This post contains information for Ofsted Inspectors on exploring actions taken by the school to prevent homophobic bullying, training materials for inspectors on issues to do with LGBT pupils, and a case study from an Ofsted Good Practice Resource, “Creating an inclusive school community: Central Street Infant and Nursery School” which was published on 3 February 2012.
- Ofsted training materials for inspectors: Learning pack for Ofsted – inspecting provision & outcomes for LGBT pupils 2012 (word doc)
- See end of post for details of Stoke Newington School which successfully tackled homophobic bullying and a Good Practice resource: Tackling homophobic bullying to ensure lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) students feel safe. (Prince Henry’s Grammar School Specialist Language College)
- The Equality Act – more information here
- The Schools Out website offers guidance and training on how to tackle homophobia in school
- Twenty things a school can do to tackle homophobia (from Schools Out website)
- DfE information on equality: “The Department is committed to developing policies that raise attainment for all children and close the gap between those facing disadvantage and their peers. This section contains information about the actions the Department is taking to consider and address the needs of children and families that may be facing disadvantage related to their ethnicity, gender, disability status, gender identity, sexual orientation, or religion and beliefs.”
- Equality and Diversity resources to buy (posters etc)
Ofsted’s Briefing Notes to Inspectors: Download original document: Exploring the school’s actions to prevent homophobic bullying (pub. February 2012)
Inspectors should make sure that questions are age appropriate and asked in the right context.
With primary pupils inspectors might explore whether:
- pupils ever hear anyone use the word ‘gay’ when describing a thing or and whether they have been told by teachers that using the word ‘gay’ to mean something is rubbish is wrong, and why it is wrong
- pupils ever get picked on by other children for not behaving like a ‘typical girl’ or a ‘typical boy’
- pupils have had any lessons about different types of families (single parent, living with grandparents, having two mummies or two daddies)
With secondary pupils inspectors might explore the above, and whether:
- there is any homophobic bullying or name calling in school or on social media sites
- if a gay pupil was ‘out’ in school, they would feel safe from bullying
- they have learned about homophobic/transphobic bullying and ways to stop it happening in school
- they learn in school about different types of families – whether anyone is, or would be, teased about having same-sex parents
With senior leaders and when looking at documentary evidence inspectors might explore:
- whether they are aware of any instances of homophobic or transphobic language in school, if this is recorded and how it is acted upon
- whether the school’s equalities, bullying and safeguarding policies address gender identity and sexuality
- if training has been provided for staff in how to tackle homophobic/transphobic bullying including language
- whether the school has taken any action to ensure provision meets the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pupils for example in Sex and Relationships Education and other aspects of PSHE including providing age appropriate advice and guidance
- how the school seeks to support LGBT pupils and those from LGBT families
- whether policies promote safety for all groups of pupils regardless of sexuality or gender identity, including the use of language
- if there is specific mention of gender identity and sexuality in the equality, diversity, behaviour and bullying policies
- whether policies include reference to carers as well as parents
With governors, inspectors might explore:
- how the school meets its statutory duty to prevent all forms of prejudice based bullying including homophobia and transphobia?
- whether they are aware of any homophobic/transphobic bullying or language in school and whether are incidents followed up effectively
- how they ensure that sexuality and gender equality are covered within the school’s behaviour guidelines and policies
Good Practice Resource on Creating an inclusive school community:
Knowledge of different types of families ensures that all parents and carers regardless of their sexuality and backgrounds are welcomed into this inclusive school community. Provision in the Early Years Foundation Stage and in Key Stage 1 ensures that pupils whose parents and carers or family members are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT) feel included. The school has successfully tackled homophobic language, attitudes and behaviour.
A number of parents and carers of pupils at the school are in same-sex relationships. In Reception in particular around a quarter of the children have same-sex relationships in some part of their family. Senior leaders have created a school with an open-minded, accepting and inclusive atmosphere. The strong drive to promote and cater for all forms of diversity begins even before children take up their places at the school.
An example is the excellent work the school does with transgender pupils. Transgender pupils are taken seriously. Staff consult parents and carers fully and they take steps to ensure the pupils are able to thrive and achieve as well as they can. This involves a high level of tolerance, empathy and support. The school appreciates that a boy may prefer to be known as a girl and have a girl’s name and similarly a girl may have a girl’s name but wants to dress as and be a boy. Where this is the case, staff liaise closely with each other and with parents and take effective and successful steps to ensure the pupil is fully included in the activities and can be themselves. This individualised approach extends to after-school clubs and activities, where the school also sometimes supports transgender pupils from other schools.
Staff, parents and carers and pupils confirm that prejudice-based bullying and inappropriate comments about pupils’ families are exceptionally rare. Key to the school’s success in promoting positive behaviour and in preventing bullying, harassment and intimidation in school is the clear vision of the headteacher and deputy headteacher. However, they do not work in isolation. The involvement and commitment of the whole staff are further reasons for the school’s success. All staff, including lunchtime organisers and teaching assistants, have received information and training in how to deal with homophobic language and how to work positively with different families. The training combined with clear commitment from all adults ensures a consistency of approach and means that whichever adults are in school on a given day, the message of openness and tolerance is the same.
The importance of relationships with families
Another key to this success is the staff’s detailed knowledge of its community. This begins with home visits before a child starts at the school. During these visits, staff establish what parents and carers would like to be called and known as at the school. For example, some children prefix each of their parent’s names with ‘mum’ or ‘dad’, for example ‘mum Pat’ and ‘mum Dawn’. The school then passes this and other information to all staff, who consistently use the same terminology. This enables the team of staff who work in the office, for example, to welcome and include all parents and carers without making assumptions about pupils’ families.
As a result, same-sex families are treated as any other relationships; all parents and carers feel included in their children’s school; and terminology is used consistently across the school. Communication with families is strong, frequent and effective. The school ensures that all its communications convey respect and value to all types of family. For example, they send out ‘family’ questionnaires rather than ‘parent’ questionnaires, thus including all carers and encompassing families that may consist of two fathers and two mothers as well as heterosexual parents and carers.
The school uses a wide range of communication methods to ensure that parents and carers feel informed, are involved in tackling any inappropriate behaviour and feel a part of the school ethos. One response to a family questionnaire said, ‘We appreciate the effort that the school makes to create an open inclusive environment that is accepting of diversity. We feel confident that if any issues were to come up, for example homophobia, from anyone in the school, that it would be dealt with appropriately and sensitively and our daughter would be supported throughout the incident’.
Pupils’ behaviour in and around the school is excellent. This is because there is a comprehensive and consistently applied positive behaviour system in place which rewards tolerance, kindness, friendliness and a willingness to ‘have a try’. Pupils know that bullying and behaviours such as the use of homophobic language are wrong and have been shown the impact it can have on others’ feelings and achievement. One of the successful behavioural strategies in place is based on ‘I feel, I think, I choose’. This ensures that pupils continuously reflect on their feelings and are encouraged to make positive choices. Children in Reception have a ‘thinking spot’ to go to in order to reflect about how they are feeling and the actions they have chosen.
Embracing and celebrating difference
SEAL is at the heart of the curriculum and the school takes a lead role on this within the local authority. Diversity and inclusion are threaded through the curriculum. Staff have consulted same-sex parents and carers and involved Stonewall to identify resources that could be used effectively in the school. Books and resources include a range of different families. For example, teachers use a book in lessons and assemblies entitled Difference is amazing, let’s celebrate it.
The impact of this approach on pupils is significant because it ensures that same-sex relationships are normal and ‘no big deal’. Posters and pictures around the school, leaflets and images are selected to reflect the full range of families. This enables pupils to feel that the school and the curriculum is meaningful and applies to them. In turn, this helps them to achieve.
Staff are careful with their language in class to ensure that all pupils feel involved. They work hard to not make assumptions about families. When making mothers’ day cards for example, pupils can opt to make as many cards as they need and can send them to someone at home or someone else they are close to.
Equally, the staff are unafraid to tackle potentially controversial issues. For example, in one lesson about families a boy chose to tell the class that he had ‘no father’ because he was born from frozen sperm and had two mums. Another pupil in the same lesson from a heterosexual Christian family did not understand how this could happen and did not believe there could be a family without a father. The teacher abandoned the lesson and created a circle time and alternative lesson about different families to ensure that all pupils regardless of background were valued. The teacher then discussed the lesson with parents and carers at the end of the day.
The school: Central Street Infant and Nursery School is in Hebden Bridge. The proportion of pupils entitled to a free school meal is below average. Almost all pupils are White British. The school hosts the local authority’s autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) provision, which accommodates up to six pupils. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is broadly average, and the proportion of pupils with a statement of special educational need is well above average.
- To view other good practice examples, go to: www.goodpractice.ofsted.gov.uk
- You may also be interested in this case study of a school which tackled homophobic bullying.
A whole-school approach to tackling homophobic bullying and ingrained attitudes: Stoke Newington School and Sixth Form has a curriculum which meets the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students (LGBT) and extends all students’ understanding of diversity. Training for all staff, their commitment to equality and diversity and their approach to poor behaviour have successfully tackled homophobic language, attitudes and bullying. (Access full report here)
- Good practice resource – Tackling homophobic bullying to ensure lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) students feel safe: Prince Henry’s Grammar School Specialist Language College – published 09 Feb 2012 by Ofsted. ‘Some people are gay, get over it’ was the title of a highly successful campaign by Prince Henry’s Grammar School Specialist Language College to tackle homophobic bullying and ensure that lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) students felt safe and the curriculum met their needs.