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3.18 Parents and teachers want pupils to be able to learn in safety, but we know that bullying is still a significant problem. Unsurprisingly, pupils who are bullied are more likely to be disengaged from school and do substantially worse in their GCSEs than their classmates45. So tackling bullying is an essential part of raising attainment.
3.19 Teachers, pupils and charities report that prejudice-based bullying in particular is on the increase. It is of course unacceptable for young people to be bullied because of their sexuality, yet this happens to two thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils46. Ninety-eight per cent of young gay pupils hear the word ‘gay’ used as a form of abuse at school, and homophobic bullying is often directed at heterosexual pupils as well47. Pupils with Special Educational Needs and disabilities are also more likely to be victims of bullying. Over a three-year period, 81 per cent of pupils with statements of SEN reported being bullied48, and bullying specifically relating to their special needs is increasing49.
3.20 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.
St. George’s School in Hertfordshire takes homophobia extremely seriously. St George’s is a multi-denominational Christian foundation school, educating pupils with diverse religious backgrounds. The school used materials and DVDs from Stonewall to train staff to tackle homophobia.
The school always presents anti-homophobic work in the Christian context of treating everyone with respect. Staff are encouraged to take a simple and consistent line of ‘we don’t treat people like that here’. Where issues of homosexuality arise in lessons, staff have been trained to be confident to manage and challenge inappropriate comments. Older students have also been key in putting forward the case against homophobia in Chapel and school assemblies.
As a result, the school has seen a near elimination of overt homophobia. The use of the word ‘gay’ as a derogatory term has almost disappeared.
3.21 While we will reduce significantly the amount of central guidance given to schools overall, schools rightly look to us for support and guidance on dealing with bullying. Existing anti-bullying guidance is too long and fragmented, so we will rationalise and simplify this from nearly 500 pages to around 20 pages. This will help head teachers to develop an anti-bullying approach for the whole school which protects the most vulnerable. And we will work with non-government organisations such as Stonewall and the Anti-Bullying Alliance to promote best practice and make sure that schools know where to go for support.
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