Project: Rights through Alliances – Innovating and Networking BOth within Homes and School (RAINBOW HAS): Research on family discourses and analysis of best practices in tackling homophobic bullying in schools

Dates: February 2013 – February 2015

Funder: EU funded project financed by the DAPHNE European research and development fund

Research Team: Christine Cocker (Associate Partner - UEA), Professor Peter Ryan (PI -Middlesex University), Dr Trish Hafford-Letchfield (Middlesex University)


This EU project focuses on the role that schools play in offering support and dealing with homophobic bullying and discrimination. Seven European research centres located in five European countries (Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and the UK) are working together to address the issue of homophobic bullying and discrimination based on differences in sexual orientation in schools.


The aim of the research is to broaden the debate with institutions, LGBT families, and families with LGBT children, families with children and youth who have been victims of trans/homophobic bullying, in order to create spaces and conditions for dialogue or lobbying for positive change to "break the silence" of LGBT discrimination. This hopefully will result in higher levels of mutual respect, a higher degree of awareness and support within families and the challenging of stereotypes, through better and more accurate information, and will lead to more supportive approaches to the welfare of the children of LGBT families, or to LGBT children themselves in schools.


The fieldwork part of the study used a variety of methods to gather data. Each country used the same method:

– Literature Review

– Gathering of data through interviews and documentary analysis. In England this comprised:

- 7 ‘generic' families with birth children who were children school aged (interviews)

- 5 Lesbian and Gay families with school aged children (birth children and adopted children) (interviews)

- 4 networks and associations who work with lesbian and gay families (telephone interviews and documentary analysis)

- 5 cases of children who had experienced homophobic bullying were identified through school teachers and bullying and harassment education officers

- 3 examples of best practice in tackling homophobia within schools

These data have now been gathered and analysis has taken place. A European seminar took place on 27th November 2013 to draw together the main strands of the fieldwork across the 5 countries. Middlesex University will now lead on developing training materials to define best practice in addressing these issues. In order to undertake this work, national and regional seminars have been organised in the five countries, and UEA hosted an Eastern regional seminar on 19th June 2014 to engage in dialogue with schools and representative community groups about a local strategy to address homophobic bullying.


The project is due to host its final conference in Brussels in February 2015.


Christine Cocker and Trish Hafford-Letchfield presented a paper at the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development in Melbourne, Australia in July 2014. The paper was titled: Positioning discourse on homophobia in schools: What have lesbian and gay families got to say?