Stonewall education head: Improving teacher training is the key to tackling homophobic bullying

Alice Milliken July 6, 2014
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Luke Tryl is Head of Education at Stonewall. He spoke to at Stonewall’s Education for All conference ahead of the publication of the Teachers’ Report 2014, about what still needs to be done.

What do you think is next in the fight for LGBT rights now that the UK is introducing marriage equality?
I think it’s all about education – though I would say that! Now it’s not about changing laws, it’s about changing hearts and minds, and the battle to change hearts and minds starts in our schools.

I think we can sometimes end up thinking that the job is done, but actually our research published today shows that homophobic bullying is almost endemic in our secondary schools; that children in primary schools, children as young as five are using phrases like ‘that’s so gay’. There’s still a huge amount more to do.

PSHE guidelines haven’t been updated since 2000, before the repeal of Section 28. How do you plan to ensure that all the remnants of Section 28 will be removed?
We really believe that at the heart of tackling homophobic bullying is good quality teacher training.

That’s why we train teachers across the country, we run training programmes through our school champions programme, but we’re also pressuring the government and the Department for Education on implementing new guidance themselves on tackling homophobic bullying and providing teachers with teacher training.

Too many teachers are coming out of their teacher training never having talked about issues like homophobic bullying, which, ten years on from the repeal of section 28, is pretty worrying.

How easy or hard do you find it to engage schools, not just in London, but across the country?

It really can be tricky, and I think that sometimes a criticism of this type of work is that it is quite London-centric, which is why we started taking our training sessions out across the country now.

So we’ve looked at Leeds, Manchester, Bradford, Exeter, Gloucester – all over the country. Because we want to make sure it isn’t just teachers in the capital who are tackling these issues.

Do schools themselves fund you to come in? How do you engage with schools which are less likely to come to you?
Schools pay a spot fee to sign up to our school champions programme and then we provide them with all of our resources, training and support.

But we make all of our resources freely available and we send lots of resources into schools. So, whenever we publish a new report, we send that out to all schools across the country; we do try as much as we can to engage them.

Our new primary school website which we launched today is free for any school across the country to use and play our film, FREE.

Finally, how has today’s event gone?
What’s really amazing is the energy that you’re seeing from the delegates here. My big hope is that people go back to their schools inspired to do even more. We continue to email them, and engage with them.

We have follow-up seminars on specific issues which have arisen out of the day as well. Lots of the schools here are already doing good stuff, but what we want them to start doing now is leading the way with other schools in their area, so that we can come back next year and have a conference twice the size.

Related topics: Education, Education for All, England, London, Luke Tryl, Section 28, Stonewall, Teachers Report

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