Anti-Bullying week & Transgender Awareness week.

This year, Anti-Bullying week coincides with Transgender Awareness week.

The theme for this year’s Anti-Bullying week is ‘All Different, All Equal’. It is a celebration of diversity, and encourages teachers and pupils to create safe environments that allow everyone to be themselves. This is vital for the mental health and well-being of all our children and should be a basic minimum standard. Schools should be a safe space for everyone.

Sadly though, schools are not always safe or welcoming environments for lesbian, gay, bi and transgender (trans) pupils.

Earlier this year, Stonewall and the University of Cambridge carried out a survey of more than 3,700 LGBT children to find out what it’s like to be a lesbian, gay, bi or trans pupil in our schools today.

The UK prides itself on being a tolerant and open society, and on teaching our children values of respect and inclusivity. But despite this, Stonewall found that discrimination and suffering are commonplace in the lives of many LGBT pupils.

Bullying in school has a serious impact on the well-being, attainment and aspirations of children. Stonewall’s report makes for difficult reading. Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is widespread in schools. Nearly half (45%) of LGBT pupils report being bullied for being LGBT at school, including 64% for trans pupils. More than four in five trans pupils have self-harmed. For lesbian, gay and bi pupils the figure is three in five.

Even more worryingly, one in five lesbian, gay and bi pupils have attempted to take their own lives. For young trans pupils it is more than two in five (45%). That tragically high figure should concern us all.

LGBT rights are human rights. Stonewall’s report shows that there is still a long way to go.

Despite some progress in recent years, homophobic slurs are still routinely heard in our schools. 'Gay' is often used as an insult, and phrases such as 'that's so gay' are routinely heard in school by most LGBT pupils.

Anti-Bullying Week and Trans Awareness Week provide an opportunity for all schools to take a stand and say enough is enough.

I have fought long and hard for Relationships Education to be taught in all primary schools and for Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in all secondary schools. I am delighted that, finally, both will be made compulsory under the Children and Social Work Act 2017. I am clear that the updated guidance must be inclusive of LGBT children. Seven out of ten parents and the majority of leading children’s rights groups and charities have backed its inclusion.

We have come a long way. There is greater tolerance and equality in our society today than ever before, but Stonewall’s report shows that there is still much more to do in our schools for LGBT pupils. If we work together, with our schools and with our communities, we can create an environment where every child has the chance to feel happy and supported.

Matthew Trueman