LGBT issues should also be included in all teacher training courses, it has been urged.
A motion before the National Union of Teachers’ annual conference in Harrogate raised concerns about homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, which it said are “still strongly prevalent” in schools.
The motion, which was passed with large support from delegates, called for a commitment from the incoming government to help schools make it easier “to discuss ideas about sexuality and gender so that students and teachers are more confident to identify as LGBT and work in schools without fear of prejudice”.
It also set out a 10-point plan for the next government to address the issue, including appointing an education secretary that supports LGBT rights and “has a positive track record in supporting civil partnership and gay marriage” – a reference to current education secretary Nicky Morgan’s vote against the recent gay marriage legislation.
The 10 points also include including a “specific focus on equality and rights as part of all teacher training courses” and making “specified CPD time to develop an understanding and sensitive approach in dealing with issues of sexuality and gender for students and teachers mandatory for every school”.
They add: “Train teachers how to deal with homophobic, biphobic and transphobic incidents so that they know what to do when they arise, and make it mandatory that schools record such incidents so that they can act to prevent them.”
The points also include promoting LGBT History Month in February to every school and reminding school leaders of the need to have “explicit anti-homophobia, anti-biphobia and anti-transphobia policies” in their codes of conduct and embedded in school policies.
Teachers during the debate pointed to recent NUT research showing that only 10 per cent of LGBT teachers feel confident being “out” with students, while only 18 per cent feel that all staff in their school “consistently challenged” LGBT prejudice.
Supporting the motion, Michael Dance, a teacher from Redbridge, said: “It is possible to create an atmosphere of inclusion in our school, but it’s not always like that. In many schools, homophobia is still rife, leading to social exclusion, poor attendance, self-harm and even suicide.
“We need a clear vision of what kind of schools we want. We know we have to make these demands of government, local authorities, and schools so that every teacher is trained to tackle homophobia in schools.”
After the debate, Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said: “The NUT calls for all parties standing in the 2015 General Election to show their commitment to tackling the discrimination faced by both LGBT students and teachers in schools by following the 10-point action plan.
“This includes making it compulsory for all schools’ sex education policies to include a positive portrayal of same sex relationships, promoting LGBT History Month in all schools, and encouraging schools to develop a curriculum that is inclusive of LGBT issues.”