Wimbledon school becomes Stonewall Champion after training staff to tackle homophobic bullying


St Mary’s Catholic Primary School turned to the organisation for advice.


By Anthony Lewis-Binns

A primary school in Wimbledon is now a ‘Stonewall Champion’ after turning to the LGBT equality organisation for advice on how to tackle homophobic bullying.

St Mary’s Catholic Primary School on Russell Road, Wimbledon, got in touch with Stonewall after realising it was the best organisation to help train staff to understand issues around sexuality.

The most recent statistics, collated by Stonewall, show that over 75% of LGBT children suffer homophobic abuse in faith schools.

98% hear the phrase ‘gay’ used in a derogatory way, and seven in 10 hear the phrases ‘dyke’ and ‘queer’ frequently.

Despite these statistics, less than a quarter have been told that homophobic bullying is wrong.

St Mary’s head teacher Sarah Crouch said: “We want to give our staff the tools to know what to do should an incident of homophobic bullying occur.

“It is important that children know it is not OK to use the word gay in a derogatory way.”

She added: “In keeping with the ethos of our school and the teachings of the Catholic Church we are opposed to any kind of discrimination.”

St Mary’s is a Catholic school, and has ‘Gospel Values’ as an ethos, but Ms Crouch stressed this wasn’t about sexuality, and more about tackling bullying.

The training was for staff not children, and Stonewall agreed to tailor the training so as not to create a tension with religious beliefs.

However Antonia Tully, national coordinator of the Safe at School Campaign, which is affiliated with the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said: “Many parents will be very concerned that a gay rights organisation is considered to be an appropriate source of advice on how to deal with children using inappropriate language in the playground.”

She added: “If a primary school takes on Stonewall’s agenda, young children will be exposed to homosexual issues, which they are too young to understand properly.

“Parents expect a school to provide an education, not subject their children to gay propaganda.”

There was no response from Ms Tully when asked why homosexual issues are harder to grasp than heterosexual ones within the same age groups, although she made reference to any form of sex education being taught at school as being ‘kiddie porn’.

She also promotes a book entitled “You’re Teaching my Child WHAT?” on her website, in opposition to any sexual education in schools.

When asked what she thought of Ms Tully’s concerns, Ms Crouch said: “We worked with the Stonewall Education branch to give staff at the school appropriate training on how to deal with any incidents of homophobic bullying and how to challenge the use of homophobic language if they should occur.

“It is a requirement of OFSTED for all schools to tackle any incidents of homophobic language or bullying and to show evidence that staff had training in this area.”

She did not want to be drawn into a debate on whether working with Stonewall to combat bullying was evidence of ‘gay propaganda.’

Stonewall listed some of the comments various gay people got in schools, highlighting the importance of such training.

“The teachers join in on the joke.”

“I get called names all the time at school, especially poof and faggot. My stuff is always being ripped up or drawn on or stolen.”

“People call me ‘gay’ everyday, sometimes people kick me or push me, they shut me out of games during school gym and they steal my belongings.”

The organisation believes all schools should train their staff on how to tackle homophobic bullying because as well as preparing them for OFSTED inspections, it helps LGBT children reach their potential, empowers staff, and allows for a more tolerant, inclusive and happy environment.

Stonewall spokesman Andy Wasley believes successful roll-out of the scheme could help to reduce the higher levels of suicide among LGBT teenagers.

Young gay men are 30 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts, while young lesbians are six times more likely.

St Mary’s is adamant they did not ask Stonewall for help because of an incident where a child referred to someone’s shoes as ‘gay.’

Ms Crouch said: “There has not been any incident of a five-year old child calling another child’s shoes ‘gay.’”

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