Some of the most effective ways to reduce homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying and tackle the impact it has on students have been revealed.
The research, commissioned by the Government Equalities Office and the Department for Education, is the first stage of an on-going project to help schools tackle this kind of bullying.
A £2 million fund has now been launched to fund innovative projects to tackle HBT bullying.
The study, carried out by NatCen Social Research, is based on surveys, in-depth interviews with teachers and education providers, and school case studies. It lists four types of approaches used by schools.
Preventative and proactive.
Interactive, discursive teaching.
A focus on whole-school life.
Reactive and supportive.
It finds that key ingredients to successful strategies include a whole-school approach with clear anti-bullying policies that are applied consistently, as well as ensuring that victims are supported and perpetrators understand the consequences of the bullying.
The research highlights that giving staff the confidence to tackle lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues is important, including training for teachers and other school staff.
It adds: “More and better work to tackle homophobic bullying was happening in schools where staff felt confident that government and school policies supported the work they were doing.”
However, the research warns that there is much less work taking place to tackle transphobic bullying and that no work was identified specifically on biphobia.
The study also stresses that it is possible to effectively undertake this type of work in culturally and religiously diverse schools. It says making links to other types of prejudice, such as racism or religious intolerance can work well. The report adds: “This was the case if the work was part of a wider school ethos and policies that included respect for others, for equality and diversity and for fairness and justice.”
Using the whole curriculum to tackle prejudice is also better than running standalone teaching on this type of bullying specifically, the report adds.
Teaching relevant LGBT issues in lessons “in a way that young people can understand” is emphasised in the research, including relevant training for staff on sexual orientation and gender identity. It recommends tackling transphobic bullying separately to homophobic bullying to avoid confusing the different issues.
Factors that were thought to help make the teaching of this issue successful include using topical or social issues in lessons, smaller groups of pupils, and a focus on the “range of harmful effects” and not just the most extreme cases.
The report adds: “Good teaching to address HBT bullying happened where staff were knowledgeable about LGBT issues and/or had received training. This meant that they felt comfortable and confident to teach about HBT bullying, and the wider issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, that it often raised.”
3, School life
An annual assessment of bullying within a school, including a focus on HBT bullying, is recommended in the report, as well as a “positive social environment”.
This includes creating a visually LGBT-friendly school by using images of LGBT people or having an equalities noticeboard. Using LGBT role models was also cited as effective.
Elsewhere, supporting staff and pupils to learn how to consistently challenge HBT bullying, especially the use of HBT language, can make a difference, the research says.
The report adds: “We found that schools didn’t always need to have specific initiatives to tackle HBT bullying, provided that there was active inclusion of consideration of issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity as part of wider initiatives, such as assessment of levels of bullying, promoting equality and diversity, addressing derogatory language.”
4, Reactive approaches
The research finds that the reporting and recording of HBT bullying works better when there are:
Clear definitions of bullying.
Clear policies for reporting and recording bullying.
Some form of action in all cases.
Consistency in the response.
Elsewhere, having sanctions for HBT bullying that address the different possible causes was considered more effective. For example, where bullying “arose from ignorance or prejudices”, it was considered important to include an educational element in the punishment. In repeated or more severe cases, it was prudent to investigate if there are safeguarding issues for pupils who have bullied.
For victims of bullying, the research emphasises allowing the pupil to “take the lead” about how the problem can best be tackled. Signposting pupils to support via local LGBT youth groups or other resources is also vital.
The government has now launched the £2 million Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic Challenge Fund to help develop innovative approaches to tackling HBT bullying in schools. The funding is being offered to charitable and not-for-profit organisations and applications are now open.
Education secretary Nicky Morgan said: “Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying affects everyone, not just young people who may identify as LGBT. Any young person who is different can find themselves subjected to distressing and intimidating homophobic abuse.”
Information about the fund will be available on the Contracts Finder website at https://online.contractsfinder.businesslink.gov.uk/