Tackling Homophobia in Schools.

This post is a way of helping to publicise the excellent materials that are produced by Stonewall to help school tackle homophobia.  The website resources are superb: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_for_all/default.asp I’m also keen to seek out advice from others who have already been down this road with some success.

As these graphics from a Stonewall leaflet show, homophobia in schools is a very serious issue.  But there are some simple steps schools can take. (Download the pdf here: Secondary cornerstone )

The ten point plan seems like an excellent path to follow:

A Stonewall leaflet. The five step plan is clear and simple.
A Stonewall leaflet. The ten step plan is clear and simple.

And the second page:

The  Stonewall plan for tackling homophobia
The Stonewall plan for tackling homophobia

At KEGS, we are planning to launch a campaign, primarily focusing on eliminating the pejorative use of ‘Gay’. This is one of Stonewall’s campaigns and they have excellent resources. We’ll be getting students to help plan and deliver the content and, in due course, will be providing information and guidance to staff and parents. It’s a subtle area. Unlike campaigns to tackle racism where certain racist terms are clearly unacceptable and easily identified, using ‘gay’ appropriately is more difficult. It’s really important to give the message that the term ‘gay’ is not taboo. In fact, used properly, it’s a term we should embrace.   The challenge is to stop people using ‘gay’ in the context of homophobic bullying, directly or indirectly.

At KEGS, we have a good record of being a tolerant, happy schools for LGBT staff and students. However, we can’t be complacent and we know there are issues with types of ‘banter’ that are simply unacceptable.  I also know from my own Year 8 SRE lessons profiled in this post, that students are increasingly likely to use the secret questions box to ask about the experiences of gay people, more and more often asking in a way that suggests that they are referring to themselves.  Thanks to Stonewall, we’ve got some good resources to help take this further.

The workplace One is Gay campaign.
The workplace One is Gay campaign.

I’ve turned the workplace ‘One is Gay’ poster campaign into a looping powerpoint that I will use in assembly to launch this initiative after half-term. You can download it here:

Some People Are Gay

These images, spanning a good cross-section of job-types, make a very powerful point.  It’s perfectly normal to be gay; lots of different types of people are gay; there are likely to be gay people in every situation.  I will also be painting a picture of the normality of people being gay in my life; if you have gay friends, gay members of your family and work with gay people, it’s just a fact of life.  Most prejudice is based on ignorance and that is my place to start.  The Stonewall message plays on this: homophobia is so deeply uncool in this day and age; as well as harming others, it’s actually embarrassing to say things are ‘gay’ if they’re not; it’s basically the badge of ignorance – and who wants that? This is the line we will take – but backed with appropriate sanctions. We’re not just asking politely; we are insisting.

Recent events in Uganda, Nigeria and Russia, where laws have been passed to strengthen prejudice against LGBT people in society and in law, provide a good backdrop for taking a stance against homophobia now, giving it added relevance.  It’s clear that the persistent injustice and prejudice is all around us and schools are the best places to sow the seeds of change. That is another line I will take. Society has taken strides to tackle racism and sexism; those battles haven’t been won but homophobia is still rife across the world and that needs to change.

If you have a strong student-led process in your school, please let me know so I can share ideas with my student leaders.  It’s not easy to stand forward as the champions of an anti-homophobia campaign in a school so any ideas you have from experience, please share.

UPDATE JUNE: I was thrilled to see this in my son’s school. They’re further down this road than we are which is great.


See also: Tackling Homophobia: RE GCSE – not just a matter of conscience


  1. We too are looking at this subject and have found an anti-bullying contract signed by all staff and students raises awareness and starts the dialogue. Within the contact it explicitly states that there is zero tolerance to homophobic language including the use of the word ‘Gay’. Student leaders then use this as a starting point to introduce in assemblies. Can email you copies if you would like.


  2. Hi Tom – we are quite a long way down this road at my school, having started out a couple of years ago with a similar agenda to yours. Stonewall wrote us up as a case study school here: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_for_all/quick_links/school_champions/secondary_schools/8662.asp
    This has been student led from the start and I’d be happy to put you in touch with the Equalities Team who lead on this project. More recently they’ve launched the “Equalistar Awards” where students can nominate teachers who have promoted diversity or equality in lessons or who have active challenged homophobia (read more: http://www.chewvalleyschool.co.uk/News/Introducing-the-Equalistar-Awards/)
    Let me know if you’d like to pursue the link – I know the students would be only too happy.


  3. We had a gay student who was brave enough to deliver an assembly,his friends helped him, the staff gave him a lot of help in setting it up. It had a huge impact, but it is already wearing off. We have also run campaigns in the past based on the work of angry man asking students to only call each other by their preferred name.
    I think it is also important to talk about privacy, our society seems to think it is okay to discuss someone’s sexuality to a much greater extent if they are gay than if they are heterosexual. When surely the only acceptable approach would be to mind our own business unless it is directly relevant to us, which in most cases it isn’t.


  4. We have a student led LGBT Group one of only two that I know of in the over 40 schools in Derbyshire. Happy to share details.
    Teresa Roche


  5. I have worked with dozens of schools over the past few years delivering assemblies and PSHE lessons. Sometimes schools find having an external speaker can be useful. I bring a lot of my own story to the sessions, my own experiences of homophobia in school. Feedback from the students is always excellent. You can find out more details on my website, I am always happy to help support this work.


  6. We have been Stonewall school champions for two years now and the impact has been incredible. We have a student led Equalities team who run campaigns in school, raise awareness and monitor our equality credentials. They lead assemblies and run whole school events and work closely with Stonewall, speaking at their Education for all conference last year. As a result of their work and the acceptance of our teachers and support staff we have a genuine zero tolerance towards homophobia in all it’s forms which means that students are able to be open about their sexual orientation and are able to thrive. We introduced Equalistar awards to celebrate staff who stand up for equality actively. They are nominated by students. So proud of the work we have done! The students are now reaching out to other schools locally to encourage them to take a similar direct approach to talking homophobia. Check out their FB page… https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chew-Valley-School-Equalities-Group/567359493290065


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