Public more accepting of gay primary teachers

13th January 2012 at 00:00
But Gypsy-travellers and people with depression are deemed less suitable

Scots are far more at ease with the idea of homosexual teachers in the primary classroom than they were a few years ago.

The latest Scottish government statistics show a significant rise in the number of people who think gay men and lesbians would make suitable primary teachers, from 48 per cent in 2006 to 56 per cent in 2010.

Only 18 per cent considered homosexual people unsuitable as primary school teachers, with everyone else declaring themselves neutral or choosing not to answer the question.

The figures emerge from the latest Scottish Social Attitudes survey, which looked at various views on discrimination.

One of the key questions researchers asked 1,366 people was whether specific groups of people were suitable to work as primary teachers.

Gypsy-travellers emerge as the group the public least wanted to see in primary schools, with 46 per cent of those surveyed deeming them unsuitable and 25 per cent suitable.

They were closely followed by people who experienced depression from time to time: 41 per cent did not think they would make suitable primary teachers (a sharp drop from 51 per cent in 2006) while 25 per cent thought they would.

The public is also becoming more at ease with the idea of men in primary classrooms: the proportion who regard a woman as more suitable than a man to be a primary teacher stands at 17 per cent, compared with 22 per cent in 2006 and 28 per cent in 2002.

The survey's authors stress that "discriminatory views do not necessarily reflect `hostility', but may reflect stereotypes or misconceptions about the capacity of particular people".

But they add: "Whether based on animosity or misconception, these views nonetheless imply that respondents feel the employment choices open to these groups ought to be limited in a way that they are not for other people."

The increasing openness to the idea of gay teachers tallies with a "significant decline" in general of discriminatory attitudes towards gay men and lesbians, including a sharp increase in support for their right to marry: up to 61 per cent, from 53 per cent in 2006 and 41 per cent in 2002.

LGBT Youth Scotland was "very pleased" to see the survey's evidence of "increased acceptance of lesbian and gay people in various walks of life", said Mhairi Logan, head of policy and mainstreaming.

But she added: "There are sadly still very negative attitudes towards transgender people, with only 37 per cent of people agreeing that they are suitable to be primary school teachers.

"Any improvements in public attitudes are a good thing and will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the lives of young people, but unfortunately we still have a long way to go."

She said that work in schools was "essential" in ensuring that all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people "feel, and are, included and accepted".

Brian Donnelly, director of the anti-bullying organisation respectme, said: "We should take some confidence from these figures and reflect that, while there is still a great deal of ignorance and prejudice that needs to be challenged in schools, attitudes do seem to be more open and accepting than some may have us think."

A Scottish government spokesman said it was committed to equality in all walks of life.

"When it comes to the teaching profession, the most important aspect will always be an individual's ability to do the job to the highest standards for the benefit of pupils."

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk.

Views on the suitability of different people to be primary teachers
(In percentages)Veryfairly suitableNeitherVeryfairly unsuitableCan't choosenot answered
Gypsytraveller2523466
Someone who from time to time experiences depression3024415
Someone aged 703026396
Someone who has had a sex change operation3724318
Gay men and lesbians5620186
Muslim person5524156
Black or Asian person701866
Men851024
Women90703
Source: Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2010: Attitudes to Discrimination and Positive Action (Scottish Centre for Social Research)

Original headline: Public now more accepting of gay primary teachers

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