MANCHESTER, February 4, 2007 –
High-profile homophobic bullying initiatives are failing to make a
significant impact in preventing homophobic bullying, according to the Queer
Youth Network, a national organisation by and for Lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgendered young people.
The group argues the very nature of
schools themselves need to be looked at in order to eradicate all forms of
bullying. Tackling homophobic bullying alone is creating a distraction from
dealing with a much larger problem.
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
An overwhelming majority concluded
that homophobic bullying was hardly ever an issue on its own, but it is
combined with other types of victimisation, such as someone’s appearance.
Activist, David Henry of the Queer
Youth Network said that 96% of those surveyed felt this was the case
“Despite all our best efforts,
there is only so much we can do without a big change in thinking,” he said,
accusing 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Outdated School System to Blame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.
To blame, the group suggests, is
the prehistoric tradition of the school hierarchy which works from the head
teacher down to the youngest, most vulnerable and voiceless pupils.
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
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, the group says.
Too much emphasis on educational
achievement means learning around crucial ‘life-skills’ is still being
missed at a great expense to all young people.
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.
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.
“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, Mr Henry argues.
On entry to secondary education,
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 the group says.
Social Centres – The Answer
Young people need to be given
ownership of their schools.
Queer Youth Network feels 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.
“Social centres work,” says Mr.
Henry. “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,” he felt.
“School as it exists today is
robbing young people of their right to develop their personalities,
strengths and beliefs.
“This means that 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’,” Mr Henry insisted.
Posted: 4 February 2007 at
20:30 (UK time)