A motion “welcoming” the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign, which calls for LGBT+ inclusive education in all Scottish schools in order to tackle high rates of homophobic bullying, was passed unanimously at the SNP’s spring conference in Glasgow yesterday.
Moved by SNP Youth and SNP Students, the motion “notes the concerning presence of homophobia and transphobia in Scotland’s schools” and “considers that the education system…must be fully inclusive of LGBTI+ identities.”
While the motion also accepted the need to “promote a safe, equal and accepting environment for all of Scotland’s young people”, it did not advocate any particular course of action nor commit the SNP to implement the reforms of the education system for which TIE have been campaigning.
TIE had previously submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament’s petitions committee calling for the statutory teaching of LGBTI+ issues in all schools “in a positive and progressive manner”. After considering the petition, the committee opted to close the petition following submissions from the Scottish government – which essentially pointed to various ongoing initiatives as evidence of the positive engagements being made to facilitate more inclusive education and to tackle the very real problem of homophobia and other forms of discrimination in schools.
The Scottish government had also suggested that “head teachers and professionals educationalists are best placed to decide what is taught in Scotland’s schools” and the committee was advised that none of the teaching unions support calls for proposals for statutory measures.
Given that the SNP-led government believes current arrangements are making progress, it is unclear whether passing the motion will make any significant difference to the SNP’s policy direction. The SNP has for some time acknowledged the need to challenge bullying of all kinds in schools, including that which is homophobic or transphobic in nature, without accepting TIE’s recommendations for statutory LGBTI+ education. The fact that the party “welcomes” a campaign does not in itself commit it to supporting its key objectives. While the SNP has shown its support for “inclusive education”, it’s not entirely obvious what it means in practice. Is the SNP’s understanding of “inclusive” the same as TIE’s? The motion was non-specific and short on detail, and almost certainly designed to be.
Nonetheless, there can be little doubt that passing the motion accepts TIE’s diagnosis, even if not its prescription. The SNP’s passing of the motion amounts to a step forward for the TIE campaign, who have been receiving significant support – both within and outwith Scotland – as they continue to lobby the Scottish Government to ensure that schools have the funding available to train teaching staff to tackle homophobic attitudes and behaviours.
During the debate, youth delegates repeatedly cited statistics used by TIE from Stonewall’s School Report, such as that 1 in 4 LGBT+ youth in Scotland have attempted suicide and over half are self harming.
“This one had me stumped. See, I’m gender fluid. In simple terms this means I can not tell you that I am 100% male or 100% female, so to tick either of these boxes felt like a lie to me.”
Addressing directly the issue of bullying in Scottish schools, the teenager said: “I’ve been quite lucky in my high school, after explaining what gender fluid actually means a lot of the teachers are very accepting. But I am not stupid, I know not everyone has it this easy. This country is filled with such ignorance and so many kids are bullied for identifying as LGBT+
“I was bullied when I came out, as were my LGBT+ friends.
“I have seen first hand 13 year olds who have been bullied to the point where they hate themselves so much they want to kill themselves. It happens all the time. How long will we turn a blind eye to this? How many kids have to die?”
TIE co-founder Jordan Daly said: “This is the biggest step forward in the push for LGBT+ inclusive education yet, and marks a historic turning point as we continue to campaign for an end to prejudice based bullying against LGBT+ school pupils. We look forward to working with the SNP on this issue.”
Liam Stevenson, another of TIE’s co-founders, added: “I said yesterday while speaking at our fringe event that the children of tomorrow must be allowed to grow up without the prejudices of today – this motion passing at conference takes us one step closer to offering our children that better, fairer future.”
Rhiannon Spear, SNP candidate for Glasgow and convener of SNP Youth, said: “Without inclusive education we are creating a vacuum that will be filled with misinformation. We need to empower young people. That is why I am 100% behind the TIE campaign in calling for more progressive and inclusive education.”
Prior to the debate on the conference floor, TIE representatives took part in a fringe event alongside the SNP Youth & Students, the EIS and Sexpression, where they shared stories of their encounters with LGBT+ youth who have been affected by bullying across the country and emphasised that the SNP has to do more on LGBT+ issues.
Support for TIE has been forthcoming in recent weeks from SNP MP Mhairi Black, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.