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Pupils Accuse RGS Of ‘Double Standards’ Over Anti-Homophobia Bullying Policy

Published on: 26 Feb, 2022
Updated on: 28 Feb, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

Pupils at the Royal Grammar School (RGS) Guildford have accused the school of “double standards” over differences in bullying policies between the RGS schools in Guildford and Qatar.

Homophobia is specifically mentioned in the Guildford school bullying policy but has been omitted from the RGS Qatar version.

RGS Guildford Qatar has ambitious plans which will see “pupils aged 3 to 18 receive an RGS education in Qatar.”

Recognising homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and is punishable by jail and potentially execution, a student told The Dragon: “You have to abide by the country’s laws but if you choose to set up there to make money, you are complicit. The ends do not justify the means”

Students had initially approached The Dragon on January 26 saying the issue was being hotly discussed in the classrooms after being revealed in the national press.

The headmaster, Dr Cox, met with members of the RGS Pride Society and others including members of staff on Friday, February 4. Not all of those who attended were gay but were there “to support our gay colleagues” said a student.

It was apparently the first meeting held between the school and the Pride Society.

He is reported to have attempted to reassure the around 12 pupils and staff at the meeting. But talking to The Dragon after the meeting, not all were convinced.

A pupil said the headmaster had confirmed RGS would withdraw from Qatar if “a line were crossed” over homophobic bullying but no details were given at the meeting on what would be considered to be unacceptable, or to The Dragon when asked.

Another pupil said the school was “being hypocritical and sacrificing their integrity by setting up in such a regime.

“To get money for bursaries for poor students in the UK does not outweigh denying a person the right to be gay. There are better ways than accepting money from a country that jails and potentially executes people for being gay.”

He said it was “particularly ironic that just this week we had a school assembly on integrity. We were told we should be doing the right thing even when nobody was watching. That’s not what RGS is doing in Qatar”.

The Royal Grammar School has a 500 year history in Guildford.

One student said the school was doing its “best on homophobia and appears genuine in their efforts” citing the meeting with the RGS Pride Society as evidence.

A statement from RGS said: “Royal Grammar School Guildford is proud of its international schools, where we are able to provide an excellent education for young people.

“We must comply with the laws of the country in which we are operating, as we do in Qatar. Royal Grammar School Guildford in Qatar will always challenge bullying, whatever the root of it is.

“All our earnings from the school in Qatar go towards bursaries in the UK.“

The controversy hit national headlines with articles in The Times, Daily Mail and The Guardian. The practice of private schools setting up overseas franchises is said to be earning them collectively “tens of millions of pounds”.

The Times article said: “Schools wishing to open on the Arabian peninsula have to follow strict Islamic government guidelines on ownership, curriculum content and patriotism to obtain operating licences.

“Such rules have been used in Middle East franchises to ban teachers from educating pupils about the Holocaust, evolution and the existence of Israel.”

RGS Qatar website, quoting fees of up to 60,000 QAR per year (approximately £12,000), says: “Our school is part of the prestigious Royal Grammar School, Guildford and Lanesborough Preparatory School, located in Surrey, UK.

“We are proud to bring over 500 years of academic excellence to Qatar. We provide an outstanding British curriculum education based upon traditional values of decency and respect, supported by exceptional pastoral care and a wide range of extra-curricular opportunities.

“Our facilities are first class and our plans for the future are ambitious, which will see pupils aged 3 to 18 receive an RGS education in Qatar.”

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Responses to Pupils Accuse RGS Of ‘Double Standards’ Over Anti-Homophobia Bullying Policy

  1. Robert Burch Reply

    February 26, 2022 at 11:08 pm

    Full marks to the pupils who question this policy. Whilst the idea of overseas earnings to provide UK bursaries is a good one, it is wrong to open school franchises in countries where homosexuality is illegal.

    All institutions need to stop promoting the international image of such countries, in particular the sports governing bodies who award major events due to the money they are paid. Worst of all being FIFA and this year’s World Cup in Qatar.

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