Lack of classroom support for gay pupils slammed

THE absence of teaching lesbian and gay issues in schools is a “national disgrace” with many isolated youngsters left suicidal over the lack of support, MSPs have heard.

There is a lack of equality training in Scottish schools. Picture: John Devlin
There is a lack of equality training in Scottish schools. Picture: John Devlin
There is a lack of equality training in Scottish schools. Picture: John Devlin

Most staff in schools have no confidence in addressing these issues and don’t receive any equality training, campaigners told Holyrood’s petitions committee today.

One teacher said many of his colleagues are still afraid of coming out as gay themselves because the issue is viewed as taboo in many of Scotland’s schools.

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Campaign group TIE (Time for Inclusive Education) today called for every school in Scotland to have at least one teacher trained in teaching lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues and want to see this enshrined in statute. Currently only 13 per cent of schools have this.

“This is a national disgrace and it is something that seriously should be tackled,” TIE organiser Jordan Daly told MSPs today.

“All children deserve to grow up in an environment free from prejudice and discrimination to be loved, valued and cared for, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“While the LGBT community has made progress there are serious issues still holding us back - the education system being one of the largest ones.”

About one in four LGBT pupils are attempting suicide as a result of homophobic bullying, according to a 2012 Stonewall survey, while 54 per cent are self harming, with about half (49 per cent) not achieving their full potential at school.

Teacher John Naples-Campbell told MSPs today said a lot of his colleagues don’t have the confidence to deal with LGBT issues.

“Questions that may be raised by young people, they don’t know how to tackle it and it is about training staff.

“Staff in schools don’t have equality training, it’s not something that schools do.”

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He added: “The only case I’ve heard people have been prevented to speak has been in faith schools.”

He told MSPs that college staff do get equality training which could provide a model for schools.

Mr Naples Campbell told MSPs he came out as gay when he embarked on a teaching career to act as a “role model.”

But he said: “There are a lot of gay teachers who don’t know if they can’t come out at school, they don’t know if they feel they should come out and a lot of that is fear. It’s fear, not maybe from the kids, but fear from the public, its fear from religious groups, its fear from repercussions from the head teacher.”

But the call came under attack in a letter from Rev David Robertson, moderator of the Free Church of Scotland who called for MSPs to close it.

He said: “The petitioner’s demand for statutory teaching of such topics without provision for parents and pupils who disagree, since they would evidently involve the promotion of a lifestyle which we view as contrary to God’s good plan for us, breaches the human rights of Bible-believing Christians in Scotland.”