19 May, 2006 - Straight Talk: An Investigation of Attitudes and Experiences of Homophobic Bullying in Second-Level Schools'

Research undertaken by James Norman and Miriam Gavin
DCU School of Education Studies

Every school is required to have in place a policy which includes specific measures to deal with bullying behaviour.  This policy should be developed within the framework of an overall school Code of Behaviour and Discipline.  Such a code, properly devised and implemented, can be the most influential measure in countering bullying behaviour in schools.

The Department of Education and Science, in its Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour in Schools has provided schools with a framework to assist them in developing this policy. These guidelines were drawn up following consultation with representatives of school management, teachers and parents, and are sufficiently flexible to allow each school authority to adapt them to suit the particular needs of the school.  The Department will be keeping these Guidelines under review with a view to updating them where necessary.

Minister Hanafin said that work is being finalised in the Department at present to draw up templates to provide up-to-date information and guidance to schools in a number of policy areas. "These will incorporate a template policy on anti-bullying encompassing all forms of bullying, including homophobic bullying. These templates will be published on the Department's website shortly." Minister Hanafin initiated the project of drafting these templates and putting them on the web "I have long recognised and acknowledged the need to reduce the administrative burden on schools by supporting them in preparing policies to meet a range of legislative and regulatory requirements" said Minister Hanafin

All forms of bullying, including homophobic bullying, should be covered within a schools general policy on discipline. In this regard, the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is at present developing guidelines for schools on Codes of Behaviour, as provided for under section 23 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000.

The process involves the drawing up of a draft framework/discussion document for the guidelines, which will be used as a basis for consultations with the key stakeholders including school management, teachers, parents, and children. The Board has established an expert working group for this purpose. Work on the guidelines is at an advanced stage and is envisaged that implementation will commence in the next school year.

Background information

The Gender Equality Unit in the Department of Education and Science has commissioned research into a range of areas related to gender and education. 'Straight Talk: An Investigation of Attitudes and Experiences of Homophobic Bullying in Second-Level Schools' received funding as part of this process.  Such research is intended to add to our understanding and enable the development of more informed and effective policy based firmly in evidence and best practice.  This research report, which is being launched today, will be considered by Department officials in this context.

The promotion of equality is a vital element of the education agenda.  The education system has a major role to play in informing our young people on the wide range of equality issues which face our society today.  The Department of Education and Science has developed a multi-faceted strategy for addressing equality issues, including equality for gay men and women.  This response has taken place within the framework of the relevant legislation, such as the Education Act 1998, the Equal Status Acts, and the Universities Act, 1997.

At primary and post-primary level, a number of programmes and guidelines address diversity and equality from different perspectives, including sexual orientation. These include Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE), Civic Social and Political Education (CSPE), and Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE).  In-service training programmes have been provided to teachers to support the delivery of these programmes.

The education of students in both primary and second-level schools in relation to anti-bullying behaviour is a central part of the SPHE curriculum.