Anti-Bullying Week, which took place between Monday 16th and Friday 20th November, exists to raise awareness of bullying experienced by children and young people, in schools and elsewhere, and to highlight ways of preventing and responding to it. However, the theme for 2020, ‘United Against Bullying’, took a rather ironic turn when it coincided with the announcement that government funding for projects that aim to tackle bullying of queer students in England’s schools has ended and will not be continued.
Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner and Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, shared his views on this funding cut with me. “The bullying of LGBT+ young people is widespread and damaging, leading to mental ill-health and self-harm. The cuts will compound these adverse consequences by denying LGBT+ victims the protection and support they need and deserve. Funding anti-bullying programmes also makes sense economically. It is cost-effective in the long run, saving the much greater cost of dealing with the harms caused by the bullying of LGBT+ youth.”
The bullying of LGBT+ young people is widespread and damaging, leading to mental ill-health and self-harm. The cuts will compound these adverse consequences by denying LGBT+ victims the protection and support they need and deserve.
Tatchell is among the 31 prominent British LGBTQIA+ individuals, organisations and allies who have signed an open letter addressed to Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson MP, and Minister for Women and Equalities, Elizabeth Truss MP, to challenge the Government’s decision to stop funding LGBTQ+ anti-bullying programmes in schools. Notable signatories include Natasha Devon MBE, Honey Ross, Emma Corrin, Georgie Henley, Kate Moross and Kenny Ethan Jones, among others, as well as the Chief Executive Directors and CEOs of Stonewall, akt, All Out and The Outside Project.
This letter, which has been coordinated by Voices4 London, a direct action group advocating for global LGBTIQA+ liberation, highlights the fact that the Conservative Party’s 2019 Manifesto committed to creating a learning environment where every child would be happy and fulfilled and to helping teachers to tackle bullying, including homophobic bullying. It also spotlights a report published in November 2020 by Diversity Role Models, which found that schools were consistently described as an unsafe environment for LGBT+ individuals or those with LGBT+ families (only 27% of secondary schools were described as safe for LGBT+ people to come out), and that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language and bullying was prevalent, with 54% of secondary school students reporting such language as common. This report’s very first recommendation for the Department for Education and the Government Equalities Office was to make funds available for staff training on confidently delivering effective LGBT+ education, which laid the foundation for the very funding that is now under threat.
of secondary schools were described as safe for LGBT+ people to come out
of secondary school students reported homophobic language as common
“With this letter, Voices4 London wanted to remind the Government of their promises to young LGBTQ+ people and urge them to reconsider this cut to funding”, said Dylan Goveas, Voices4 London Organiser and Campaign Manager. “The government’s own research proves that young queer people experience much higher rates of bullying compared to their peers and that this can result in a detrimental effect on their lives and wellbeing. They deserve to feel safe in school and it’s programmes like these, which give schools the resources to educate both staff and students, that can make all the difference.”
We know that many people who spout homophobic, biphobic or transphobic actions learn these from a young age, often at home and amongst their families. It’s the responsibility of the Government to ensure teachers are empowered to run programmes and teach lessons that counter these hateful views.
The letter concludes by requesting that the Government follow through on their promises to reduce homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, reinstate the funding in training programmes for schools, either by reinvesting in the current programme or by implementing long term plans to provide further support and training to schools, and that they set out a clear agenda on how the above will be accomplished.
Matt Horwood, Director of Communications and Campaigns at akt, an LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity working with young people aged 16 – 25 and another signatory of the open letter, said: “It’s absolutely crucial that future generations of lesbian, gay, bi and trans young people are supported and protected, and that we teach all other young people to treat their LGBT peers equally and with respect. We know that many people who spout homophobic, biphobic or transphobic actions learn these from a young age, often at home and amongst their families. It’s the responsibility of the Government to ensure teachers are empowered to run programmes and teach lessons that counter these hateful views.”
The open letter has been accompanied by a petition by Voices4 London, in collaboration with All Out. If you would like to show your support for the requests of the letter, please add your name to the petition, here.
To read the open letter in full, please access it via Voices4 London’s website, here.
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