School children across Wiltshire will be discussing the effects of homophobic behaviour during anti-bullying week.
Seven secondary schools will watch Myth Busters, a short film which explains how it feels to be a gay young person and be subjected to homophobic language and behaviour on a daily basis.
The film is part of a campaign initiated by GoGs (Group of Gays) youth group and supported by Wiltshire Council and NHS Wiltshire. They are urging students to stop using 'gay' as a derogatory term and to show their commitment to this by signing a pledge and wearing a ZeeTee (zero tolerance) wristband.
Sir Ian McKellen wears the distinctive ZeeTee wristband. The message on the band is Respecting Difference and demonstrates support for the campaign for zero tolerance of homophobic language.
Sir Ian visited schools in Wiltshire a couple of years ago, as part of the council’s commitment to support lesbian, gay, bis-sexual and transgender (LGB&T) young people through its affiliation with the Stonewall's Education Champion's programme..
Sir Ian said: “Until I visited secondary schools recently, I hadn’t realised how much anti-gay bullying goes on, throughout the education system. By talking frankly about my own life as a gay man and listening to the concerns of staff and students, parents and governors, I hope the visits arranged by Stonewall made a difference in the classroom and the playground and also gave confidence to gay students about their lives in the future.”
Sir Ian visited GoG’s when he was in Trowbridge, and the young people are thrilled that he is giving them his support now by wearing their campaign band.
Bea Potter, a young person who has delivered all the assemblies so far, said: "The support from the students has been amazing.
“John Bentley School in Calne had 392 signatures in their first 45 minute lunch break of making the pledge boards available. Their ambassadors were so enthusiastic and really got behind making the campaign work in their school.”
As this campaign has been started by young people, the co-ordinator, Nicola Sage of Wiltshire Council, was keen the impact on teacher time was as limited as possible.
Ms Sage said: “Before we start delivering assemblies, I meet with student representatives, known as ZeeTee Ambassadors, who have volunteered to manage the process of signing and distribution. Their interest to support this has been matched by the enthusiasm of their fellow students, making this a really enjoyable and invigorating piece of work.”
Royal Wootton Bassett School was involved in the early development of the campaign.
Mrs Ellis from the school said: "The Zee Tee campaign has really helped raise our students awareness of homophobic language. What has been especially pleasing is the way in which the Zee Tee ambassadors have championed the cause and have really driven the campaign forward.
"The assemblies were great and really got the students thinking about the way that they use everyday language without thinking of the possible negative consequences."
Lionel Grundy cabinet member for children services said: "This is a powerful campaign which we hope will make a real and lasting impression on young people.”
To support Anti-bullying Week, the Campaign will be visiting Chippenham, Trowbridge and Salisbury Colleges, as well as delivering morning assemblies in Wellington Acadamy, Ludgershall.
More information about the ZeeTee Campaign, as well as the Myth Busters film can be accessed here.