CHURCH OF ENGLAND schools must adopt a "zero-tolerance approach"
to homophobic bullying, the Archbishop of Canterbury said on
Launching new guidance - Valuing All God's Children:
Guidance for Church of England schools on challenging homophobic
bullying - the Archbishop acknowledged the "complexity of
combating homophobic bullying while still teaching the traditional
Anglican view of marriage".
Writing in the i newspaper, he said: "Professor Trevor
Cooling's metaphor of a Bedouin 'tent of meeting', quoted in the
schools guidance, is an inspiring model for church schools. . . The
point is that there is room for everyone in the tent, but there is
no room for behaviours which cause harm to others."
The guidance was launched at Trinity, a Church of England
secondary school in Lewisham. During the morning, the Archbishop
discussed bullying with prefects at the school, who explained how
it is tackled by pupils and staff.
Ruby Tarrant, a 15-year-old pupil described being bullied
"horribly" after coming out in Year Eight.
"It was really hard for me to tell anyone because it was such a
sensitive issue," she said.
She added, however, that "the school has come a long way, and
has changed quite a lot." After confiding in a teacher, she was
given a mentor "who really helped me a lot with my confidence".
Assemblies and workshops have since been held to tackle homophobic
"One of the most important things is to talk openly and to not
see it as a sensitive thing that should not be talked about,
because that is really dangerous," she said.
The Archbishop wanted to know how pupils handled the fact that
people disagreed on issues such as sexuality.
"When I came out, a lot of people said 'you will go to hell' and
things like that," said Ruby. "Of course you should be able to
express your belief, but you have to make sure you are not
offending anyone. You can say 'I do not believe you should be
homosexual but I still respect you.'"
She then spoke about one of her best friends, who had helped her
to set up the Hate Homophobia In Schools Campaign. "He believes
that homosexuality is wrong, but he disagrees more with homophobia
because it is not about the person being gay but about the fact
that a person, regardless of sexuality, is being victimised."
After the round-table discussion, the Archbishop was asked
whether the Church had contributed to homophobia through its
teaching on relationships.
"No sense of something being right or wrong justifies another
wrong," he said. "So there is never a point at which - because you
say a particular form of behaviour. . . is wrong - that that
justifies you saying that it is OK to bully someone."
He added: "The Church of England's statement on this issue is
absolutely clear in its canons, and has been for centuries."
When asked why the issue of homophobic bullying was important to
him, he said: "Seeing it happen and being appalled by that." He had
seen it happen "in all sorts of different places, including at
school, seeing other people bullied."
The plan to produce the guidance was formulated last year. In
July the Archbishop told the General Synod: "The majority of the
population rightly detests homophobic behaviour or anything that
looks like it, and sometimes they look at us and see what they
don't like. With nearly a million children educated in our schools
we not only must demonstrate a profound commitment to stamp out
such stereotyping and bullying but we must also take action (
News, 5 July)."
In October last year, a short survey completed by 48 Church
schools suggested that about 30 per cent did not have guidance on
tackling homophobic bullying. A 2012 report by Stonewall suggested
that, while half of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils reported that
their schools said that homophobic bullying was wrong, this fell to
37 per cent of those in faith schools.
The new guidance was compiled by Katy Staples, schools adviser
in the Diocese of Bristol, with the help of other diocesan
advisers. It sets out ten recommendations for church schools,
including training staff in how to recognise and challenge
homophobic bullying, and making it clear that "there can be
no justification for this negative behaviour based on the Christian
faith or the Bible".
It notes that: "It can be, and has been, perceived that to hold
the view that 'God, through nature, has indicated that heterosexual
sexuality is the divinely ordained norm' is to be discriminatory
against same-sex orientated people.
"Yet thinking, believing or verbally expressing that belief is
not in itself discriminatory. Church of England schools need to
ensure that, whilst clearly working to be inclusive spaces where
homophobic language, actions and behaviours are unacceptable, those
pupils, parents and staff who believe that homosexual acts are
'less than God's ideal' are given the safe space to express those
views without being subject to another form of discrimination.
"It is also equally important to communicate clearly to pupils
and families that holding traditional faith perspectives on
sexuality is not counter to the school's aims and ethos, but that
expressing hatred, negativity and hostility to another is
On Monday, Luke Tryl, head of education at Stonewall, said:
"This is a hugely welcome step forward by the Church of England,
and an important recognition that lesbian, gay and bisexual people
are an important part of the fabric of modern Britain. We look
forward to working with church schools to help them implement the
new guidance and eradicate the blight of homophobic bullying from
all of our schools."
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of
Head Teachers said: "We welcome any move to stop homophobic
bullying in our schools. Many in church schools will welcome this
unambiguous guidance that will show all children are valued equally
in all schools."
The chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement,
the Revd Sharon Ferguson, said: "The document talks about the
acceptance of difference but it's very difficult to feel accepted,
when those around you believe you fall short of the ideal."
Read the guidance