Today the Department of Education published research which is further evidence that schools in Northern Ireland have a negative impact on the emotional wellbeing of the 30,000 LGBT young people in our schools. Additionally 67% of LGBT young people see their schools as unwelcoming.

Speaking on the publication of the research, Director of The Rainbow Project, John O’Doherty said: ‘Despite consistent campaigning and lobbying from The Rainbow Project over the past ten years, successive education ministers have permitted schools to marginalise a population of young people with impunity. This demonstrates institutional anti-LGBT bias, at all levels of education in Northern Ireland, and particularly within the Department of Education itself, directly breaching its statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity for LGBT people.

‘I, personally have raised these issues with three consecutive education ministers (the most recent of which would not meet with us to discuss) but despite this, no action has been taken by the Department to address these clearly evidenced inequalities. Additionally, it is clearly marked within the research report that it was completed in April 2016; why then has it taken 17 months for this report to be published?

‘Discrimination against LGBT young people takes many forms; including schools permitting homophobic/transphobic language and attitudes to be commonplace; creating a culture of fear and intimidation where LGBT young people feel that they cannot be out as themselves; degradation of trans students; forcing them to wear incorrect uniforms or by refusing to use correct language when addressing them; and denying LGBT young people access to appropriate relationship and sexuality education, increasing their risk of poor sexual health outcomes.

There are roughly 30,000 LGBT children in NI schools. They have a right to be safe and respected in school. They have a right to be represented in the curriculum and the Department of Education is bound by statute to promote their equality of opportunity.  What we need to hear from the Department of Education, immediately, is what they will do to ensure that homophobic and transphobic discrimination ends in every school, in every sector, across Northern Ireland.

‘We are very disappointed that, contrary to standard practice, the Department specifically commissioned research which was prohibited from including recommendations. With this in mind, we are calling on the Department to immediately outline how they intend to respond to this clearly identified need. We at The Rainbow Project, along with our partners, look forward to the supporting the development and implementation of necessary reforms to our education system. Furthermore, we will be seeking an immediate meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland,  to ensure that the rights of, and inequalities experienced by, LGBT young people in education are prioritised by all parties who have responsibility for ensuring their safety and wellbeing.’

ENDS

Notes to editors