That was the question we set out to answer for the Government Equalities Office. Stakeholders and schools do lots to prevent and reduce this type of bullying in schools but up until now there has been no full review of what is thought to work best. Ideas about what worked also usually reflect the views of people and organisations committed to tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia(HBT), although they aren’t always in schools day-to-day.
This project has moved the debate forward by looking at the quality of evidence already out there talking directly to teachers, others tackling HBT bullying in schools and to children and young people who had been bullied or were trying to do something about it. So what did the study find?
- School staff with an awareness of government and school policies in this area were more likely to tackle HBT bullying.
- Teachers felt that prevention was more successful when teaching about LGBT people was included in the curriculum in appropriate ways from an early age, rather than treating it as a separate, stand-alone issue.
- It was also felt that the best age to tackle HBT bullying was the last years of primary school. This could reinforce messages that HBT bullying was unacceptable before prejudices tended to set in.
- HBT bullying was seen to be less likely in schools that created a LGBT-friendly environment (e.g. displaying pictures of LGB and T role models around schools, teaching children why they should challenge homophobic language and the pejorative use of the word ‘gay’ when they hear it and how to do so).
- It was important for schools to have an agreed definition of HBT bullying so that all teachers responded to reports of bullying consistently. Young people thought that failure to respond in this way suggested that HBT bullying wasn’t important.
- Teachers needed a good understanding of issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity (transgender) so that they felt comfortable talking about HBT bullying and issues arising from the discussion. Pupils and teachers felt that discomfort or lack of confidence on the part of teachers conveyed that there was something wrong or controversial in talking about the subjects. Appropriate training for teachers was considered to be very important.
The most exciting thing about this project is that it has been announced alongside a £2 million funding pot for charities to come forward with ideas for tackling HBT bullying in schools. The research should help inform any future anti-HBT bullying programmes, making a real difference to young people’s attitudes and schools’ approaches to tackling this kind of bullying.
Further findings from the study can be found by reading the evidence review and full report here.