Luke Tryl is Senior Education Officer at Stonewall and a Conservative Party activist in Lambeth.
It’s now increasingly accepted that though this Government’s raison d’etre lies in tackling the economic crisis, its educational reforms will be its lasting legacy. Even Michael Gove’s opponents admit that from the way schools are governed, to what they teach and who teaches, the Education Secretary is pressing forward with reformist zeal, the like of which we have not witnessed since Butler.
With action being taken on so many fronts to transform our schools, we all might be forgiven for overlooking the sixth bullet of Section 26 of the Coalition Agreement. This announced the Government’s commitment to support schools to combat homophobic bullying. This commitment has the potential to have just as transformative an impact as many of the Government’s headline school reforms.
Importantly, the pledge was not simply a sop to the party’s Liberal Democrat coalition partners; anyone who saw Nick Gibb address Stonewall’s education conference last year, or heard his response to a Parliamentary debate on homophobic bullying last month will be in no doubt that this a key priority for both sides of the Coalition. Nor is it a commitment limited to a metropolitan Notting Hill set, for which there is no greater testament than the fact that last year it was the rural-Conservative led Cambridgeshire Council that topped Stonewall’s Education Equality Index for its work to combat homophobic bullying.
Indeed, it is a fitting tribute to the success of the modernisation project that the Conservative Party, which even up until the early 2000s was rallying for the retention of Section 28, which actively hampered schools’ ability to combat homophobic bullying, is now leading a Government which places such a premium on tackling this very same bullying.