Nearly half of LGBT+ pupils feel unsafe at school in England, study finds

LONDON: Almost half of LGBT+ pupils in England do not feel safe at school, with more than a third saying homophobic and transphobic bullying is common, a study showed on Wednesday, raising concerns about the possible impact on students’ mental health.

Gay, bisexual and transgender secondary school students were twice as likely (42%) to report such bullying compared to non-LGBT+ pupils, found the survey of more than 6,000 students at 90 schools by LGBT+ education charity Diversity Role Models (DRM).

The research found 46% of the LGBT+ pupils did not feel safe at their schools.

“Just let that sink in. The place you are relying upon to prepare you for the world… is not currently a safe space if you are LGBT+,” lesbian television presenter Clare Balding said in a foreword to the report.

“There have been tragic consequences where young people have taken their own lives because they didn’t know how to escape the constant feeling of rejection,” said Balding, a patron of the charity.

When asked if they had heard homophobic language at school, 54% of all the pupils surveyed said they had done compared to 26% of the 2,800 teachers who were also polled in the research.

Secondary schools in England have been required to teach about sexual orientation and gender identity since the new school year started in September, while primary schools have to teach about LGBT+ families.

In 2019, parents staged protests against LGBT+ lessons at a school in a predominantly Muslim area of Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city.

Students at schools that taught about LGBT+ issues reported lower levels of homophobic and transphobic bullying, the DRM report found.

“Not being able to be yourself does have significant impacts on mental health and mental wellbeing,” Adam McCann, chief executive of DRM, which sends LGBT+ speakers into schools, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

U.S. LGBT+ pupils who said they attended “LGBTQ-affirming” schools reported attempting suicide at lower rates, according to a 2020 study by U.S. suicide prevention charity The Trevor Project.

That research found that of more than 40,000 LGBT+ 13-24 year-olds, 11% of pupils at “LGBTQ-affirming” schools said they had tried to kill themselves in the previous year, compared to 20% of pupils at schools that were not “LGBTQ-affirming”.


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Rachel Savage | Thomson Reuters Foundation

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