In the organisation's national survey of young people from schools who had an anti-homophobic bullying policy 79% believed it had failed to make any difference to the level of homophobic bullying in their school, and actually 84% believed it was getting worse. An overwhelming majority concluded that homophobic bullying was hardly ever an issue on it's own, but it is combined with other types of victimisation, such as someone's appearance. 96% felt this was the case.
Activist, David Henry of the Queer Youth Network commented "Despite all our best efforts there is only so much we can do without a big change in thinking" he accused the British school system as being an "Inherently flawed fossil directly responsible for rising rates of suicide in young men, record number of children on anti-depressant drugs, spiralling anti-social behaviour in particular 'youth on youth' crime including bullying activities'.
Outdated School System to Blame
The Queer Youth Network now believes that the antiquated British school system is the main reason behind most forms of bullying. The prehistoric tradition of the school hierarchy works from the headteacher, the top down, to the youngest, most vulnerable and voiceless pupils, as young people then create their own hierarchy, with the 'Don's, or Cocks' of the class, year and entire school being the ringleaders of the school bully network. This is even promoted and supported in some private and grammar schools by use of the 'head boy' and house systems. Large class sizes and lack of attention from teaching staff means a great deal of bullying goes unnoticed, or staff feel poorly equipped to deal with it themselves. Too much emphasis on educational achievement means learning around crucial 'life-skills' is still being missed at a great expense to all young people. Self-esteem and knowledge around sexual health, mental health, drugs and alcohol, relationships and responsibilities. Psychologists agree Friendship at school plays an important role in both the problem and solution to of bullying. Schools should be places for young people to plan their own future in all senses of the word. "They should encourage a culture of friendship and participation with all areas of the community."
The random nature of assigning pupils to 'form groups' causes isolation and a lack of opportunity to mix with and make friends with those they have more common with. David Henry argues "The classic scenario of 'picking players' for a game of football in Physical Education class, with the 'loners', 'fatties', 'puffs/girly boys' being picked last or not having someone to sit next to from class to class or at lunchtime causes tremendous damage to young people's emotional wellbeing and self-esteem as well as their academic achievements."
On entry to high school schools should carry out survey of each new pupil and match them up to form groups who share their nature, common interests and abilities. Backed up with more relationship education classes exploring friendship coupled with a healthy diet of informal, and non-competitive social opportunities and spaces within the school, pupils will be better equipped socially to deal with teen angst together, prevent the inadvertent creation of ''loners' and create a generation of happy, sociable, more accepting young people. Friendlier, more upbeat schools means more gay-friendly schools that are more likely to beat homophobic bullying and bullying as a whole.
Social Centres - The Answer
Young People need to be given ownership of their schools. We feel a network of autonomous, youth-led 'Social Centres' within schools can improve the quality of life and education for all pupils. There is already a positive example of many community-based social centres now in operation around the country and the world. David Henry commented "Social centres work ,schools are an ideal setting and every school must be held accountable for creating them as venues for all students which can also serve as safe but integrated facilities such as a cafe, meeting rooms, office space, and a platform for hosting social/support groups and societies such as Gay Youth Groups, Parent Groups, Drug/Alcohol support groups, relationship/counselling groups as well as a base for community involvement, and social education activities. At least 20% of the time young people spend at school should be within the context of such a Social Centre alongside existing formal learning".
"School as it exists today is robbing young people of their right to develop their personalities, strengths and beliefs. Which means their understanding of the world is late developing, their respect for their environment, other people of different creeds, classes, sexual orientations, races and cultures is suffering. Bullying is getting worse, the environment is suffering, and anti-social behaviour and violent crime is allowed to flourish as a product of many young people's only outlet. We must radically overhaul the concept of 'school'." ENDS
For more details contact David Henry , Communications Officer, the Queer Youth Network, The UK Alliance of LGBT Young People (formerly known as the Queer Youth Alliance) firstname.lastname@example.org PO BOX 89, MANCHESTER, M1 3LG