Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Synod Questions about bullying in church schools

Question 65 Rachel Jepson to the Chair of the Board of Education

What progress has been made by the Board on developing recommended policies and staff-training materials relating to the bullying of LGBT people, and have any recommendations of the Board in those respects been implemented in any Church of England schools?

Answer from the Bishop of Oxford

The Board of Education/National Society, and indeed all Diocesan Boards of Education, are clear that any form of bullying is unacceptable in Church of England schools. If the Board became aware that existing tried and tested materials for both staff training and pupil activities were proving inadequate in developing relationships of respect and acceptance for all, the Board would take advice from the schools to determine appropriate action.

Question 66 Robin Hall

How many incidents of homophobic bullying were recorded in Church of England schools in the last school year (or the most recent school year for which statistics are available)?


No national or even diocesan figures are collected.


Earlier in the day, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his Presidential Address had said this:

…The majority of the population rightly detests homophobic behaviour or anything that looks like it. And sometimes they look at us and see what they don’t like. I don’t like saying that. I’ve resisted that thought. But in that debate I heard it, and I could not walk away from it. We all know that it is utterly horrifying. to hear, as we did this week, of gay people executed in Iran for being gay, or equivalents elsewhere. With nearly a million children educated in our schools we not only must demonstrate a profound commitment to stamp out such stereotyping and bullying; but we must also take action. We are therefore developing a programme for use in our schools, taking the best advice we can find anywhere, that specifically targets such bullying. More than that, we need also to ensure that what we do and say in this Synod, as we debate these issues, demonstrates above all the lavish love of God to all of us, who are all without exception sinners. Again this requires radical and prophetic words which lavish gracious truth…

To put this context, in November 2012, Dr Jepson had asked a similar question. From the official record, here’s how the answers went:

37. Dr Rachel Jepson (Birmingham) asked the Chairman of the Board of Education: How does the Education Division intend to respond to the recommendations contained in the recent Stonewall report concerning the experiences of gay young people in Britain’s schools in 2012, in which it is reported that more than half of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people in Britain’s schools, many of whom attend faith schools, experience homophobic bullying?

The Bishop of Oxford (Rt Revd John Pritchard), in reply: The Board of Education is quite clear that no form of bullying, for whatever reason, is acceptable in Church of England schools and that it would expect all staff and governors to be vigilant and decisive. Diocesan boards of education work closely with their schools developing their Christian ethos and will be equally determined to put the absolute value of all children and young people at the heart of the Christian ethos of their schools.

Dr Rachel Jepson (Birmingham): Will the Education Division ensure that every school, at both primary and secondary level, has in place an LGBT anti-bullying policy and will provide training for all staff members on these matters?

The Bishop of Oxford: The Education Division itself cannot do that, but it can advise diocesan boards to do it and we will certainly consider that possibility.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 at 6:38pm BST | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

C of E schools appear to be rubbish at dealing with any form of bullying.

Posted by: Tony B on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 at 7:25pm BST

So the Church of England is concerned about homophobic bullying, when the cameras are on its leader, but not sufficiently concerned to do anything about collecting information when it will actually involve effort? Matthew 7:16, I think.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 at 8:36pm BST

The Church of England Primary Schools often impose a selective system whereby in order to gain a place parents and children are required to attend their parish church. It is also the case that in some areas parents have no choice when a church affiliated school place is offered by an area authority. In the former case there is surely some pressure brought to bear on parents which could in itself be regarded as a form of bullying or abuse of power - in that their mission within the community should be impartial. Surely a child whose parents cannot get their act together on a Sunday morning should not be discriminated against.

In the present climate and in my past experience I do not trust that sufficient education on the part of the Church of England as a whole has been sought or accepted in respect of sexual identity. In this atmosphere of ignorance and non acceptance I would share Interested Observer's concerns.

Posted by: Rosie Bates on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 at 9:44pm BST

It is depressing that the Bishop of Oxford cannot in his answer even bring himself to use the word 'homophobia', or acknowledge that there might be a particular and specific problem of homophobic bullying . For it is clear that there is a problem not only in the treatment of LGBT pupils in church schools but also in the treatment of parents who happen to be in same-sex relationships.

On which subject, in questions to the Second Church Estates Commissioner last week, Ben Bradshaw, the MP for Exeter, made reference to a case where parents of children at a church school had been told that they would not be welcome to worship at the Conservative Evangelical parish to which the school was attached. Mr. Baldry, sadly, gave an answer as bland and full of denial as that of the Bishop of Oxford at General Synod.

So far the Church of England's record in combating homophobia consists of producing ritual denunciations, entirely empty of content, when challenged. Perhaps it also consists of turning a blind eye to the sex lives of gay clergy, which was actually quite brave and radical 50 years ago, but now is deceitful and hypocritical and, bluntly, the only possible position the Church can take when there is a shortage of stipendiary clergy willing to work in difficult parishes.

That many Bishops think they are the acme of tolerance for doing so shows not only that they live in a time warp but how endemic clericalism and snobbery remain in the Church. White upper-middle class clergy with top notch educations are not being driven out of the Church because they are gay.

Working-class Afro-Caribbean teenagers being bullied at school and often growing up in profoundly homophobic church cultures have no credible way out and too often take the only one open to them - the noose or the overdose.

The Church of England thinks that ritual denunciations and denial are adequate responses. Lord have mercy. I do want to give our new Archbishop a chance, but his credibility will be destroyed before it has a chance to develop if he does not start giving strong and meaningful leadership to the bureaucracy and his colleagues in the House of Bishops, and fast.

Posted by: The Rev'd Mervyn Noote on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 at 10:52pm BST

We have to be careful not to generalise.

Many village primary schools are CoE, they are the school the local kids go to because they live in the village. They are generally not oversubscribed.
They are usually very well run. And, Tony, the 2 my children went to when they were little had excellent anti bullying procedures.

The second CoE primary school both my girls went to knew I was civil partnered and accepted me 100% as a parent. Many many years later I still have very good personal relationships with staff in that school.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 at 11:07pm BST

Consider this: The C of E has shown itself consistently to be an institution whose chief spokespersons bully lgbt people as policy, bully The Episcopal Church and its policies of inclusion, and bullies its own numerous lgbt clergy, an institution that protects and sanctions the bullying language of Reform, Anglican Maintstream, and their like, and refuses to criticize bishops in the Anglican Communion who endorse draconian legislation akin to what the Aryan Church in Nazi Germany endorsed regarding lgbt people in their territories. Why, on the face of it, would we imagine that such an institution would be concerned in the least with bullying within its schools, particularly when it is eager to protect those same schools from the reach of equality legislation, and discourses endorsing marriage equality?

Posted by: james on Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 11:53am BST


I am well aware that most church schools are no different than others in this regard and some are models of best practice. I have been involved with one or two myself. I am delighted your children have benefited from the best a Christian state education can offer. The vast majority of Church of England schools serve all without prejudice or favour.

Unfortunately, as always, the bad apples spoil the barrel and give the rest a bad name. The minority of bad apples is, sadly, far from tiny. There is still a fear factor around dealing with homophobia in Church schools that now rarely exists in community schools. Where this exists, it is often a result of clergy of a particular theological slant seeking to impose their view on excellent professional teachers who are afraid to resist.

There are also teachers, both in our own and Roman Catholic church schools, who express homophobic views, sometimes in front of pupils, and who seem to believe the faith legitimises their doing so. In the recent House of Lords debates, the Lords Spiritual seemed more concerned to protect those who feel the need to give expression to such bigotry than to protect the children entrusted to their care. As I said before, Lord have mercy.

Posted by: The Rev'd Mervyn Noote on Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 11:26pm BST

"Why, on the face of it, would we imagine that such an institution would be concerned in the least with bullying within its schools, particularly when it is eager to protect those same schools from the reach of equality legislation, and discourses endorsing marriage equality?"

Very good points, James. Though, I want to hold out hope that the ABC will actually take meaningful action on behalf of children... we'll see.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 11:53pm BST

Letter in the Church Times today:

Homophobic bullying and church schools
12 Jul 2013

From Dr Rachel Jepson and Mr Robin Hall

Sir, - We welcomed the Archbishop of Canterbury's profound commitment to tackling homophobic bullying in schools, announced at General Synod.

Nevertheless, it seems, the Board of Education has some catching up to do. In answer to questions that we tabled at Synod, we were told that the Board has no data on the number of homophobic bullying incidents in Church of England schools - although the Archbishop revealed to the Synod the appalling statistic that 97 per cent of gay teenagers report such bullying.

Moreover, the Board has yet to investigate new materials and resources to counteract such incidents. Archbishop Welby committed the Church to using the "best advice we can find anywhere". We recommend that the Board consider the excellent anti-bullying material produced by Stonewall.

We firmly believe that the Church of England could be an example of best practice in tackling homophobic bullying in schools, and we hope that the Board will explore all the data, material, and resources available to it.

Synod member for Birmingham
Synod member for Southwark
c/o 24 Kitto Road
London SE14 5TW

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 12 July 2013 at 7:50am BST

"White upper-middle class clergy with top notch educations are not being driven out of the Church because they are gay." The Rev'd Mervyn Noote

My partner matches that description perfectly - and, yes, they are.

Posted by: Anonymous on Friday, 12 July 2013 at 8:02pm BST

The Commission on Christian Homophobia published a prescient report in 2000 which provided, inter alia, Recommendations for Good Practice in Education. The CofE did its best to ignore the report at the time, despite a copy being sent to every member of the General Synod.
To save a lot of time, and waste of resources, perhaps it would like to consult the report now? Even 13 years later it would provide dividends.
[LGCM, ISBN 0 946310 10 6]

Posted by: Richard Kirker on Friday, 19 July 2013 at 11:56pm BST
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.