The Church of England has today published revised guidance to help its 4,700 schools tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying. The C of E said that the guidance will help prevent children in its schools “having their self-worth diminished or their ability to achieve impeded by being bullied because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.” It is an updated version of 2014 guidance, Valuing All God's Children, which tackled homophobic behaviour. The update covers a wider range of negative behaviours, and incorporates the relevant legal and inspection frameworks and reflects the Church’s vision for education, whose four elements of wisdom, hope, community and dignity form the theological basis of the guidance.
Writing for the Anglican Communion News Service, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that the new guidance “is about making every one of our 5,000 brilliant schools safe places to grow up.”
He said: “All bullying causes profound damage: it leads to higher levels of mental health disorders, self-harm, depression and suicide. . . The guidance is about prevention of bullying, not sexual ethics. It reflects the Church’s understanding that every person has intrinsic dignity as a human being.”
The guidance calls for “clear anti-bullying policies” that includes “HBT behaviours and language.” It says that policies on how to report incidences should be accessible and that staff should be trained to recognise bullying. The report says that schools’ curriculum and collective worship should support the vision, and that the wider church should ensure that schools are responding well to the guidance.
The C of E’s lead bishop of education, the Bishop of Ely, Stephen Conway, said: “Our vision for education speaks of living life in all its fullness. Our vision has a clear commitment to dignity and hope, both of which can be undermined by any form of bullying. This guidance will help to bring our vision into reality by equipping schools to remove these pernicious forms of bullying that strike at the heart of a child's identity and formation.”
The province’s chief education officer, Nigel Genders, added: “Providing an education to our one million children that will enable them to live life in all its fullness is a big responsibility. This practical and thoughtful advice is packed with templates and a comprehensive selection of resources for schools, teachers, families and young people. I hope that it will make a difference to our school communities and individual pupils too.”
The report acknowledges that there are disagreements on issues to do with human sexuality, marriage or gender identity, and says: “However, there needs to be a faithful and loving commitment to remain in relationship with the other and honour the dignity of their humanity without ‘back turning’, dismissing the other person, or claiming superiority.”
- Click here to read the C of E’s new guidance (pdf)