The Church of England Education Office has released guidance for Church of England (C of E) schools on challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying. The Church states that the guidance is intended to prevent pupils in C of E schools and academies from “having their self-worth diminished or their ability to achieve impeded by being bullied because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity”.
Whilst intended for C of E schools, the guidance contains useful advice for all schools and academies regarding the prevention of HBT bullying, and many of the recommendations can be adapted to suit any school’s context.
The 10 recommendations for schools
Recommendation 1: An inclusive school vision
Schools should state their desire for inclusivity within their Christian ethos statements. This vision should include affording pupils a sense of dignity.
C of E schools are challenged to ensure that every child is “revered and respected as a member of a community where all are known and loved by God”.
Recommendation 2: Clear policies
Clear anti-bullying policies should be in place which prevent and tackle HBT behaviour and language. School leaders are challenged to send a clear message that HBT bullying will not be tolerated and that this behaviour cannot be justified using the Christian faith or the Bible.
Schools are told to ensure that pupils know how to report incidents and, when doing so, feel confident that their report will be taken seriously.
Recommendation 3: Recording incidents of HBT bullying
Every incident of HBT bullying should be taken seriously and recorded. Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic incidents should be recorded as separate categories, for example, recording an incident of homophobia as a homophobic incident, not as a HBT incident.
Recommendation 4: Monitoring anti-bullying strategies
Governors are challenged to take responsibility for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of their school’s anti-bullying strategies. Each governing board is instructed to have a nominated lead governor on safety and behaviour who leads the school in tackling HBT bullying.
Recommendation 5: Staff training
All staff should be trained to recognise and challenge bullying, including HBT language and behaviour, and be able to refer incidents to the appropriate referral path.
In addition, certain staff members should be trained to offer appropriate pastoral support.
Recommendation 6: Supporting pupils
Schools are challenged to ensure that appropriate pastoral support and information is available to all pupils, including LGBT pupils, and that all pupils can access this support when needed.
Recommendation 7: Collective worship
HBT bullying and language should be challenged during collective worship, as part of exploration of the importance of inclusivity and dignity and respect for all.
Recommendation 8: Recognising and protecting against HBT bullying
Pupils should be taught why some people bully others, and how to protect themselves and others from bullying, including cyber bullying.
Recommendation 9: Curriculum
With regards to the curriculum, the guidance makes the following recommendations:
- Self-esteem, gender identity and bullying, including HBT bullying, should be included in PSHE or citizenship programmes.
- Relationships and sex education (RSE) should take LGBT pupils into account.
- The curriculum should offer pupils the chance to learn about themselves and their bodies.
- In addition to the Church of England’s teaching on sexuality, a range of perspectives from other faiths and world views should be taught.
Recommendation 10: Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools (SIAMS)
Schools must understand the expectations outlined in the SIAMS Evaluation Schedule. Anti-bullying procedures and their outcomes (including HBT bullying) will be inspected as a performance indicator of an effective school.
Advice for EYFS settings and primary schools
For EYFS settings and primary schools, the guidance provides the following advice:
- Don’t focus your strategy for tackling HBT bullying on sexual practices – this “would serve to counter a primary school’s responsibility to safeguard the latency of childhood”.
- Provide opportunities within the curriculum to explore same-sex relationships, same-sex parenting and transgender issues as a fact in some people’s lives.
- Allow pupils to play and explore possibilities of who they might be without judgement – childhood has a “sacred space for creative self-imagining”.
- Avoid labelling pupils’ behaviour as irregular, abnormal or problematic simply because it does not conform to gender stereotypes.
- Promote a strong stance that HBT remarks and behaviour are unacceptable.
- Combat the use of HBT language, including the use of ‘gay’ as a derogatory term, such as “you’re so gay” or “your trainers are gay”.
Advice for secondary schools
For secondary schools, the guidance provides the following advice:
- Develop a culture of compassionate acceptance where pupils can “try on identities for size” without assumption or judgement.
- Explore prejudice and the harmful effects of labelling and stereotyping through PSHE.
- Ensure that pupils know the effect bullying can have on pupils who are trans*/transgender and those in the process of transition.
- Teach pupils to understand appropriate gender labels, and why calling someone a gender other than that which they choose to identify as is a form of bullying.
- Establish clear policies that challenge HBT bullying.
- Ensure that school counsellors, learning mentors and chaplains are trained to be able to support HBT and LGBT pupils – without appropriate training, well-meaning staff may cause unintentional damage.
- Provide care and support for pupils ‘coming out’ during their time at school, and for their siblings.
- Good RSE is “paramount” for pupils of all sexualities.
The Church of England Education Office (2017) ‘Valuing All God’s Children’