Friday, November 26, 2010

Brody's Scribbles... UK Government Majors Against Homophobic Bullying in Schools

By Tim Trent (Dartmouth, England) NOV 26 | This week, the government published their white paper on education, called “The Importance of Teaching” which highlighted that homophobic bullying was on the rise and that schools must take it seriously.
I can't make a better summary than that. I've taken it unashamedly from The Lesbian & Gay Foundation today. It was a joy to see it come over my newsfeed. And then I looked at The Schools White Paper 2010. And here it is, in all its glory. And I ask my US friends:
How hard is that to set out in black and white?
How hard is it to implement?
And the answer is, not hard at all. It just takes the will to do it.
Let's have a look at some extracts from the white paper. I'm in section 3, Behaviour.
3.6 So we will:
●● Increase the authority of teachers to discipline pupils by strengthening their powers to search pupils, issue detentions and use force where necessary.
●● Support teachers to challenge behaviour by legislating to grant them anonymity when accused by pupils and speeding up investigations.
●● Strengthen head teachers’ authority to maintain discipline beyond the school gates and improve exclusion processes.
●● Expect head teachers to take a strong stand against bullying – particularly prejudice-based racist, sexist and homophobic bullying.
●● Focus Ofsted inspections more strongly on behaviour and safety, including bullying, as one of four key areas of inspection.
●● Change the current system of independent appeal panels for exclusions so that they take less time and ensure that pupils who have committed a serious offence cannot be re-instated.
●● Ensure that all children being educated in alternative provision get a full-time education.
●● Improve the quality of alternative provision by giving existing providers more autonomy and encouraging new providers – including new alternative provision Free Schools.
●● Pilot a new approach to permanent exclusions where schools have the power, money and responsibility to secure alternative provision for excluded pupils.
I've underlined and made the key section there bold.
Let's look further. It says:
We will support head teachers to take a strong stand against bullying
3.18 Parents and teachers want pupils to be able to learn in safety, but we know that bullying is still a significant problem. Unsurprisingly, pupils who are bullied are more likely to be disengaged from school and do substantially worse in their GCSEs than their classmates. So tackling bullying is an essential part of raising attainment.
3.19 Teachers, pupils and charities report that prejudice-based bullying in particular is on the increase. It is of course unacceptable for young people to be bullied because of their sexuality, yet this happens to two thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils. Ninety-eight per cent of young gay pupils hear the word ‘gay’ used as a form of abuse at school, and homophobic bullying is often directed at heterosexual pupils as well. Pupils with Special Educational Needs and disabilities are also more likely to be victims of bullying. Over a three-year period, 81 per cent of pupils with statements of SEN reported being bullied48, and bullying specifically relating to their special needs is increasing.
3.20 Schools should take incidents of prejudice-based bullying especially seriously. It is important that they educate children about the differences between different groups of people and create a culture of respect and understanding.
3.21 While we will reduce significantly the amount of central guidance given to schools overall, schools rightly look to us for support and guidance on dealing with bullying. Existing anti-bullying guidance is too long and fragmented, so we will rationalise and simplify this from nearly 500 pages to around 20 pages. This will help head teachers to develop an anti-bullying approach for the whole school
My underlining again. Look at it. This is simple stuff. It says that differences must be accepted. Schools may not support, either explicitly or implicitly, any bullying, especially of minorities.
This isn't just something that head teachers may put in a cupboard and forget about. We have a schools inspectorate, Ofsted, whose job is to inspect compliance.
It also has an example:
St. George’s School in Herfordshire takes homophobia extremely seriously.
St George’s is a multi-denominational Christian foundation school, educating pupils with diverse religious backgrounds. The school used materials and DVDs from Stonewall to train staff to tackle homophobia.
The school always presents anti-homophobic work in the Christian context of treating everyone with respect. Staff are encouraged to take a simple and consistent line of ‘we don’t treat people like that here’. Where issues of homosexuality arise in lessons, staff have been trained to be confident to manage and challenge inappropriate comments. Older students have also been key in putting forward the case against homophobia in Chapel and school assemblies.
As a result, the school has seen a near elimination of overt homophobia. The use of the word ‘gay’ as a derogatory term has almost disappeared.
Good teachers already do this. It is already working. And it comes from the top. David Cameron, Proime Minister, and Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister have signed this White Paper.
So there we have it, very clearly. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland recognises The Importance Of Teaching, and will stamp out any homophobic bullying that remains in our schools.
Are you listening, USA?


Desmond Rutherford said...

"Strengthen head teachers’ authority to maintain discipline beyond the school gates and improve exclusion processes."

I can see a case for the discipline to be maintained in relation to bullying, but it does concern me if such discipline includes other areas such as a curfew being instated, or cameras on school laptops which are taken home.

In my experience of teachers, which is certainly not everyone's, I just don't trust them all to not be bullies too,, most of them are fine, but not all.

My anti-authoritarian streak is showing.

Tim Trent said...

In the UK we have The Data Protection Act 1998 which will curb excessive zeal with data, cameras on school laptops etc. There is a commercial laptop tracking system that takes snaps via the webcam and reports back when activated, but legally the user (not a thief) must be informed that such a system is deployed (if it is).

The rest of the White Paper makes interesting reading.

Desmond Rutherford said...

Thanks for the clarification Tim. I still worry about the authoritarian controls in our societies that seem far too Orwellian to me for comfort.
Such authority might be seen as an avenue for indoctrination (and not just religious) rather than to aid education. It must be carefully implemented with caution, I feel.

Tim Trent said...

We're trying to get rid of Orwellian controls. We have just had the very socialist Labour Party in power for far too long. They introduced a new criminal offence for each day they were in power. They created such controls as we have never seen before.

Part of this White Paper is returning the country to the people.