Skip to content
Skip to main content
  • Video
  • 15 minutes

"That's so gay!" Homophobic language and school

Updated Thursday, 25 August 2022

How is the word 'gay' used in your school? What negative impact can it have on the pupils' views about homosexuality? Find out with the founder of Inclusion for All, Shaun Dellenty.

Have you heard the word 'gay' used negatively in your school lately? How do you react? Do you have a policy about homophobic language? Do your pupils understand the meaning of the word 'gay' and the impact it can have on their own views about homosexuality? What about those pupils who are or have family/friends who are LGBT? Homophobic bullying is almost endemic in schools and impacts profoundly on young people's well-being and academic attainment. The current Ofsted framework looks explicitly for evidence of how schools will meet the needs of all groups, with a specific emphasis on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender pupils.

What’s in a word?

How is the word 'gay' used in your school? Is it a hushed term?

Legislation is in place to protect LGBTQI individuals from bullying. Do you know what all those initials stand for?

L -  Lesbian: female who experiences romantic love or sexual attraction to other females

G - Gay: a male who experiences romantic love or sexual attraction to other males

B - Bisexual: a person who experiences romantic attraction or sexual attraction toward both males and females

T - Transgender: people who experience a mismatch between their gender identity or gender expression and their assigned sex

Q - Questioning: someone who is unsure about their sexual orientation

I - Intersex: an individual in whom genetic, hormonal and physical features that may be thought typical of both male and female co-exist. They may be thought of as being male with female features, female with male features, or may have no clearly defined sexual features

Watch the video below to hear how even the way the word is uttered has implications for those who hear it.

Who is affected by Homophobic bullying?

Who do you think can be affected by homophobia in schools? Pick the responses from this list that you think would apply:

  • Children who declare themselves or who are perceived to be LGBT
  • Other children in the school
  • Staff who declare themselves or who are perceived to be LGBT
  • Other staff members
  • Parents of children who are or are perceived to be LGBT
  • Other parents

In the video below, Shaun shares stories of people affected by homophobic bullying, watch it and then think about your responses to the question above.

Schools and providing a safe environment

Strong leadership is key to tackling this issue and how getting it right can lead to significant whole school improvement, including increased attendance and performance for pupils

When making a judgement on safety and behaviour of a school, OFSTED inspectors will consider:

  • Pupils’ behaviour towards, and their respect for other young people and adults and their freedom from bullying, harassment and discrimination.
  • How well teachers manage the behaviour and expectations of pupils to ensure that all pupils have an equal and fair chance to thrive and learn in an atmosphere of dignity and respect
  • The extent to which leaders and managers have created a positive ethos in the school

How can a school address these issues? Watch Shaun’s suggestions:

How can a school deal with homophobic language?

In this video, Shaun tells us about the initiatives put in place at the school where he works. Write down the ideas he suggests. Is this something that could be done in your school? Who can you talk to (management, peers) to get things started?

It goes beyond homophobia

The word 'gay' has many meanings. Many of those meanings are positive.

Don’t ban the word 'gay' from your school. Teach children how to use it well. Involve the children. In this final video Shaun talks about how teaching kids about LGBTQI people has had positive effects on many aspects that make people different and individual, regardless of religion, ethnicity or country of origin.

Many thanks to Shaun Dellenty for allowing the use of his talk at The Open University for the creation of these resources.

Useful resources



Become an OU student


Ratings & Comments

Share this free course

Copyright information

Skip Rate and Review

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?