Homophobic and transphobic bullying in Manchester schools doubles in just two years.

High schools in Manchester reported more than 600 incidents of homophobic and transphobic bullying over the last five years, a report released by prominent gay rights campaigner John Leech, has revealed.

The former Manchester MP of ten years submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) enquiry to every high school in the city and has said it is “depressingly clear” that homophobic and transphobic bullying is here to stay.

Of the 42 high schools in Manchester, 36 responded to the legal request. Mr Leech also raised concerns at the number of schools who had reported zero incidents in the last five years, saying that schools may be too worried to come forward with the real numbers.

Of the 25 schools that did respond, a worrying trend showed incidents doubling in the last two years, from 76 in 2012-13 to a staggering 160 in 2015-16.

Reports of bullying ranged from name-calling to physical assault.

John Leech, who led the successful campaign to pardon war hero Alan Turing, said: “Bullying of any kind is completely unacceptable but to still have homophobia and transphobia rife in Manchester’s schools is deplorable.

“I have fought for LGBTQ+ rights my whole life and these numbers are really, really upsetting to see.”

Leech designed the Bill and led the campaign to pardon Alan Turing, whom he said was a “hero”, and whose conviction for homosexuality he slammed as “utterly disgusting and ultimately just embarrassing”. He went on to secure the pardon for the 50,000+ other men convicted of similar offences and led the campaign to outlaw homophobic chanting at football matches.

Now Mr Leech has turned his attention to what appears to be a concerning spike and consistent rise in teenage bullying. In 2010-11 there were just 8 reports but continued to rise steadily to 160 in 2015-16.

The information for the year 2016-17 only covers until January but there were already 134 incidents making it set to be the worst year yet. In total there were 666 reported incidents of homophobic and transphobic bullying in Manchester’s high schools from 2010-17.

But that doesn’t cover the full story. 17 schools either refused to answer the FOI Request or reported zero incidents – something Mr Leech raises significant doubt over: “Whilst this is concerning, it is much better that schools are transparent with their reports. Schools that came back with 0 reports can only be misleading in what is clearly a worrying trend across the city. We have to be realistic about the issue here and sweeping it under the carpet helps no one.”

In an emotional speech at the Liberal Democrats conference in Bournemouth the former MP added: “We have absolutely no right to claim we live in a decent society when this kind of behaviour is still rife in our schools.”

Mr Leech pledged to work with schools, LGBTQ+ groups and local communities to further promote equal rights and said that he would commit himself and his party to “virtually anything” to tackle the growing problem in Manchester’s schools.