Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia like any form of discrimination, should be tackled though a whole school approach. Schools should provide a safe environment for all pupils regardless of sexual orientation.
Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) and Citizenship should give children and young people the opportunity to discuss diversity and difference, and RSE sessions should allow young people to discuss different types of relationships and explore their attitudes. Government SRE Guidance (DfEE 2000) clearly states that "teachers should be able to deal honestly and sensitively with sexual orientation, answer appropriate questions and offer support."
Proposed new guidance on RSE states that "the Department [for Education] recommends that it [LGBT specific content] is integral throughout the programmes of study. As with all RSE teaching, schools should ensure that their teaching is sensitive, age-appropriate and delivered with reference to the law. With all RSE teaching, schools should ensure that their teaching is sensitive and age-appropriate.
It is a requirement of the Equality Act 2010 that the curriculum is taught in an inclusive way that does not discriminate. An increasing number of schools are teaching about LGBT issues (Stonewall, 2017). However, the poor mental health of LGBT people remains alarmingly high:
- Nearly half of lesbian, gay, bi and trans pupils (45 per cent) – are bullied for being LGBT at school. This compares with 65 per cent in 2007 (Stonewall, 2017) 5
- Nearly one in ten trans pupils (nine per cent) are subjected to death threats at school (Stonewall, 2017)
- One in eight LGBT people aged 18-24 (13 per cent) said they’ve attempted to take their own life in the last year (Stonewall / YouGov 2018)
LGBT inclusion in RSE helps tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. It does not encourage any particular lifestyle. In primary school, when learning about families and ‘how they care for us’, children learn about the diverse range of families, so it is easy to include families with same-sex parents. Challenging gender stereotypes is important throughout primary and secondary school, and contributes to tackling sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools and in society.
There are lots of resources that schools can choose from to ensure their teaching about relationships is inclusive and clear about equality.
Staff should also be supported to explore their own attitudes and training needs to ensure they are able to challenge homophobic behaviour and language both in and outside the classroom. The Sex Education Forum has developed a training course on LGBT inclusive RSE (one for primary and one for secondary level), which includes a free e-learning training programme that can be cascaded to all school staff.