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Homophobic Bullying

Volume 590: debated on Thursday 15 January 2015

4. What steps her Department is taking to reduce homophobic bullying of young people in England and Wales. (907017)

Homophobic bullying is absolutely unacceptable and we are committed to eliminating it. That is why we have announced £2 million of grant funding to support schools to address the issue more effectively. That, of course, complements the £4 million that the Department for Education currently provides to charitable organisations to tackle all forms of bullying. Schools policy in Wales, including bullying, is a matter for the Welsh Government.

Only yesterday, another concerned Clacton parent contacted me about bullying. Obviously, and quite rightly, academies are self-governing. Notwithstanding that, is there specific advice that the Minister might like to give to academies to try to address that problem?

There is plenty of guidance available, but the point of the work that we are funding is to help develop further the evidence base on the most appropriate and effective forms of intervention, which we will be able to share more widely with schools, so that they know how best to tackle such bullying. I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s commitment to these important issues; I only wish that the rest of his party’s members took the same approach.

According to Stonewall’s latest figures, more than half of secondary school teachers fail to challenge homophobic bullying, while 17% feel they are inadequately trained to tackle such bullying. Therefore, does the Minister acknowledge that the Government’s failure to make sexual relationships education compulsory in the curriculum in mainstream teacher training has failed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people, as teachers feel ill equipped to deal with homophobia in the classroom, or to advise children who approach them in confidence?

Sexual relationships education is compulsory, but the hon. Lady raises an important point about training, and about ensuring that teachers feel comfortable in discussing these issues and know the best way to do so. We recognise that more can be done; that is why we have announced the project to develop that evidence base, so that teachers can see what best practice is, and how they can develop the confidence to tackle these issues effectively in the classroom. [Official Report, 21 January 2015, Vol. 591, c. 2MC.]