Since 2014, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) has provided £4m to charitable organisations to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in classrooms through workshops and training exercises.
The government’s own LGBT+ plan, published in 2018 under Theresa May’s premiership, acknowledged that bullying “is a problem we still need to tackle”, but the BBC reported that the grant scheme ended in March 2020.
Setting aside an original £2m for the anti-bullying programme in 2014, the then minister for equalities, Nicky Morgan, said the funding would “help schools take on the challenge of making sure bullies do not stand in the way of our young people achieving their full potential”.
In 2018, her successor at the equalities office, Penny Mordaunt, extended the scheme while the government’s LGBT+ action plan boasted of continuing to “invest in programmes that tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools”.
It appears no decision was made to extend the scheme once again, but a government Equality Hub spokesperson insisted the anti-bullying grant fund, which has provided 2,250 schools with materials and training, “was always always due to end in March 2020”.
They added: “The Department for Education will be taking forward all anti-bullying work, alongside rolling out statutory Relationships Education in all primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education in all secondary schools.”
However, Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, told The Independent: “Education is not just about passing exams, it’s about building young people’s confidence and this involves empowering them to challenge prejudice and ignorance in all its forms.
“This decision will leave young LGBT+ people feeling isolated and unsupported. The government must urgently rethink this decision and commit to extend the funding for these vital programmes.”
Labour’s shadow schools minister Tulip Siddiq added that the decision to end the funding in March would “only serve to marginalise” LGBT+ young people in schools across the country.
“The government itself has admitted that young people who identify as LGBT have higher risk of bullying and long term harm to their education, health and well-being, so to be pulling away financial support from those fighting this abuse is especially callous,” she added.
Nancy Kelley, the chief executive of charity Stonewall, told the BBC the decision to cut the funding would lead to students left to “suffer in silence”, adding: “We know that LGBT people are disproportionately affected by poor mental health, and some of this is because of the way they are treated at school.
“It’s crucial this government invests money in funding anti-LGBT bullying programmes across England.”