fellow co-chair Sue Sanders met Nick Gibb and Tim Loughton at the Department for Education on November the 9th to discuss plans for tackling homophobia and transphobia in schools.

Returning to the question of bullying, the Prevalence of Homophobia survey – which can be found on the Schools OUT website – shows that 57% of teachers said they had been subject to homophobic abuse by pupils. There is no protection in the Equality Act against this kind of harassment I see nothing in the white paper or your comments relating to it that addresses this issue.

Another concern is that the white paper refers to homophobia but not transphobia. According to GIRES it is likely that 1% of pupils will be gender variant and they need equal protection.

Thanks for your support so far. I hope you take our comments into account.

Yours sincerely
Tony Fenwick,
Co-Chair Schools OUT, LGBT History Month


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