Many teachers are ill-equipped to tackle homophobic bullying even though they come across it frequently in school, according to the gay and lesbian campaign group Stonewall.
The warning comes as Stonewall released the results of a poll of teachers which showed just eight per cent of primary teachers and 17 per cent of secondary teachers had been given training on how to tackle homophobic bullying.
Stonewall acting chief executive Ruth Hunt said schools must do more to get to grips with homophobic bullying.
“Teachers are the most powerful tool that we have in the fight to tackle homophobic bullying,” she said.
“The government must now make it a priority that every single teacher is trained to tackle all types of bullying and abuse in our schools.”
Earlier this year, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, launched guidelines aimed at helping the 4,500-plus Church of England schools combat homophobia.
Stonewall’s report into teacher attitudes was being launched today at the group’s Education for All conference, with speakers including singer Will Young, doctor and tv presenter Christian Jessen, and Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of charity Kid’s Company.
The poll, of almost 2,000 school staff, found that 86 per cent of secondary teachers were aware of homophobic bullying in their school, and two thirds recognised that it had a detrimental effect on students’ achievement.
Almost nine in 10 secondary teachers heard pupils use expressions such as “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay”, but more than half admitted they do not challenge homophobic language every time.
And even though it is 11 years since the repeal of Section 28, which banned schools from teaching about “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”, 29 per cent of secondary teachers and 37 per cent of primary teachers were unaware of whether they could teach about gay and lesbian issues in class.
The survey also revealed that homophobia was still widespread among school staff. More than third of secondary teachers – 36 per cent – and 29 per cent of primary teachers had heard homophobic remarks from other school staff.