‘People assume that boys and girls are capable of different things, when in reality, our gender has nothing to do with it.” (Year 6 pupil, Lifting Limits school)
What can Headteachers and schools do to actively promote gender equality across the whole school?
Gender stereotyping limits lives, bombarding children from birth with messages about suitable toys, clothes, roles, books, language anda appearance according to gender – feeding attitudes towards gender which become ingrained by the age of 10. Even in schools, stereotypes persist (often unnoticed) in the curriculum, books, displays, language and assumptions. At a critical stage in children’s learning about the world, and evolving expectations of their place in it, stereotypes shape children’s choices and aspirations – with lifelong effects.
Evidence links gender stereotyping to a range of adverse outcomes, for girls and women, boys and men: in schools (from prolific sexual harassment to under-participation of girls in certain STEM subjects and boys’ relative under-achievement in literacy); in the workplace (the gender pay gap and gender-segregated occupations); and in health and mental health outcomes (from violence against women and girls to high rates of male suicide).
Early intervention is crucial. That is why Lifting Limits works with primary schools and early years settings, using an evidence-based whole school approach. Our programme of training and resources supports school leaders to develop awareness and drive change in practices across their schools – school staff report that senior leadership support is essential to give staff ‘permission’ to actively focus on gender in their practice, and to bring along their colleagues. Our training helps school staff to develop a ‘gender lens’ and recognise where gender stereotypes exist in the school environment. Supported by our comprehensive bank of resources, staff apply this awareness in their practice with children, equipping their pupils to develop the critical thinking skills and confidence they need to challenge stereotyping, wherever they encounter it.
With the impact of our programme proven in a year long pilot, we are now working with clusters of schools, testing a train the trainer model to reach more schools and more children nationally. Please do get in touch to find out more and to join us in working towards our vision – that every child be free to pursue their own path in life, unconstrained by the limiting effects of gendered stereotyping.
Caren Gestetner, Chief Executive of Lifting Limits. Lifting Limits is a charity with a mission to challenge gender stereotyping and promote gender equality, in and through education. To find out more about our work visit www.liftinglimits.org.uk or email email@example.com.
“I’ve really enjoyed learning from the children about different figures, both historical and contemporary, who I may not have come across myself. It’s clear to see the impact of the wider range of role models that the children have been exposed to.” (Head Teacher, Lifting Limits school)
You can hear more from Caren Gestetner, Chief Executive of Lifting Limits during her workshop at NAHT’s virtual Equalities Conference on the 29 September 2022. Click here to book your ticket today!