Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire in top five for tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools

Cambs county councillor Noel Kavanagh with Cambridgeshire pupils. Picture: CCC

Cambs county councillor Noel Kavanagh with Cambridgeshire pupils. Picture: CCC - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire have been ranked in the top five of local authorities for celebrating difference and tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools in a report released this week.

The Education Equality Index is a comprehensive exercise for local authorities up and down the country to showcase how well they are celebrating difference and supporting LGBT young people in the community.

Cambs has been ranked in the top five authorities in the index since it was first started in 2011 and has been a member of Stonewall’s Education Champions Programme since it started in 2008.

In this year’s report – which was released on Wednesday – the council was ranked fourth and commended for its collaboration with The Kite Trust, Cambs’ leading organisation working with LGBT young people, as well as its use of digital engagement.

Stonewall’s report said: “The council funded The Kite Trust to deliver targeted one-to-one mental health support to LGBT young people across the county. “This has been offered through Skype, by phone or face-to-face – meaning that LGBT young people in isolated or rural communities can access support.

“Virtual support groups for the parents or carers of gender-questioning children and young people are also offered, and service provision in response to an identified need among gender-questioning under 12s is being considered.”

They were also praised for developing practical guidance for schools to drive ‘consistent and impactful change’, including talking about issues in RE classes, and for flying the rainbow flag over council headquarters Shire Hall.

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Cambs and the other local authorities put themselves forward for inclusion into the index for all to see how they rate in addressing bullying and ensuring a safe learning environment for all young people in schools. There were 39 councils this year, and only the top 10 are declared in the report.

Councillor Simon Bywater, Cambs’ County Council’s children and young people committee chairman, said: “We are thrilled to have come in the top five of local authorities in the Stonewall Education Equality Index.

“Cambridgeshire County Council regards the prevention and tackling of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying to be an essential component of our work with children and young people.

“Cambridgeshire Race Equality and Diversity Service has continued to work with The Kite Trust to further develop our support for trans and gender-questioning young people and their families through increased training in schools.

“One of the new initiatives developed is an anti-bullying website providing school staff, families and young people with information and advice on tackling all types of bullying, including HBT bullying.”

Herts topped the list last year, and this time were ranked fifth out of the 39 authorities which took part.

Herts for Learning was also recognised in the report as the provider of school improvement services and has a contract with the council to deliver some of its statutory education functions.

The report said: “Herts for Learning/Hertfordshire County Council provide schools with an extensive range of training opportunities and online resources to prevent and tackle homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.

“The safeguarding of LGBT young people is a key focus in all of their LGBT, anti-bullying and anti-discrimination training.”

This year Herts schools have been offered a calendar of pupil workshops addressing equality and diversity issues. They also held a relationships and sexuality education summit, which included sessions on making RSE LGBT inclusive.

Councillor Terry Douris, HCC cabinet member for education, libraries and localism, said: “We are delighted that the excellent work carried out by Hertfordshire County Council and Herts for Learning has been recognised by Stonewall. Bullying in all its forms cannot be tolerated and we work really hard across the board to tackle bullying of all types. There is still much to achieve but we are very pleased to be recognised as one of the best local authorities for this kind of work in the country.”

To read the report in full go to Stonewall’s website .