Homophobia is becoming harder to challenge as more schools become academies and free schools independent of local control, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) has warned.

Speaking at Stonewall’s Education for All conference in central London on Friday, ATL General Secretary Dr Mary Bousted said it was getting harder for parents to know who to go to with problems of discrimination against their children with the rise of free-standing academies and free schools.

“If it is an academy or a free school where do you appeal against a discriminatory admissions procedure when the school is its own admissions authority with its own appeals process?

“Giving schools independence is coming at a price for too many families, and is certainly not a good thing when it results in discrimination and exclusion.

“The independence of academies and free schools means that there is a breakdown of accountability on equalities issues.”

She warned that this particularly disadvantaged children from LGBT families and children with special educational needs.

“All state funded schools, including faith schools, should, as a result of being funded by tax payers, have inclusive and fair admissions policies and employment policies which do not discriminate against those of other faiths, or no faith, and the children of minority groups – including LGBT parents.”

Dr Bousted added: “Schools and colleges should be places where LGBT teachers and lecturers, support staff workers and their pupils should feel safe and be able to express who they are. This is, unfortunately, far from the case at the moment.”

Education Secretary Michael Gove, who also was speaking at the Stonewall conference, has previously stressed that all free schools are expected to have comprehensive anti-discrimination polices in place.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Ed Miliband has visited a school in Brighton and Hove, which has been praised for its work on tackling homophobic bullying.

Earlier on Friday he discussed the issue with students and parents at Blatchington Mill in Hove.