Gender Respect Project 2013-2016

Aiming to help children and young people to understand, question and challenge gender inequality and violence.

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Teacher Blog: Gender and Sport

Gender and Sport

Painting 'You have the right to choose'

Painting ‘You have the right to choose’

Y6 girls painting

Y6 girls painting

I spent a few afternoons with 8 children, two from each KS2 year group, planning and designing posters that are now displayed in school. With help from a local artist, I gave the children pictures for inspiration  to base their poster on. These included paintings by Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol and Bridget Riley.

We discussed how to create different effects, what gender our person may be or if they would be non-gender specific and what messages to include.

These are the posters the children developed:

Y3. Message: Show Respect!

Y3. Message: Show Respect!

Y4. Message: You have the right to choose your sport

Y4. Message: You have the right to choose your sport

Y5. Message: Don’t feel afraid of doing a your usually played by the opposite gender, even if people laugh at you.

Y5. Message: Don’t feel afraid of doing a
your sport. sport usually played by the opposite gender, even if people laugh at you.

Y6. Message: words such as peace,        courage, freedom, trust and strength.

Y6. Message: words such as peace, courage, freedom, trust and strength.

The children showed their posters in a whole school assembly, just before sports day. They explained why they had created their posters and what the messages are that they have chosen. These posters are on display in the hall for all children to see.


While they were creating these posters, I spoke with them about how they felt about boys and girls doing different sports and whether they thought the posters were effective. These are some of their comments:


  • Every sport is free for anyone to do.
  • You can’t just laugh at people for doing different sports.
  • No sport is for a boy or a girl, it’s an equal choice.
  • In secondary schools there is more teasing. They think they are older and smarter.
  • It’s not fair. We know lots of male footballer names but no one knows the names of women football players.
  • It’s like racism but with gender.
  • People expect boys to play football.
  • Boys are rougher than girls. To be rough makes you look really strong. Boys don’t realise that some girls like to be rough too.
  • Football has always been a more popular sport and people prefer to play football because they get paid lots of money for it.
  • Lot’s of people can play football as you only need a ball and some grass.
  • There’s one girl in the rugby club. People treat her the same, she fits in.

How effective are the posters?

  • Sometimes if a boy wants to do a ‘girls’ sport, he would feel worried. So something needs to change. The posters are a good idea to help reduce teasing.
  • It’s a good idea to do the posters, as some people don’t think that a boy would do ballet. If you asked ‘can boys do ballet?’ they would say yes, but they wouldn’t think of boys doing ballet.
  • The posters will help people to think more about the sports that we can do and help us realise that both genders can do any sports.

Evaluations from Y3

Since Y3 has been involved in this project from the beginning, I wanted to get their impressions of the posters and see whether they were pleased with them and thought that they were effective. Here are some of their comments:


  • Let every girl or boy do what they want.
  • Don’t tease other people about what sport they do.

How effective are the posters?

  • I think the dance one was good because it showed how a boy can dance.
  • Good effective messages.
  • I like the glitter. It really makes the message stand out.
  • The Y6s has lots of values. That’s what makes theirs good.
  • They show that boys and girls can do whichever sport they want.
  • It’s a clear message in a stylish way.
  • I think the posters were great because they have a very clear message.
  • I like the idea of a poster with a message on it.
  • I like the part of the poster that says even if you get teased, stay strong.
  • I think the posters are very good because every poster has an important and clear message.
  • They were very good because it should not be girls doing gymnastics. It should be girls and boys doing sports!
  • It’s a fantastic idea. The posters have a really important message that’s very clear.
  • I really love the messages because they attract people.
Discussing the paintings

Discussing the paintings


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Teacher Blog: EYFS Exploring Indoors

Exploring indoors

The task was to note the gender of the children in two areas of the nursery at five-minute intervals at the start of a morning session.

The home corner was the first to be observed as it seemed that girls dominated it. The second area was the construction area as it seemed to be dominated by boys.

The findings from the home corner

During the very first five minutes girls dominated the area with no boys present. Opening cupboards, pulling out plates, finding play food and placing it in the microwave. The children had created characters: mum, mum and baby.

Then after 15 minutes a boy had joined the 3 girls. No reference to his character but he said he was not dad. He had the play phone, picked it up and put it down. Repeated on a few occasions. The girls carried on while he played in parallel.

From this observation the girls dominated but the area was not solely used by them. It was interesting that the boy didn’t want to be dad.

The findings from the construction area

During the first five minutes the boys dominated the area with no girls present. Small world play was the preference. Four children played with a pirate ship and two with the building blocks. Moving the play figures in different positions. Building a tower of bricks.

After ten minutes there were fewer boys as some had moved to the sand. Two were now left at the pirate ship. Two girls were now on the floor with the building blocks, enclosing a space. A younger boy moves to the area, knocks the girls’ blocks and moves away from the area. The girls look up to express frustration. I intervened to raise awareness that his actions had annoyed the two girls building. The two girls continued. Twenty minutes later the girls had moved on and the area had only the two boys at the pirate ship.

From this observation once again the area was initially dominated by boys. Two girls made it their choice later. Whether it was age or gender their play was temporarily interrupted by a child choosing to be destructive. The adult intervention demonstrated to the girls that this behaviour was not acceptable. I was careful as I didn’t want to step in unless asked as I didn’t want the two girls to think they couldn’t handle it themselves. I also didn’t want the boy to think destructive behaviour was a mechanism to attract attention as I felt that he might be learning how to gain attention by an aggressive action towards toys played with by others.

A snap shot that in this case demonstrated the initial hypothesis that certain areas of the nursery were dominated by different genders. It also made a connection with an event earlier in the term where the girls were challenged when building outside. Even though the girls’ play was interrupted by a boy, I was pleased that the girls were resilient and continued to stay in the area.


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Volunteer Blog, Alex: Girls’ Education and Gender Respect

‘One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.’

‘So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.’

Malala Yousafzai – UN Youth Assembly 2013 Speech

‘Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence’ to ensure that girls participate in the development of their own country.[1] This belief underlines the objectives of the UN’s Third Millennium Development Goal which seeks to ‘promote gender equality and empower women’ to ultimately eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education at all levels of education no later than 2015.[2] Although, this target seems vastly over-ambitious and set to fail, its mission still holds value. This is because girl’s education is a crucial component to achieving gender equality. Globally, women are not equal to men in many societies due to unequal participation in government, finance, religion and cultural traditions. In a speech from Sarah Brown in an address to the Index on Censorship Magazine she exclaimed that ‘World leaders need to deliver on their pledges to institute universal primary education — especially for girls — if the world wants to empower the next generation’ as a woman who can read can lead.’[3]

Although the international community commits to empowering girls’ through education, focus on improving gender equality and respect should arguably be centred on the domestic sphere in order to understand why girls are restricted from education.

Educating a girl can transform her chances in life, promote independence and self-reliance, and help to protect her from abuse. For example, research has shown that an education affords women greater economic opportunities and awareness of rights so that they may escape domestic violence and/or avoid entering into abusive relationships. However it is one thing to be economically empowered or given more opportunities to pursue higher ambitions, the problem still centres around traditions and family values that determine many women’s access to education. For example, in North-West Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai comments on the power of the Pashtunwali code which values Purdah an Islamic belief upheld in more traditional areas, where women are sought to be honoured through privacy. Purdah is normally seen visually as either veiling or women being escorted around by male family members. This means that girls are unable to go to school on their own as most of the men are out working. When we address the issue of gender respect in girl’s education the first obstacle is not within the school walls but within the family homes of girls around the world. Education is hailed as the only sustainable tool to improving a countries economic status however when families are faced with either allowing their daughters to learn to read or providing an income, many rationally choose finance.





Teacher Blog: Primary, Gender and Sport

Gender and Sport

My project so far has consisted of a P4C session with Y3 and Y5 to see what they think about gender and sport. This helped to inform the questions that I chose for my questionnaire, which I did with focus groups from Y2, Y4 and Y6. They were in groups of 4, with 3 groups from each year group; girls, boys and mixed.

As a follow up to the findings from these, I asked my Y3 class what they thought the problem was and what they would like to do to solve it. I then used their ideas to come up with my project.

Part 1: P4C with Y3 and Y5

Stimuli: Clip from Billy Elliott and Bend it like Beckham; images of females and males doing a variety of sports; newspaper articles: female boxing allowed in the Olympics in 2012 for the first time, differences between men’s and women’s gymnastics, Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to play sport.

Y3 questions:

  1. Why can’t both genders do some sports?
  2. Why do people think boys can’t do girls things and girls can’t do boy things?
  3. Why do we say in some countries people aren’t allowed to do some sports?
  4. Why do people not like boys to do ballet?
  5. How would you feel if someone said you couldn’t do sport anymore?
  6. Why can’t women play every sport?
  7. Why do people not let girls play certain sports?
  8. Why do men and women have different equipment for gymnastics?

Chosen question: Why can’t women play every sport?

Examples of comments:

(G) Girls like shopping, boys like running. This is why some people think that girls can’t play sports.

(G) Some people let girls play, others think boys are stronger and faster so only they can play.

(G) Some girls can be stronger than boys…I think that all boys should think that if they were a girl if they would like it if they were told they couldn’t do this sport. I think everyone should get to choose if they can do it or not.

(B) Men have skill and speed in football. Men are stronger than women…men and ladies are good at dancing. Why don’t boys do girls sports? Girls can play football because they are strong. Women are more into swimming than men. Because women don’t just want to get strong. They want to get fit and healthy as well like boys.

Y5 questions:

  1. Why can’t there be some sports for men, some for women and some for both?
  2. Why aren’t women seen on TV as much as men?
  3. Why do men and women have different categories?
  4. Why do you barely ever hear about women sports people?
  5. Why do men call women’s football girls’ football?
  6. Why do people think that men are better and stronger than women?
  7. Why don’t women have as many opportunities as men?
  8. Why should different genders effect how we play sport?
  9. Why can’t women’s sport be on TV more often?
  10. Why should women be forced to play on women’s teams but not men’s?

Chosen question: Why can’t there be some sports for men, some for women and some for both?

Examples of comments:

(B) You have to practise to get better at sport, regardless of gender.

(B) If women’s rugby was on TV more, more women would want to join in.

(B) I disagree, I think some sports e.g. synchronised swimming, are for girls and some e.g. football, are for boys.

(G) Some people think girls are better than boys, or boys are better than girls in general life. It’s the same for sport.

Part 2: Focus Groups

Questions and summary of findings:

  1. Do you enjoy PE? What is your favourite sport?

All children said they enjoyed PE and did a wide range of different sports.

  1. Do you think girls and boys are equally good at sports/PE? Why?

Boys and girls are better at different sports, sports that they are more suited to because of their physique. However, it’s often more about skill and practice and anyone can do anything if they believe in themselves.

  1. Are there any sports that you think are more for girls or more for boys?

Yes – girls and boys are suited to different sports and enjoy different sports. It is ok for them to do sports that are considered not for their gender, however they may get teased for it. Boys and girls commented on the fact that girls don’t like having balls thrown at them and they don’t want to get muddy or be rough.

  1. Are there any sports you’d like to play but you feel you can’t? Why?

Some sports they can’t play because they haven’t been given the opportunities to play them e.g. skiing, tennis. Some sports they can’t play because they feel they don’t have the correct skills e.g. being strong enough. Some sports they can’t play because they get teased by the opposite sex.

  1. What do you think we can do to encourage girls and boys to play whichever sport they want to?

Children had many ideas including; teaching different sports, stop teasing, assemblies, rotas at lunchtime.

Part 3: Ideas generating

After sharing the results of these focus groups with Y3, they came up with the following ideas:

  • Teaching sports to younger children, discussing gender issues.
  • Lunchtime sports club.
  • After school club.
  • Write a song/poem to persuade children to encourage people to do all sports – for an assembly.
  • Posters with messages to go around school.
  • Read posters in assembly.
  • Rules and facts to go around school, with pictures of different sports.
  • Acrostic poem with a message.
  • Make a website.

Part 4: Intervention

Following discussions with other teachers involved in the project, I decided to go for the posters idea. I have 8 children who are gifted and talented in art to design posters with a message linked to gender, sport and sports day. These will be shown in assembly and the messages will be explained to the children. The key messages we are trying to get across are that it’s ok to do any sport they wish, regardless of their gender, and that it’s not ok to tease people because they have chosen to do a sport normally associated with the opposite gender.

Success Criteria for posters developed by Y3

1.    Title

2.    Pictures – computer, hand

3.    Slogans

4.    Messages to encourage people to be kind to others.

5.    Messages to encourage people to ‘give it a go’ = try other sports.

6.    Information/facts about the sport.

7.    Information about/images of sports legends.

8.    Easy to understand, makes sense.

9.    Flaps, pop-ups

10.  Our values: cooperation, responsibility, teamwork, thoughtfulness, respect.

Examples of messages

1.     Don’t tease people.

2.    Don’t be mean if a boy wants to do gymnastics.

3.    Don’t tease people who do different sports to you.

4.    You have the right to do any sport you choose.

5.    Don’t judge other people by their sport.

6.    Anyone can do any sports they want to.

7.    Be fair to girls and boys in sport.

8.    Let girls and boys join in.

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Teacher Blog, EYFS: Walking the Plank

We were using the wooden blocks to make a boat. My helper was a child who had fallen out with other children and wanted someone to support her with building. She started with the plank followed by the boat. She created a long plank and a short plank. ‘The short plank is for boys and the long for girls,’ she said. This made me question where the idea that made her want to designate a route for boys and a different one for girls came from.

‘Can I go on the long plank?’ I said.

‘No that’s the boys’ plank this is for girls.’

‘Why can’t girls use this plank?’

‘They can’t because it’s for boys.’

At 4 years of age she felt that she needed to separate out objects for boys and for girls. As a staff we don’t label objects for either gender so I can only presume that it was influences beyond the school which made her want to do this.

My intervention was to ask her if she had reasons for her choice. After my challenge she started using the plank that she earlier had said was for boys.


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Teacher Blog: Early Years Foundation Stage

Friday 6th June 2014

Today was the first day that I noticed two boys in nursery openly challenging girls who tried to join in…

The first case was at the construction area outside. I was actively supporting children in trying areas not in use. I entered the construction area and one of the boys followed. We started to move bricks, level with a spirit level and measure. One of the girls moved to the area and asked the boy whether she could join us. “No” she was told. I challenged with “Why not?” “Building is for big men,” was the reply, “you have big men and boys not girls.” I challenged with “Girls build as well as boys.” “No they don’t. I told you it’s big men and boys” the boy said. I challenged again with “What makes girls different to boys to stop them?” I then supported understanding with a conversation that highlighted that girls could do the same as boys. The girl returned and her friend joined in. The boy accepted the girls as I had challenged him but I’m not convinced he would have let them without my presence.

Then later children were in the middle of role-play supporting fantasy with wooden block play. “Lets go to our boys castle,” one of the boys called. “Just boys?” I challenged, “Why just boys? Why not girls?” “The castle is for super heroes and you can’t have girl super heroes.” I named a handful. “They have Cat Woman but she is bad. She is not a super hero” was the answer. I then named similar villains who were boys. I could see he was reflecting on his thoughts through being challenged. He was persuaded to let the girls enter the castle.

Both examples today were in areas of construction and outdoors.

My next observation will be to see if they are more open to girls joining in next week? Will I need to intervene?

Monday June 9th 2014

The children were under the shelter while it rained, singing to a Disney song. The music stopped and another song was about to start. The song started but the three girls said nothing. “We’re not singing this one. It’s a boys song.” The comment was directed at a boy sat opposite. I intervened with interest. “Why are you not singing?” pretending I hadn’t heard. “It’s a boys song. Boys have to sing this song.” I challenged the statement suggesting that songs were for everyone to sing. “Some songs are for boys and some are for girls.” One of the boys joined in, “Yes this is a boys song.” The song changed with a female singing. “I’m singing this one,” the girls laughed. “You can’t. It’s for girls this song.” I then demonstrated that songs are for everyone by singing the song with them.

The children had fixed ideas as to who sang the song in the soundtrack from the film. Young children are trying to partition boys and girls songs when we all know that anyone can sing a song. By challenging I would hope that they could sing the songs they enjoy without considering their gender.

Mapping the route Walking the plank

Pirates for All

It’s the last term prior to the summer so we are exploring the seaside. ‘Pirates’ is the chosen starting point. The resources, if the practitioners don’t evaluate, are very male dominated. My colleague came across a story which has female pirates, ‘The Night Pirates’ by Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright. She used this as the hook. We used Word Wall to create a lotto game. Initially I found the images centred around men and boys. I refined the search with the words ‘girl pirates.’ This provided me with various images that made the game more inclusive to both girls and boys. Instead of the small world toys from the shops with just pirate men we have used non-specific play people. We hope that the two-week theme will help develop strong characters amongst both boys and girls.