Schools tackle abuse
EVERY CHURCH of England school has received guidance on tackling homophobia.
‘Valuing All God’s Children: Guidance for Church of England Schools on Challenging Homophobic Bullying’ was published on Monday and launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury during a visit to a Church secondary school in Lewisham. The Archbishop also wrote about the guidelines in i, a popular version of The Independent newspaper.
Speaking in Lewisham, the Archbishop announced that the publication of the guidance fulfilled a promise he made last July when addressing the General Synod.
“Less than a year ago I set out my concerns about the terrible impact of homophobic bullying on the lives of young people and I made a public commitment to support our schools in eradicating homophobic stereotyping and bullying,” the Archbishop said.
“Since then an enormous amount of work has gone into producing this guidance so that commitment can be turned into action. I am extremely grateful to all those who have worked so hard to produce it and I particularly want to thank the schools and young people who have contributed.”
The guidance provides 10 key recommendations that should be adopted by schools in combating homophobic bullying as well as sample policies for primary and secondary schools.
It was produced by the Education Division of the Archbishops’ Council in consultation
with a number of schools with good existing practice.
The guidance says that its aim is to prevent pupils from having their self-worth diminished and their ability to achieve impeded by being bullied because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation.
“Church schools are places where boundaries should be strong, where any harmful words or actions are known to be unacceptable, and where there are clear strategies for recognising bullying and dealing with it in a framework of forgiveness and restorative justice,” the document states in paragraph 19.
“Children and young people in C of E schools should be able to grow freely and to be comfortable and confident within their own skins without fear or prejudice.”
The guidelines are clear that the Bible should never be used to justify homophobia.
They recommend that all incidents of homophobic bullying should be recorded and discussed. Teachers should be given training in how to deal with such incidents.
In his newspaper article the Archbishop was careful to say that the Church will not change the way it teaches pupils about sexuality and relationships and he recognised it would be a challenge to do this while still working to stop homophobic bullying.
He wrote: “Another challenge for Church schools - which must be faced head on – is the complexity of combating homophobic bullying while still teaching the traditional Anglican view of marriage especially in the light of the revolutionary change to its legal definition for the accommodation of same-sex couples.”
The Archbishop quoted with approval Professor Trevor Cooling’s metaphor of a ‘Bedouin tent of meeting’ as a model for schools. This model is used in the guidance to encourage schools to become spaces where different views can be shared and honoured. “The point is there is room for everyone in the tent, but there is no room for behaviour which causes harm to others,” the Archbishop wrote.
“When pupils are enabled to ‘respectfully disagree’, and to handle deeply held differences of belief and opinion within the framework for the school’s Christian values, they will be helped to develop essential qualities for living in our divided and contentious world, with all its moral and spiritual diversity,” the Archbishop claimed.