Anti bullying: tackling homophobia in school

Dec. 5, 2017
John Mulgrew

John Mulgrew

Head of Geography at The East Manchester Academy

Bullying in school has been a topical issue for quite some time.

Anti Bullying Week is a great way to raise awareness of the issues faced by pupils and for schools to promote their anti bullying policies.

One form of bullying that I've noticed increasing is homophobic bullying; especially in secondary education. It is estimated by Stonewall that 45% of LGBT pupils including 54% of transgender pupils are bullied for being LGBT in Britain's schools. 

Establishing an anti bullying policy

At the East Manchester Academy, our aim was to tackle both bullying and homophobic bullying so that all of our pupils have a right to their own education in an enjoyable way, no matter what their sexual orientation.

I am proud to say that my colleague and I have now set up our very own LGBT Ambassadors group, as part of the school’s anti bullying policy, to change the mindsets of the young people whom we come into contact with at the academy.

The LGBT Ambassadors group is led by myself and is comprised of 14 students; both male and female. We meet once each week during form time to discuss current issues in school and develop strategies on how to address these.

Our aim is to achieve an inclusive learning environment at The East Manchester Academy. 

Anti bullying in action

One key incident was when a Year 7 pupil reported homophobic bullying to our LGBT Ambassador team. He was frequently being referred to as "gay" by another pupil in his class, making him feel embarrassed and resulting in a decrease in progress across his subjects.

Our LGBT Ambassadors developed the anti bullying policy with the focus on educating the young person who was misusing gay terminology to bully another pupil. We then trained our LGBT Ambassadors on how to mentor other pupils by training them on how to carry out a restorative conversation with other pupils.

Once we became confident that we were taking the right approach, our LGBT Ambassadors set up a meeting with this pupil during lunch time a couple of days later. During the meeting we found that the pupil was not aware that it was offensive to call a pupil “gay” even if they are.

Our LGBT Ambassadors successfully educated him about the impact of his actions and how it was making the person in his class feel. Due to the successes of this meeting, we then decided to sit both pupils together so they could reflect.

We found that both pupils were able to effectively communicate their feelings and it even led to them establishing a newly found friendship.

This young individual learned that we must be careful as words can have a lasting impact on another young person’s life, especially in the learning environment. My colleague and I were delighted to hear that both of these boys have remained friends ever since and the pupil who was once bullied is now making outstanding progress in his lessons again.


Rolling out the anti bullying policy

As a leader it is important to always think of the bigger picture and how ideas can be implemented school wide. Because of our success with that one pupil, we decided it would be useful for Year 7 pupils to be educated on LGBT issues.

 We delivered training sessions to all Year 7 pupils during a Super Learning Day at school and the pupils reported that they thoroughly enjoyed this.

 They were able to make links to famous lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the world and were able to highlight that no matter what sexual orientation you are, you will succeed and you will achieve when you try your best. They were also shown how to show compassion and treat other pupils how they themselves would like to be treated.

 At the end of our Year 7 LGBT training session we asked them to create and sign their very own pledges on what they would do to help us reduce homophobic bullying at our school. The responses from our pupils has made a striking impression on the wider school and they have become more confident in being who they want to be.

 As a leader, I believe that by setting up our very own LGBT Ambassadors team at The East Manchester Academy, we have put down the foundations for reducing homophobic bullying by making it part of our anti bullying policy.

 This will, no doubt, help us to achieve an inclusive learning environment for all of our young people today. Anti Bullying Week was a fantastic opportunity for teachers to tackle a bullying issue within their school and I hope this demonstrates how rewarding it can be.

This article originally appeared on the website of the Ambition School Leadership. In March 2019 the Institute for Teaching merged with Ambition School Leadership to form Ambition Institute. 

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