Current Affairs

Government rejects compulsory recording of homophobic bullying

Tony Grew June 19, 2007
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The Department for Education and Skills has rejected a call from MPs to make all schools record bullying incidents.

At present only racist incidents must be recorded.

The House of Commons Select Committee also called for more action on bullying focused at children with special educational needs and cyber-bullying.

“We do not think it necessary to introduce a statutory requirement to record incidents of bullying and there would be logistical difficulties in doing so,” the department said.

“In addition, introducing a statutory requirement for schools to record bullying incidents will not necessarily persuade more schools to do so.”

New guidance for teachers on homophobic bullying will be issued later this year.

In an interview with last month, the Education Secretary said he hoped to be able to make an announcement at the Stonewall Education for All conference in July.

Alan Johnson, who is one of six candidates for Deputy Leader of the Labour party, also paid tribute to Stonewall’s campaigns for gay rights.

The investigation into all bullying in schools was instigated by Liberal Democrat MP and education spokesman Stephen Williams.

When asked when we could expect to hear more about the government’s advice to teachers on homophobia, Mr Johnson said:

“I hope we can say something at the Stonewall conference. It is a priority within this department to tackle bullying.

“Where the problem could lie is if we try to chop this up into little bits, and try to publish a bit of guidance about homophobic bullying, a bit of guidance about bullying against disabled kids, a bit of guidance about ethnic minority bullying.

“You just give too much stuff to teachers in little bits and pieces. I want to bring all this together into one anti-bullying document.

“We worked with Stonewall as part of that integrated advice.”

Mr Johnson highlighted new powers for teachers he has introduced such as the right to confiscate mobile phones and use force to break up fights or restrain violent pupils.

The committee of MPs heard evidence from charity Anti-Bullying Alliance that between 30-50% of young people in secondary schools attracted to people of the same sex will have directly experienced homophobic bullying compared to the 10-20% of young people who have experienced general bullying.

Education for All has been a major national campaign undertaken by Stonewall to beat homophobic bullying in schools.

The gay equality organisation is holding a conference on July 5th to address the nature of the problem in schools, and explore practical solutions to deal with it at both primary and secondary level.

Mr Johnson paid tribute to Stonewall’s contribution to the new guidance on bullying:

“They are a class act. If you were going to pick one of the top five lobby groups for their effectiveness, their professionalism, their energy and their integrity, you would pick Stonewall.”

The Liberal Democrats broadly welcomed the government’s response to the select committee report.

Sarah Teather, the party’s education spokesperson, told

“The promised guidance on homophobic bullying in schools is very welcome.

“It is a great shame that it has taken so long to persuade the Government to take action to be treated with the same seriousness as racist bullying.

“Until homophobic bullying is seen as unacceptable as other forms of bullying, including racist bullying, it’ll never be stamped out.

“All schools, including religious schools, should have anti-bullying policies that specifically address homophobic bullying.

“Whether the young person is gay, seen as being gay or has gay parents, homophobic bullying can make their life a misery.

“It is disappointing that the Government fails to accept that better records need to be kept.

“Money can only be targeted and spent effectively when we have proper data on how prevalent bullying is and which policies work best.”

Read the full report here

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