The UK government is to end the funding of projects aimed at reducing the bullying of LGBT+ children in English schools.
In another government U-turn, the decision contradicts an earlier promise to carry on investing in school initiatives to reduce homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying.
The news cast a shadow over the Department for Education’s endeavours to observe anti-bullying week.
Furthermore, it comes at a time when a Cabinet Office inquiry found that some of the Home Secretary Priti Patel’s own conduct ‘amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying.’ In the same week, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, agreed a £16bn rise in defence spending. In contrast, this dwarfs the £4 million which the government will save by scrapping the anti-bullying projects.
Ministers and charities all agree that those who identify as LGBT are at a higher risk of bullying and the long-term harmful effects it can cause.
The equalities charity Stonewall’s 2017 School Report showed that almost half of LGBT+ pupils suffered at the hands of bullies just for being who they were.
Such bullying can have a detrimental impact on educational achievements, absenteeism, emotional welfare, and mental health. Concerned parents claim the consequences have also led to their children self-harming and lashing out in class.
Equalities charity Stonewall’s 2017 School Report showed that almost half of LGBT+ pupils suffered at the hands of bullies just for being who they were.
Charities that have been funded by the government initiative and have delivered training to schools and colleges claim the work they do has had a huge and positive impact by reducing bullying levels.
The government says the anti-bullying grant fund, which offers materials and training to more than two thousand schools, was always going to finish earlier this year. This is despite it having been extended every year since it was launched in 2014.
Some of those who provide the services had expected another extension. Unions have been asking what alternative plans the government intends to give schools to support them in challenging LGBT+ bullying.
A report by the charity, Diversity Role Models, asked students and schools about their views on LGBT+ inclusion in education. Some of the findings are grim.
The report found that 42% of year 5 & 6’s and 54% of secondary students reported homophobic, biphobic and transphobic as being common at their school.
Almost a third of year 11’s said they’d seen someone being bullied because they were, or were thought to be, LGBT+. Only around a third of secondary school students thought that their schools were safe environments for LGBT+ pupils to come out.
The report found that 42% of year 5 & 6’s and 54% of secondary students reported homophobic, biphobic and transphobic as being common at their school
The end of government funding for the anti-bullying projects will add additional strain on schools. They’ve become used to receiving financial support for tackling these initiatives.
If they wish to continue with these kinds of anti-bullying projects, schools will now need to find the money from budgets, already stretched by years of underfunding.
[Header image: Lincoln Beddoe, Shutterstock ]