Northamptonshire County Council is launching a pioneering programme to tackle homophobic bullying in schools.

The “Tackling Diversity and Sexuality resource” will be used in the county’s schools as a tool to fight the spread of homophobic bullying of both adults and students.

The project follows a series of studies, including a major piece of research which was completed in Northamptonshire in 2004.

The study, which involved 899 students, revealed that 64 per cent of them had witnessed homophobic bullying and 26 per cent had been homophobically bullied.

A similar research by LGBT organisation Stonewall indicated how homophobic bullying is still epidemic in Britain’s schools.

Among the 1145 young people who responded to Stonewall’s questions, almost two thirds said they had experienced homophobic bullying in school.

Almost three in five never reported the abuse and half of teachers failed to respond to homophobic language when they heard it.

The “anti-bullying pack” proposed in Northamptonshire, which comprises of leaflets for students, guidance for staff and parents, and a teaching resource containing ten lessons supported by a DVD, has been already trialed in a secondary school in the rural town of Raunds.

Manor school’s assistant head Toni Whiteman, who led the pilot project, said that homophobic bullying was an issue which needed to be addressed.

“Too often in our school, students have bandied the phrase ‘you are so gay’ or ‘that is gay’ at each other with very little understanding for what is actually meant by the use of these words.”

The project, the first of its kind in the county, was launched by Northamptonshire County Council in partnership with the Northamptonshire Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Alliance and the Healthy Schools Programme.

County Councillor Joan Kirkbride highlighted that Northamptonshire was leading the way in tackling what she defined an “unwanted form of bullying” and commented that the feedback from the Manor school had been very positive.

“I now look forward to the pack being rolled out to all schools in Northamptonshire and eventually, the country,” she said.