LGBT pupils feel ‘least protected’ in schools

1st April 2016 at 00:00
Report says schools and colleges need to do more to support LGBT students

LGBT Youth Scotland last week released its manifesto for the next five-year term of the Scottish Parliament ( It warns that, despite progress in recent years, discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people is still rife – and often worst in schools.

Where do young LGBT people in Scotland suffer the most discrimination?

In education settings – particularly school. A previous report by LGBT Youth Scotland on experiences of education ( showed that nearly seven in 10 of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people “regularly face bullying in Scottish schools”. One in 10 left education as a result of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

How does that compare to other education settings?

Not well. Some 24.6 per cent of LGBT respondents had experienced bullying in further education colleges, and 13.8 per cent at university, compared with 69.1 per cent in schools. And, as the report noted, “Within education, schools appear to be the place where LGBT young people feel least protected.”

Were there separate figures for transgender students?

Yes: 76.9 per cent of transgender respondents had experienced homophobic or transphobic bullying in school, against 69.2 per cent in colleges and 37.5 per cent in universities.

Do LGBT victims of bullying tend to report incidents?

Less than half would feel confident doing so.

How do they feel that bullying affects them later in life?

A third of those who had experienced bullying in education felt that the discrimination had negatively affected their employment opportunities. One respondent said: “I suffered four years of hell in high school and the teachers took a back seat...If a student comes out to a teacher or pupil and bullying arises, the school must take action.”

How much has been done to improve the situation in schools?

The Scottish government and Education Scotland have won some praise from LGBT representatives for making progress. But the new manifesto says that improvement has not been consistent across all schools and that “there is still much institutional prejudice, ignorance and misunderstanding”.

What does the LGBT Youth Scotland manifesto call for?

There are three “key actions” for education: a dedicated fund for initiatives to counteract bullying of LGBT pupils, including training for teachers. There should also be a statutory requirement for sex and relationships education that is suited to LGBT pupils, the manifesto says.

It says that a 2009 “teachers’ toolkit” on homophobic bullying should be updated to put “greater emphasis on transgender inclusion”. Otherwise, warns Fergus McMillan, the organisation’s chief executive, LGBT pupils will continue to report that “they do not feel safe, supported or included in their education”.

How have attitudes in Scotland changed over time?

The first decade of the 21st century saw them flipped on their head. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey found that, in 2000, 48 per cent of people thought that same-sex relationships were “always or mostly wrong”, while 29 per cent deemed them “not wrong at all”. By 2010, only 27 per cent replied that such relationships were mostly or always wrong, while 50 per cent had no issues with same-sex couples at all (

Has the survey looked at issues that are specific to schools?

Yes. In 2006, for the first time, it asked whether a gay person was suitable to be a primary teacher: 21 per cent said “No”. In 2010, that had fallen slightly to 18 per cent.

Was there any attempt to analyse how different sections of society responded to that question?

The survey asked if the interviewee knew a gay person. In 2010, 63 per cent of those who did had no qualms about them being a primary teacher. Only 32 per cent of those who did not know any gay people, however, thought them suitable to be primary teachers.

Has the survey looked at any other members of the LGBT community?

Yes. In 2006, 30 per cent of people surveyed thought that someone who’d had a sex-change operation would be unsuitable as a primary school teacher; in 2010, the figure had risen slightly to 31 per cent.


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