Tackling homophobia in school? You need to start with your own language

Former teacher Jonathan Charlesworth explains how our confidence to provide support to someone ‘coming out’ or to stop, then prevent, homophobic name-calling or bullying all starts with having self-assurance about the words we use.

If you’re a school teacher, college tutor or university lecturer eager to support your pupils or students regarding sexual orientation matters, and keen to challenge homophobia or biphobia, may I suggest the best place to start is with vocabulary. I’ve worked for over thirty years in Education: as a teacher and successively as the Executive Director of Educational Action Challenging Homophobia. EACH was established to affirm LGBT+ people and help employers and institutions meet their legal and social responsibilities regarding homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying or harassment through training, consultancy and resources.

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Creating Universal and Diverse Characters

Richy K. Chandler author of You Make Your Parents Super Happy! and When Are You Going to Get a Proper Job? talks through the challenges that come with creating diverse characters in stories, and why it is so important to do.

When I was working on You Make Your Parents Super Happy! (my recent picture book for children whose parents have separated but still both want to be part of their child’s life), I was conscious of keeping the gender and race of all characters ambiguous. While the book deals with a very specific situation, I hope that the universality of the characters’ appearance means that as many children and families as possible can see themselves as the beings found within the pages. This could be two dads, a mum and a dad, two mums and a multitude of relationships also representing the full range of cultures and ethnic back grounds that exist.diverse charactersSimilarly, with Lucy the Octopus, my webcomic that looks at the effects of bullying and bigotry (hopefully in a humorous and super cute way), I wanted to make the lead character as universally relatable as possible. The strip touches on racism, homophobia and not fitting into gender stereotypes but it’s never made clear exactly why Lucy, the heroine, is so unliked. Lots of readers have told me that they see part of themselves in Lucy, and not always for the same reasons. I’m usually both happy that the character is relatable and saddened for the readers to have gone through similar horrible experiences. 
diverse characters
As a writer who has no desire to create comics starring myself (hats off to those brave enough to make candid, graphic autobiographies), there are other good reasons for making characters more universal.  With Lucy the Octopus, I wanted to talk about experiences of feeling picked on and ostracised in my own school years, but I’d rather avoid the spotlight being on myself. Making Lucy a girl and an octopus certainly did that job and frees me up to wildly exaggerate my own experiences within her fantastical world. For example, my own family were not terrible to me like Lucy’s are (except that year I got Scrabble for my birthday instead of the Crossbows and Catapults game I’d wished for, but I’m a survivor and made it through that bleak day). Continue reading

A learning resource about a boy named Simon who gets physically bullied

physical bullyingAge range:

Ages 11 to 16

Description:

A story about a boy named Simon who gets an orange thrown at him by a group of boys and repeatedly knocked into as he walks past them in the playground.  It tells the story of the bullying from Simon’s perspective and the emotional impact this has on him.  The story can be read out loud to a class or individually. Also contained are strategies to overcome the bullying, such as using humour to deflect their behaviour, looking and behaving in a confident way and taking a different journey route.

Click here to download the resource

Simon’s story is taken from Michael Panckridge and Catherine Thornton’s Be Bully Free, which is a hands-on guide for young people aged 11+ on how to take control of being bullied.

What are the different forms of bullying and what strategies can be used to overcome the problem?

bullyingMichael Panckridge, co-author of Be Bully Free, takes a look at the different forms that bullying can take and suggests strategies that victims of bullying can adopt to overcome the problem.

Bullying is about power and the perceived need to gain dominance over another person either physically, intellectually, socially or emotionally. Research into the effect of bullying behaviour indicates that not only does it produce negative short-term psychological problems, but can also affect a person well into their adult life and even lay the foundations for significant and ongoing emotional health problems. Sometimes the bullying is overt and immediate. However, in many cases, the bullying is low-key and ‘hidden’, and the recipient may not be aware of it immediately.  Initially the recipient may think it is their own behaviour that is causing the bullying – that there is something wrong with them or what they do. When this happens, the recipient of the bullying tends to avoid being with other people and they use strategies to escape. This may include avoiding school, which can signal the start of school refusal. Continue reading

That’s So Gay! Tackling homophobic bullying in schools

homophobia schoolsJonathan Charlesworth, author of That’s So Gay!, discusses the concerted effort by the government and anti-bullying organisations to tackle homophobia in schools but admits that there is progress still to be made. Observing that it is very important just to be yourself in life, he asserts that, in order to be so, restraints such as homophobia need to be removed. 

Are you a secondary school teacher or college tutor keen to help a student who’s questioning their sexual orientation and would welcome some guidance? Perhaps you’re a primary school teacher eager to challenge homophobic name-calling or bullying?

In the modern day, civil partnerships are legally recognised throughout the United Kingdom and same-sex marriages are similarly conducted everywhere except North Ireland. It’s an offence to incite or commit a homophobic or transphobic crime. Meanwhile, all our schools and colleges are bound by a Duty of Care to ensure their pupils or students are safeguarded against homophobic, biphobic or transphobic (HBT) bullying. Add to this the finding from a YouGov survey that 49% of young people aged between 18 and 24 define themselves as something other than heterosexual (1) and you would think we wouldn’t have any problem with homophobic bullying in or out of our schools and colleges.

Yet lesbian, gay or bisexual young people including those questioning their sexuality remain vulnerable to harassment and far too many are still experiencing bullying in our schools. Continue reading

Anti Bullying Week: Adrienne Katz provides tips for keeping your school e-safe and preventing cyberbullying

cyberbullyingResearch shows that for many schools it is hard to keep up with the high speed train that is a student’s online life. New apps and high risk behaviours emerge at the same time that new Ofsted inspection requirements are outlined.  Only 45% of secondary pupils strongly agree that their teachers know enough about online safety, whilst Ofsted says that training for teachers is inconsistent[1].  So how do you address the fastest evolving aspect of a young person’s education today? Continue reading

Anti Bullying Week: Using Poetry to Promote Talking and Healing – Pooky Knightsmith

Anti BullyingPoetry can prove a great way into difficult conversations in therapeutic, classroom or family settings.  In this chapter from Using Poetry to Promote Talking and Healing, author Pooky Knightsmith offers a series of poems to help get people talking about issues surrounding bullying and abuse this Anti Bullying Week.

Click here to download the extract

Using Poetry to Promote Talking and Healing includes a collection of over 100 poems written by the author with accompanying activities, as well as a 50 prompts to encourage clients to write their own poems. A complete resource for anyone considering using poetry to explore difficult issues, and a creative way of exploring important mental health issues in PSHE lessons, this book will be of interest to youth, school and adult counsellors, therapists, psychologists, pastoral care teams, PSHE co-ordinators and life coaches, as well as parents.

Anti Bullying Week: What role can teachers play in building a better school community? – Pete Wallis

anti bullyingWhen writing the text for What are you staring at?, a graphic novel about restorative justice in a school setting, I couldn’t resist taking a side-swipe at the antiquated system of school detentions, as a repost to the endlessly repeated rhetoric calling for ‘discipline’ to be brought back into the nation’s schools. By pointing out that more often than not, slapping a detention on a young person for wrong-doing is actively counterproductive, I hope to illustrate how ineffective a punitive system is for resolving behavioural issues or engendering self-discipline within a school community. In one of Joseph Wilkins’ most evocative images, our protagonist, Jake, is seen sitting alone in a large classroom. He is serving a detention for punching Ryan, a pupil in the year below, and we see him simmering with anger and resentment at the injustice of it all. At this point in the book, no one has taken the trouble to tease out the story behind his violent behaviour, and because the punishment hurts (as it is designed to) he is minded to take revenge on the very person he harmed in the first place – namely the innocent Ryan – for being the ongoing cause of his pain. Precious little scope there for reflection, understanding, resolution or healing. Continue reading

Anti Bullying Week: The Importance of Teaching Empathy to Children

bullyingIt’s Anti Bullying Week, so we thought we’d share this extract from Alison Knowles’ new children’s book Ollie and the Golden Stripe.  In this story, Ollie learns the importance of empathy when his classmate Adam is bullied during a game of football. Empathy transports Ollie into Adam’s shoes and teaches him not to laugh at Adam, but to understand and share his feelings.

Click here to download the extract

Alison is also the author of Ollie and His Superpowers.  The books are designed for parents and schools to help children be the best version of themselves.

Anti Bullying Week: Sticks and Stones

Anti bullyingIt’s Anti Bullying Week, and to mark the occasion we thought we’d share this extract from Naomi Richards and Julia Hague’s new book Being Me (and Loving It) which contains 29 easy-to-read stories to help build self-esteem, confidence, positive body image and resilience in children aged 5-11.

In this story, Ginny becomes upset when the older girls in the playground start calling her names. Turning to her mother for advice, she learns that it is best only to listen to the people who you care about and to ignore those who you don’t. The story is accompanied by notes for the educator to support discussions and reinforce the messages being taught.

Click here to download the extract