A senior member of the government paid tribute to the work of gay equality organisation Stonewall today.

Speaking at the launch of the first ever national guidance from the government to help schools tackle homophobic bullying, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls paid tribute to the group’s work.

Stonewall was commissioned to write the groundbreaking online guidance in partnership with EACH (Education Action Challenging Homophobia).

“I’d like to thank Stonewall for the huge contribution and leadership they’ve shown in addressing homophobia in education,” he said.

“I think this guidance is a really important step forward.

“It’s right we should be talking and acting publicly to address this issue.

“It’s an important contribution to tackling one of the problems that hold young people back.

“Every child matters, including every child regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Although officially launched today, the new guidance was first published in September.

It gives teachers, head teachers, school governors and support staff practical advice on how to recognise, prevent and respond to homophobic language and physical abuse.

It follows on from Stonewall’s wide-ranging study into homophobic bullying published in June 2007, entitled The School Report.

It found that nearly two thirds of LGB students reported instances of homophobic harassment.

That figure jumps to 75% of young gay people attending faith schools.

The survey of more than 1,100 young people found that only 23% of all UK schools explicitly condemn homophobic bullying.

92% of gay, lesbian and bisexual pupils have experienced verbal abuse, 41% physical bullying and 17% have been subject to death threats.

30% of pupils reported that adults have been responsible for incidents of homophobic bullying in their schools.

Nearly every interviewed student had heard phrases like, ‘You’re so gay’, and remarks like ‘poof’ and ‘dyke’ in UK schools.

“Bullying of any form is unacceptable, we must uphold every child’s right to learn in a safe and secure environment,” Mr Balls said today.

“Just as any form of racist bullying is unacceptable so too is homophobic bullying.

“Even casual use of homophobic language in schools can create an atmosphere that isolates young people and can be the forerunner of more serious forms of bullying.

“I’m proud that as a government we have been robust in tackling this and I’d like to thank Stonewall for the work they have done.”

This weekend Kevin Brennan, a junior minister at the Department for Children, Schools and Families, will be one of the keynote speakers at an LGBT education event.

The Schools OUT annual conference will be held on Saturday in the Drill Hall in central London.

Founded in 1974, Schools OUT Works towards equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in education.

Mr Brennan, a former teacher, has committed the government to eradicating homophobic bullying from British schools.

Other speakers at the Schools OUT conference include Stonewall’s senior policy officer Ruth Hunt and teacher Elly Barnes, Head of Music at Stoke Newington School.

There will be workshops on how to set up a Gay/Straight Alliances in schools, how the London Borough of Hounslow is taking LGBT issues into their primary schools and how current legislation can be used to further LGBT equality in education.

Gay rapper Q Boy will perform at the conference along with youth arts training company Peer Productions and hip-hop performer MZ Fontaine.

The event will coincide with the beginning of the fourth Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) History Month.

The minister for equality Barbara Follett launched History Month 2008 in December alongside the Attorney General Baroness Scotland and Professor Stephen Whittle OBE, the founder of trans rights group Press for Change.

LGBT History Month, celebrated throughout Febrauary, is described as an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the diversity of our communities by acknowledging the achievements and contributions of LGBT people, past and present.

For more information on the Schools OUT conference visit their website.