MOST Scottish teachers have never used or even heard of government material designed to tackle homophobia in schools.

A survey by the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign of almost 500 teachers found that the majority of them didn't know about, or had not used, the Scottish Government's latest Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RHSP) guidance.

TIE wants LGBTI issues made a mandatory part of the Scottish curriculum, and say this will help tackle bullying.

Of the 479 teachers asked, 55 per cent said they had not read or didn't know about the materials which were updated in 2014 to include issues on LGBTI.

An additional 35 per cent said they did not feel like the guidance was extensive enough, while nine per cent said it was adequate.

The Government recommends that teachers use the guidance when talking about relationships and gender in class, and its own website states this type of education is an “an integral part of the health and wellbeing area of the school’s curriculum in Scotland.”

The teachers' union, the Educational Institute for Scotland said "ensuring that the needs of all learners, including LGBTI learners, are considered during curricular planning is, of course, an essential requirement”.

Education Secretary John Swinney told this newspaper last month that the guidance may still be “working its way through the system” but added that he was “confident” RSHP material reflected LGBTI issues and advice on how to talk about them in class.

Jordan Daly, co-founder of the TIE campaign said the research “exposes that the Scottish Government's current strategy of issuing guidance on LGBTI issues to schools without a mandated requirement of uptake is not working”.

He went on: “This is why we are clear that a new approach from the Scottish Government is required here. There is a culture of silence around LGBTI in most classrooms across the country."

Almost 300 current and former school pupils were surveyed by TIE, including 169 LGBTI pupils, with 27 per cent of these saying they had attempted suicide at least once, while 15 per cent said they had tried more than once.

Two thirds of all pupils said they felt homophobia was a problem at their school, while almost 75 per cent said it was never challenged on campus. Almost all of the pupils (94%) said they felt all teachers should receive specific LGBTI training.

Adam McElory, an 18-year-old bisexual teenager from Cumbernauld, said he received “very little” education about LGBTI issues, while also experiencing homophobia. Bullying was “so commonplace that nobody bothered to do anything about it”, he said.

“I can’t recall one instance in which a lesson was devoted to giving guidance or support to the LGBTI community," he added. “This is another massive problem within the Scottish educational system.

“Not only are teachers, not necessarily out of their own fault, ill-equipped to deal with LGBTI related problems on a day to day basis, they are also unable to sufficiently provide support as part of the structured curriculum.”

Monica Lennon MSP Scottish Labour equalities spokeswoman said the survey results were “astounding” and “simply not good enough”.

She added: “The Scottish Government must respond to these concerns as a matter of urgency and take action to make sure that teachers and pupils alike are receiving the support they need to tackle homophobic and transphobic attitudes in schools.”

Annie Wells, Scottish Conservative MSP and equalities spokeswoman said: “The results of this survey are deeply saddening. There is clearly a consensus among respondents that the Scottish Government could be doing more on this issue.”

Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the Scottish Greens, said: “The patchy nature of schools’ treatment both of LGBTI equality, and of sex and relationships education, is often down to teachers wanting to do the right thing, but not having the information or support they need. This isn’t just about publishing guidance and hoping it works. [The TIE Campaign] needs national and local government backing if we’re going to truly meet the needs of all Scotland’s young people.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman would not directly address the findings, but reiterated Swinney’s previous comments.

She said: “Scotland does not have a statutory curriculum – however, relationships, sexual health and parenthood education is an integral part of the health and wellbeing area of the curriculum in Scotland and this includes issues relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex young people or children with LGBTI parents.”

Teachers fear for jobs if they talk about LGBTI issues

GORDON Downie, a religious, moral and philosophical education teacher, claims classroom staff fear they are putting their jobs at risk and walking a “tightrope” if they choose to speak openly about LGBTI issues in school.

His comments reflect concerns by many teachers who say they are afraid to have frank discussions with pupils about sexuality for fear of causing offence to other children or their parents, with potential disciplinary repercussions.

Downie told the Sunday Herald: “Sexual talk is often perceived as a tightrope topic with regard to a teacher's employment status. And in this age of blame and indignation over 'offensive' comments, it's easy to see why LGBT issues are politely skipped.”