School workshops to tackle bullying

SECONDARY school pupils in Hull will take part in workshops today aimed at reducing homophobic bullying.

More than 500 pupils will be exploring issues surrounding identity, prejudice and tolerance under the guidance of writer and director Rikki Beadle-Blair.

The workshops are being held at Albemarle Music Centre in Ferensway and are part of the Stonewall Education Champions Programme.

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The sessions are based on issues addressed in the film FIT, commissioned by Stonewall and seen by more than 20,000 students around the country.

Mr Beadle-Blair, who has written plays for BBC Radio 4 and Channel 4 television, said: "The film encourages young people to start questioning their homophobia.

"Once they realise that by being homophobic they're not a good friend or school mate they really want to change and to win people's trust.

"We also talk to them about how damaging stereotypes can be. I would turn the stereotyping back on them by saying, 'Well, what about the stereotypes about black people or Muslims? Are they true?' They would all answer 'no'."

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All Hull secondary schools have received copies of the FIT DVD and have been incorporating it into their teaching.

Claire Turnbull, citizenship co-ordinator at Kelvin Hall School, said: "We showed the FIT film to every class and it was like someone had waved a magic wand; the students were engaged from the second it started.

"The misconceptions, stereotypes and prejudices were all brilliantly addressed.

"Our students now realise how using the word 'gay' in a derogatory way is wrong and offensive and we have drastically reduced the homophobic language in one swoop."

National research shows that homophobic bullying is widespread in schools. The workshops come ahead of national anti-bullying week, starting on Monday.