Most people hate school because they have to go and learn. I hated it because I had to be there.”

Michael (not his real name) became accustomed to name-calling. “‘Gay boy’ and ‘faggot’, anything along those lines,” he says.

He spent his secondary school days being taunted and teased because of his sexuality. Michael came out at 15 but the taunting started three years before that and continued until he left school at 16 to go to college.

Now 17, Michael claims he reported the bullying at school but nothing was done about it. He feels it wasn’t taken as seriously as it would have been had he been taunted for his colour or religion.

“Nobody cared if somebody was picked on because of sexuality,” he says.

This week a British Social Attitudes survey found that public attitudes to homosexuality have become more liberal over the past quarter of a century. According to the report, the number of people who thought homosexual acts were ‘always’ or ‘mostly’ wrong has fallen from 62 per cent, when the survey was first carried out in 1983, to 36 per cent.

Yet homophobic bullying continues to be a problem, particularly in schools. The issue is being addressed by Stonewall, the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity, which next month is launching a DVD to be distributed to secondary schools.

Stonewall’s Film for Schools, called FIT, is an adaptation of its touring play for schools. It aims to challenge pupils’ homophobic attitudes and will give teachers the resources they need.

The Teachers Report, published by Stonewall last year, shows nine out of ten teachers have never received any training on how to tackle homophobic bullying in their schools.

In the report, secondary school teachers say that homophobic bullying is the second-most frequent form of bullying after bullying because of weight, and is three times more prevalent than bullying due to religion or ethnicity.

Ninety-five per cent of secondary school teachers and three-quarters of primary school teachers report hearing the phrases ‘you’re so gay’ or ‘that’s so gay’ in schools, while four-in-five secondary school teachers and two-in-five primary school teachers report hearing other insulting homophobic remarks.

Yet more than a quarter of secondary school staff would not feel confident in supporting a pupil who decided to come out to them as lesbian, gay or bisexual, and two-in-five wouldn’t feel confident in providing pupils with information, advice and guidance on lesbian and gay issues.

Half of secondary school teachers who are aware of homophobic bullying in their schools say the vast majority of incidents go unreported.

Jonathan Cookson, community development worker for Yorkshire MESMAC, says: “I think homophobic bullying is slowly becoming more unacceptable but there is still a long way to go. It is still a real threat to young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people’s lives, education, career, health, family life and future.

“It causes some to live double lives, suffer in silence, put themselves at risk and not seek out the support they need. Through my work with young people, I see it steadily rising up the agenda in schools, but progress is slow due to a lack of resources, knowledge and time.

“Over the past few years I have supported young people who have consistently suffered from homophobic bullying in school. I have seen some schools and staff act quickly and appropriately to deal with the issue, but I have also seen some try to ignore it with a general reluctance to challenge homophobia.”

While Jonathan appreciates that some teachers may not feel equipped to deal with this issue, he urges them to seek support from staff who do or external agencies such as Yorkshire MESMAC, which provides one-to-one support and signposts young people to appropriate services.

Homophobic bullying in schools is one of the subjects up for discussion at the Communities of Interest/Neighbourhood Forum, focusing on Safety of the LGB Communities.

The forum, at the Midland Hotel, Bradford, on February 11, is organised by the Bradford-based Equity Partnership, a community group managed by lesbian, gay and bisexual people. It is one of a number of events organised to mark the LGBT History Month in February.

For more information about the forum, contact Rachel at the Equity Partnership on (01274) 727759/79. To find out more about Yorkshire MESMAC, visit