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Nick Clegg - "Schools Must Help to Tackle Homophobic Bullying"

July 7, 2008 11:00 AM

Liberal Democrat Leader, Nick Clegg will today call on schools to be more effective in tackling homophobia in a speech to campaign group Stonewall.

He will say:

"How do we shape a society in which the bigotry and intolerance that fuel homophobia are isolated and driven out? Part of the solution is leadership.

"So I urge Stonewall and those who share its values to keep pressing decision-makers and those in positions of authority to hear the voices of gay people.

"And to speak for those gay people who feel inhibited from making their own voices heard, but whose rights are being abused."

Commenting on the role schools can play in tackling homophobia, he will say:

"I want to examine the unique role that schools can play in tackling homophobia and its consequences. They are a fundamental part of the daily life of millions of young people.

"Parents rightly expect that teachers will not just educate their children in reading, writing and science.

"But that they will care for pupils and protect their interests, so that they have the security and the confidence to make the best of their educational opportunities.

"Two thirds of young gay people have experienced homophobic bullying at school. And almost one third say that an adult in the school environment is responsible for homophobic incidents.

"Of course there are many teachers who do a great job in tackling discrimination against young gay people. And there are others who want to, but who feel conflicted about their role in doing so. That is the shameful legacy of the Conservatives' Section 28."

Commenting on how homophobia can be tackled better in the future, he will say:

"I want better monitoring of homophobic incidents in schools. The Government should be made to face up to the true extent of homophobia in schools.

"Schools' performance in recognising and tackling homophobia should be an assessed criterion in OFSTED school inspections. We need to turn the spotlight on every school, and expose prejudice where it exists.

"Having supportive, trained teachers to turn to should not be a matter of the luck of the draw for gay pupils. It should be available to every one of them.

"If we can ensure that the teaching environment meets homophobic bullying with the same degree of outrage as it does racist bullying, and if we can ensure that teachers are confident to give proper recognition and support to gay people. We can reshape our schools into more accepting, open, and supportive environments."

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