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Putting the case to the Lords

July 25, 2006 11:00 PM

Baroness Walmsley (Liberal Democrat Education and Children spokesperson in the House of Lords) today presented the case for the amendment tackling homophobic bullying to the Education and Inspections Bill. Sadly, lacking the cross-party support needed, it fell without a vote.

Baroness Walmsley said, 'The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 237B concerns the well-being of homosexual pupils. It is a sad fact that homophobic bullying causes permanent damage. It affects children and young people from all backgrounds, regardless of their actual sexual orientation, and blights the schools and colleges where it takes place. It is not a small problem. One DfES survey in 2002, "Bullying-don't suffer in silence", found that 82 per cent of secondary school teachers said they were aware of verbal homophobic bullying and 26 per cent were aware of physical homophobic bullying. However, only 6 per cent of schools had anti-bullying policies that dealt specifically with homophobic bullying.

Baroness Walmsley continued, 'Homophobic bullying will be most successfully challenged where there is leadership from the very top. This starts with central Government legislation. The repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 has been a highly important step, but to impose, as this proposed new clause does, a specific duty on governors and head teachers to safeguard the well-being of gay and lesbian pupils would send an important and welcome signal to all schools. The DfES has made some welcome forward steps, especially with the publication of the document, Stand Up For Us-challenging homophobia in schools. But no document, however well conceived, is a substitute for face-to-face in-service training and we need a lot more of that.'

'You cannot help your race, your colour, your disability or your sexual orientation. If legislation is required for those other factors that are a part of the person, then, in exactly the same way, we need this new clause in the Bill to ensure that, right from the start, as attitudes develop among young people, homophobia and homophobic bullying are just as unacceptable. I beg to move.'

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