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Education News

Homophobic bullying still rife in schools for pupils AND teachers, says charity founder

Gay teachers told to keep quiet about sexuality because 'lifestyle choice' does not fit with school ethos, he says

Gay teachers are being told to keep quiet about their sexuality because their "lifestyle choice" does not fit in with the values of their school, it is claimed today.

Shaun Dellenty, deputy head and founder of the education charity, Inclusion for All, says inequality and homophobic bullying is still rife in schools - for teachers as well as pupils.

Writing for the TES, he said that some gay teachers either have to pretend they are single or use the word "her" rather than "him" when referring to their partner because it is "not the appropriate thing to do".

"There are still some headteachers, especially in faith schools, who tell gay teachers that their 'lifestyle choice' is at odds with the school ethos," he added

"When I was a child I loved hearing about my teacher's weekends and holidays: it made them more human.  Never did I think about what they got up to in the bedroom and yet some people in schools unfortunately chose to define LGBT teachers by one asp[ect of their lives."

Cases which have emerged in recent weeks, Mr Dellenty told The Independent, included:

*a male teacher in the north who was told his partner would not be welcome at school functions.

*a deputy head who was told not to apply for the headship "because the parents wouldn't like it".

*a young Cornish lesbian teacher who wanted to come out because she was teaching pupils from a same sex family who was told it would "not be an appropriate thing to do".

Mr Dellenty, who is deputy head of Alfred Salter primary school in London, is writing a paper which he will publicise at the Festival of Education at London University's Institute of Education later this month which says: "A teacher's inability to come out means that a huge amount of emotional energy gets invested in hiding away aspects of some educators' identities instead of being employed to fulfil their potential as a professional.

"Shutting down aspects of your real personality, constantly playing your cards close to your chest, or simply lying and concealing parts of your life is exhausting.

"What's more, it is to the detriment of the children you are trying to teach."

He added: "I am often contacted by gay teachers and asked 'should I come out?'

"My heart says a huge 'yes': go and be an authentic role model to children, some of whom may desperately need one who is openly gay.

"My head, however, reminds me of the many teachers who are experiencing homophobia in schools and are essentially being told they can't enjoy the same freedoms that their colleagues take for granted  ...

"Worryingly, I also hear from enthusiastic trainee and newly qualified teachers who are prevented from undertaking work around homophobia and diverse families by serving school leadership teams.

"A headteacher who openly supports a gay teacher is sending out a clear message to all a school's stakeholders that every teacher is valued as an individual.  It also sends a message to the 10 per cent of students who may turn out to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered that gay people can be accepted, happy and successful,"

Mr Dellenty's comments come as research from Stonewall, the gay rights' pressure group, shows that 99 per cent of all lesbian, gay and bisexual children have heard the word "gay" being used as a term of abuse.

"Whole school teaching and learning around the appropriate use of the word 'gay' needs to take place in every school," he said. "It is not difficult to teach the varying word use of the word 'gay' and to then clarify and agree that the word is not used as a pejorative in schools.

"This is no different from teaching about racial slurs and teachers have the skills they need - they just need to feel supported by school leaders to go ahead with the work."