Researchers are calling on the Scottish government to give gay primary schoolchildren minders to protect them from homophobic bullying and depression.
The report from the Edinburgh University Centre for Education for Racial Equality and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Youth Scotland, recommended “buddy” programmes in schools and anti homophobia classes.
Research was conducted through an internet survey, which found two pupils who identified as gay and one who was “unsure,” and a further eight 12 to 14 year olds identified as “gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning.”
The report concluded, “These young people are clearly identifying their sexual orientation at a young age.
“This along with the experience of homophobic bullying at an early age calls into question the belief that all primary and early secondary age school pupils are unaware and “innocent” of issues surrounding homophobia and sexual orientation and are therefore unprepared to engage in anti-homophobia work and the discussion of LGBT issues.”
LGBT Youth Scotland’s Sarah Aboud told the Sunday Times, “Buddy schemes are an approach that has been very, very successful in the States but there has been very little of them so far in the UK.
“The idea is to create safe spaces for young people which is really crucial.
“It’s about young people coming together regardless of their sexual orientation.”
However, Victor Topping, of the NASUWT teaching union, called the recommendations “an over-reaction.”
“How would a 12-year-old know that he or she is gay?”
“They haven’t experienced life, they haven’t experienced relationships with the opposite sex. There is no need to teach children in primary school about homosexuality.”
The Catholic church in Scotland called the report “sinister,” a spokesman told the Sunday Times, that the recommendations were “totally nonsensical and dangerously cynical.”
“This is a sinister attempt to sexualise a generation of Scottish children, children routinely engage in robust name-calling, using insults they don’t even understand. The idea that this is a concerted campaign to disadvantage one group of children is laughable.”
Mark Jennett, a writer on issues of homophobic bullying, told PinkNews.co.uk: “Homophobia, like racism and other forms of discrimination, should always be challenged in schools.
“Whether or not young children are identifying as gay is not the issue. Many will subsequently do so and growing up in an atmosphere in which homophobic comments are not challenged will only make it harder for them to come to terms with their sexuality.
“Many schools will also have gay members of staff or parents who deserve the same protection from prejudice as their colleagues. Good schools should be able to talk about different kinds of loving relationships and there is no reason why this should not include those between members of the same sex.”