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Renewed call for LGBT education in schools to be made mandatory

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Teachers demand more training as researchers report pupils attempting to commit suicide and self-harm over LGBT bullying

Scotland’s teachers feel woefully ill-equipped to deal with LGBT issues such as homophobic abuse in schools, a major new report has found.

The Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign surveyed over 400 teachers and found that 80% felt they had not been adequately trained on how to tackle homophobia, bi-phobia and transphobia in their school.

Of the those asked three quarters said they had never received specialised training on LGBT issues despite a separate TIE survey of pupils finding 90% of those identifying as LGBT claiming to have experienced homophobia while at school.

Four fifths of teachers said they agreed with TIE that LGBT inclusive education should be a legislative requirement for all schools with almost all (91%) of teachers saying they would attend further continuing professional development (CPD) training if it was made available free of charge.

One gay pupil told researchers he had to change schools when bullying got so bad that he attempted suicide.

We were told maybe I should move to another school because they can’t stop people from teasing me because I act ‘too gay’

“When my mum spoke to my year head and guidance teacher about my suicide attempt we were told maybe I should move to another school because they can’t stop people from teasing me because I act ‘too gay’.”

A bisexual former pupil who left school in the past five years told researchers the majority of homophobic comments came from teachers including being told she had only came out for attention.

One in five of the teachers surveyed said they did not know about the Scottish Government’s Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) guidance – which was updated in 2014 to include LGBT issues – while a further one in three who had read it said that they did not feel that the materials were good enough.

Only 7% said they had used the Dealing with Homophobia and Homophobic Bullying in Scottish Schools toolkit developed by LGBT Youth Scotland in 2009 and funded by the Scottish Government with almost half saying they didn’t know what it was.

Jordan Daly, co-founder of TIE, said the report highlights there are still very real issues in Scottish schools despite 16 years having passed since the repeal of Section 28.

He said: “There is a culture of silence around LGBT in most classrooms across the country, and we should not be satisfied until all schools are fully inclusive of LGBT issues and identities in order to ensure that all of our young people can thrive and achieve their full potential in a safe and supportive learning environment.

“The issue here is that there is absolutely no requirement for schools to deliver upon any LGBT inclusive guidance such as RSHP education, and we are clear that this has to be addressed.

“Indeed, 79% of teachers agree with us that LGBT inclusive education should be a legislative requirement for all schools.”

Responding to the report, convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s equal opportunities committee, Christina McKelvie MSP said: “As a long-time advocate of equality, I completely support the goals of the TIE campaign, to let Scotland flourish into the tolerant and wholly inclusive country we know it can be.

“Reading that 90% of LGBT youth reported experiencing homophobia, bi-phobia and transphobia while at school really hammers home the need for action.

“Education remains one of the most powerful mechanisms we have to overcome ignorance, eradicate bigotry and achieve true equality. To that end, I firmly believe that the time is right for TIE.”