Scotland – Children’s Commissioner Tam Baillie adds to demands for LGBT-inclusive education

SCOTLAND’S Children’s Commissioner has called for an end to homophobia in Scottish schools, insisting it is “time to tackle the discrimination of our LGBTI+ communities” in education.

Tam Baillie, who became the Commissioner in 2009 after 30 years of working with young people, has endorsed calls for LGBT education in schools, as pressure mounts for the Scottish Government to commit to a new approach to tackling homophobic bullying.

He has given his support to the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign, aimed at addressing issues of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) visibility within the Scottish education system, which has also been backed by leading Scottish political figures including Nicola Sturgeon, Mhairi Black, Patrick Harvie and Willie Rennie.

At their 2016 spring conference, the SNP moved a resolution to support the campaign and, during the Scottish Parliament election, all major parties adopted the group’s calls for improved teacher training in their election manifestos.

Baillie is responsible for ensuring that children’s rights are promoted and understood, and reviews the effectiveness of law and policy to ensure young people’s rights are respected.

He said: “I fully support the TIE campaign. Schools have a crucial role in developing our children and young people and it is time to tackle the discrimination of our LGBTI+ communities in school settings.

“This should be addressed by the Scottish Government and education providers to ensure we live up to our international rights obligations and create school communities based on equality and respect for all.”

The campaign published a recent report that found 90 per cent of LGBT people experience homophobia while at school, with 27 per cent of LGBT school pupils reporting that they had attempted suicide once a result of bullying. Since the campaign’s launch last June, TIE has continually argued for an inclusive LGBT education to be delivered in all schools in Scotland, and for teachers to be trained on how to tackle homophobia in the classroom.

The campaigners are calling for new legislation in the lifetime of the current parliamentary term in order to achieve this.

A TIE spokesperson said: “All children have a right to an inclusive education but, currently, many LGBTI learners in Scotland are not receiving any form of education which is reflective of their identity or the issues affecting them.

“We are clear that this must be addressed, and we believe that all schools should be inclusive environments for LGBTI youth. To that end, we are delighted that the Children and Young People’s Commissioner has supported our campaign and we hope that this will influence our decision-makers to take more affirmative steps towards addressing the culture of silence around LGBTI within education.”

The campaign has been shortlisted in the Public Campaign of the Year category for Thursday night’s Herald Politician of the Year Awards ceremony.

Last month, the TIE campaign also revealed that Scottish teachers had never used or even heard of government material designed to tackle homophobia in schools.

A survey of almost 500 teachers found that the majority of them didn’t know about, or had not used, the Scottish Government’s latest Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood guidance.

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