Axing anti-bulling funding for LGBTQIA+ school students? Screams Tory.

On November 19th, it was announced that the Tory government had axed funding for school LGBTQIA+ bullying projects. This came as a severe blow for the queer community, specifically those at school who identify as LGBTQIA+. The government has previously funded several programmes since 2014, all of which aim to train school staff about suitable procedures to deal with bullying against LGBTQIA+ students.

Homophobic bullying (amongst other forms of bullying) can greatly damage the victim’s mental health, which can continue to affect them in later life. Additionally, it is common for bullied students to have higher school absence levels and lower educational attainment. In a school report conducted by Stonewall in 2017, it was found that 45% of LGBTQIA+ and 64% of transgender pupils were bullied as a result of their identity. This is a staggeringly high percentage and raises the question as to why the Government has decided to halt funding towards anti-LGBTQIA+ bullying projects. This typically includes teacher training on how to deal with bullying towards LGBTQIA+ students, how to identify homophobic bullying, and how to teach students about its discriminatory nature. Ministers have admitted that LGBTQIA+ students do face a higher risk of bullying, although the funding was unfortunately always due to end. The government has previously funded multiple projects aiding this cause, equating to £4m. Yet, whilst the anti-bullying grant fund was provided to 2,250 schools across the country, it was not compulsory and schools had to choose to opt-in for training and materials. Of course, many did not.

Bullying against LGBTQIA+ individuals may be more prevalent today in schools due to Section 28 of The Local Government Act. This was enacted during Margaret Thatcher's Government and lasted from 1988 until 2003. The law aimed to ‘prohibit the promotion of homosexuality.' It prevented the teaching of homosexuality, families that included LGBTQIA+ couples, or non-heteronormative culture and relationships. The misguided intention of this law was to secure the wellbeing of children by teaching them that it wasn’t correct for a homosexual family to be placed above the traditional heterosexual family paradigm. However, it in-fact massively neglected the wellbeing of LGBTQIA+ students and left many exposed to painful bullying and its lasting effects on self-esteem and mental health. With this in mind, it seems shocking that we have come full circle, to where LGBTQIA+ students are once again not being protected. They are being disregarded despite their pressing, unique, and nuanced needs.

Today, although British attitudes towards the LGBTQIA+ community have largely progressed, it is likely that Section 28 has negatively impacted many LGBTQIA+ students’ experiences at school. The damaging marks this law has left means that teachers are still not as informed or prepared as they could have otherwise been to eradicate homophobic bullying in school. Without funding, this issue may not be resolved. These anti-bullying programmes, which help LGBTQIA+ school children, are essential for LGBTQIA+ social progress to continue. The Government cutting funding for these projects leaves schools without the finances, materials, or support which ensures that teachers are comprehensively trained to combat homophobic bullying.

Hannah Collier

Legal news writer

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