A national debate into how to tackle homophobia in schools will be used as part of a three year research project being carried out by the University of Sunderland.

The General Teaching Council for England (GTC) has launched a three month online discussion forum as part of the research, which aims to find out teachers’ views on how best to challenge homophobia and promote sexualities equality in schools.

Researchers hope the debate will provide better perspectives and knowledge of the challenges teachers face in addressing homophobia in schools. They will use the results from the forum to highlight policy implications for Government.

All participants can contribute anonymously. In addition, Mark Jennett, author of “Stand Up for Us,” the Government’s guidance on challenging homophobia, will be responding to teachers’ questions.

GTC chief executive Carol Adams, said: “It is vital that teachers are sufficiently supported to challenge inequality in schools, and to prevent homophobic bullying becoming a fact of life for many pupils and their families.”

The Sunderland research, being carried by academics Elizabeth Atkinson and Renée Hayes, also involves interviews with primary teachers and student teachers in three areas of the country.

Ms Atkinson said: “Teachers are living in a climate of fear, whether they are heterosexual or gay, they are frightened to address this vital equality issue.”