Tories are ‘condemning young people to bullying’ by axing vital funding to protect LGBT+ school kids
A provider of LGBT+ anti-bullying training in schools has explained how the removal of funding by the government is “condemning swathes of young people to experiencing bullying”.
During Anti-Bullying Week, it was revealed that the UK government had axed spending for crucial LGBT+ anti-bullying programmes, which the Tories had successful kept quiet since March this year.
The Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic Challenge Fund, as it was initially called when it was launched in 2014 by then minister for women and equalities Nicky Morgan, allowed schools to provide training and workshops for staff and students to combat anti-LGBT+ bullying.
One charity worker who provided LGBT+ anti-bullying training told PinkNews about the huge impact the programme was making, and how by axing funding the government “condemning swathes of young people to experiencing bullying”.
The training provider, who asked to remain anonymous, said that often a lack of knowledge among school staff was caused by teachers who had grown up or completed their training under Section 28.
The clause banned local authorities and schools from “promoting” homosexuality, leaving many educators lacking the knowledge and confidence to discuss LGBT+ issues.
“Levels of knowledge about things were often pretty low,” said the training provider.
“Some schools had been unwittingly perpetuating some quite harmful attitudes and practices because they’d never had training on it, like not challenging kids being called homophobic slurs, or outing young people to their families because they thought being LGBT+ was a safeguarding concern.”
But through training, schools were able to create a culture of LGBT+ inclusion: “Schools were finishing our programme actually understanding LGBT+ identities and changing their school policies to properly protect all of their young people, and doing some fantastic projects along the way about inclusion, at both primary and secondary level.
“We worked with a small fraction of the schools who needed that training.
“We know that so many other schools nationally will be still working with out of date anti-bullying policies that don’t include the necessary preventative work to challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, and where teachers will still feel scared to touch anything related to LGBT+ lives for fear of saying the wrong thing.”
The charity was reportedly told in December 2019 that there would a “pause” on the training programme to “evaluate how successful it had been with schools and what other issues schools might want support with around LGBTQ+ inclusion, like specific guidance around inclusion for trans young people or teaching LGBT+ lives in curriculum”.
But when the coronavirus pandemic began, charity staff were told “it was looking increasingly likely that the programme was not ever going to be re-funded”. A few months ago, the entire team delivering the LGBT+ anti-bullying training was made redundant.
Now, the charity worker said, schools will be left without support, unequipped to deal with anti-LGBT+ bullying.
They said: “Schools just don’t have the expertise around this topic, because of Section 28 and because it’s usually not something teachers will have covered in their initial teacher training.
“Schools need support from experts in sexuality and gender identity to up skill their staff teams and create genuine cultural change – removing this funding apparently indefinitely is condemning swathes of young people to experiencing bullying about who they are, without their schools being equipped to deal with it.”