Homophobia still rife in schools, warns NUT

Reporter: Karen Doherty
Date published: 21 May 2010

HOMOPHOBIA is still ingrained in the borough’s schools, according to a new survey.

The National Union of Teachers has released its second poll on the prevalence of the problem in the classroom.

Eighteen months after a pilot survey in five secondaries school, it targeted five others which did not originally take part.

Of the 73 teachers who responded, 98.9 per cent said they had witnessed pupils suffering homophobic abuse at least every term, compared with 90 per cent in the first poll.

And 55.4 per cent (56.6 per cent) of staff had been the subject of abuse during the school year.

But while 72 per cent (77.1 per cent) felt that it was a serious issue that should be tackled, only 8.2 per cent (12.5 per cent) said it was being vigorously discouraged in their schools. And nearly half wanted practical training in dealing with the problem.

Jeff Evans, Oldham NUT teacher and equality rep, was worried that only six teachers felt enough was being done to tackle the problem.

He also said that Oldham had one of the worst records for the homophobic abuse of teachers in the North-West, adding: “If pupils are prepared to abuse teachers, what are the chances for Year 7 or 8 or even younger children?”

The survey was unveiled at Galley Oldham to mark International Day Against Homophobia. The event, organised by the council and its partners, launched a new pack for schools and also included a performance by the Pink Triangle Theatre Company.

The union joined forces with the council last June to host a successful conference and training event to help teachers combat to homophobia.

But Mr Evans criticised Oldham Council for cancelling a second conference planned for this month.

He also said that a working group to come up with a three-year strategy to tackle the issue has been closed down without explanation.

However Veronica Jackson, executive director for people, communities and society, said the council was committed to tackling all forms of bullying and had developed several initiatives.

These included:

Working closely with the council’s equalities officer, following the last NUT survey, to come up with ways to identify and prevent bullying.

Training for union reps and school staff provided by the regional anti-bullying adviser and members of the North-West Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transsexual Young People’s group.

A full-day conference on homophobic bullying, organised by a multi-agency group, to raise staff awareness.

She said: “This group met to follow up what was learned from the conference and has already planned to meet again this term to plan future action.”