Dr Adam Boddison is the Director of the Centre for Professional Education at The University of Warwick. Responding to news today that one in five gay teenagers claim they have suffered homophobic bullying from teachers and other adults at school, he said:
“It is a sad, yet perhaps unsurprising reality that gay teenagers find themselves the victims of bullying behaviour in schools. It could be argued that negative remarks from fellow students are due to a lack of knowledge and understanding in young people, stemming from a range of sources including the unwillingness of some parents to discuss sex or gender issues at home, ill-informed views disseminated through the internet and poor sex education in too many of our schools. A significant positive change in any of the three of the areas above has the potential to ensure that young people are better informed about same-sex relationships and to support the embedding of same-sex relationships as a natural part of our culture and society.
“In the context of sex education in schools, there is no statutory framework of content nor any agreed consensus across the UK about what should be included. Some would argue that introducing sex education too early is taking away children’s innocence and childhood, whilst others argue that leaving it too late results in misconceptions and confusion. Specifically on the point of same-sex relationships, experience shows that they are generally discussed in schools, but not typically in the context of sexual relationships. For some young people, this means that internet pornography, much of which is degrading and not reflective of real sexual relationships, is their primary source of sex education. Faith schools add a further dimension with some refusing to endorse safe sexual practises and others stating that same-sex relationships are a sin.
“One way of helping to address the problem of inadequate sex education in schools is to ensure that all new teachers entering the profession have received training and professional development in this area. Through the PGCE and School Direct courses at Warwick, all trainee teachers are provided with advice and guidance on how to spot homophobic behaviour and how to tackle it. This year, the gay rights group Stonewall provided this input ensuring that another 300 teachers will enter the teaching profession equipped to improve the quality of sex education. Given that most teacher education partnerships provide training on this issue, there should be over 40,000 teachers per year entering the profession and making a significant impact, but it seems there is still a problem.
“The Independent mentions that 39% of those surveyed reported that a teacher or another adult at the school was responsible for the bullying. This is a staggering statistic and it demonstrates that there is still significant progress to be made in this area, building on the existing work of many schools, the DfE and numerous charities.”
Note to Editors:
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Lee Page, Communications Manager
+44 (0)2476 574 255
+44 (0)7920 531 221