Leeds: Sir Ian McKellan acts to take on anti-gay bully menace

Leading actor Sir Ian McKellen visited two Leeds high schools as part of a national tour to tackle homophobic bullying.

Sir Ian, star of X-Men, Lord of the Rings and The Da Vinci Code, is a campaigner on gay rights and is a founder member of lesbian, gay and bisexual campaign group Stonewall.

He visited Ralph Thoresby High School and Otley Prince Henry's Grammar where he took part in assemblies, chatted to pupils and promoted Stonewall's national campaign against homophobic bullying.

"Until I visited secondary schools recently, I hadn't realised how much

anti-gay bullying goes on, throughout the education system," said Sir Ian.

"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 may make a difference in the classroom and the playground and also give confidence to gay students about their lives in the future."

Coun Jane Dowson, executive board member for learning at Leeds City Council, said: "There is no place for bullying in our schools and we are committed to reducing it whenever and however necessary.

"It's not often we have the opportunity to welcome an international film and stage star to help us tackle the issue and I'm sure Sir Ian McKellen's visit has reminded our young people that they have the power to stop bullying of any description."

Chris Edwards, chief executive of Education Leeds, said: "By visiting these two schools Sir Ian McKellen has raised the issue of homophobic bullying - and bullying in general - and made young people think about how they can stop it happening in their school."

Stonewall's education champions programme supports local authorities in helping their local schools to prevent and tackle homophobic bullying.

Research found nine in 10 teachers say their pupils experience homophobic bullying, but nine in 10 have never received training on how to tackle it.

HSBC has published its results Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

HSBC delivers large rise in profits as it pivots to Asia