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: Stephen

Stephen continues to challenge young children’s stereotypical views in his school Nursery. Here are a few examples of recent conversations:

Careful with your nails

This morning three girls were sitting in the home area. This term it has started as a bedroom. They were pretending to put on make up etc. I sat down and joined them. They were talking about painting nails. I suggested I would like my nails painted. They smiled. I then asked for pink please. One of the girls looked bemused.

‘You can’t have pink nails’. Then a pause. Then she said,

‘You just can’t. Men can’t have pink.’

I then talked about the colour pink and how it was a colour that both boys and girls might choose. I can like pink if I make the choice. We can all make our own choices about what we like and don’t like.

 

Not a girl

New to nursery and during his second week, one of the boys with a very assertive stance proclaimed his dislike towards girls in nursery.

This developed into a conversation between a member of staff, Mrs Scholes, and the child.

‘Why not girls?’

‘Because I don’t.’

‘Do you like mum?’

‘Yes I like mum.’

‘Do you like me?’ (Mrs Scholes)

‘Yes.’

‘Do you like Miss Aspinall?’

‘Yes.’

‘We’re all girls so if you like us then you do like girls after all.’

Teaching is so more meaningful when you can take your lead from a child and expand their understanding. This helped a young child realise that perhaps he didn’t like all girls!

 

Who said it’s your turn?

We opened the outdoors and the children wanted a ramp building before we got the bikes out. The group consisted of four girls and two boys. The girls worked together with the ramp carrying the large blocks. The boys briefly observed them, then moved to the slide. The girls finished the ramp so we went to the bike shed. The boys returned seeing the shed door open.

They pushed forward expecting a bike. I explained that the bikes were for the ramp builders and as they had moved away they would have to wait.

Staff can teach children that pushing to the front when it suits them doesn’t work. How often do children muscle others aside and if left unchallenged we make it a successful strategy. How often do boys muscle girls off the computer keyboard when they want a turn? Very often with the words ‘Let me show you…’

 


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Teacher Blog: Stephen

Gender Respect Pupil Conference: What happened next

The four school council members who attended the pupil conference were buzzing on the train home to Barnsley. I wasn’t sure if this was just a feel good factor or a sustained desire to bring about a change.

You can see what they planned to do on this film from the pupil conference:

By Thursday of the following week, they were knocking on the nursery door with a list that they had already completed. They explained they had started a presentation, made a poster for around school, were working on leaflets and now needed our Headteacher to allocate a whole school assembly.

Our Headteacher was delighted and taken aback by their passion. He quickly provided a date for an assembly for them to work towards. Dearne FM, the local radio station, were at school the next day spreading the news about how eager the children were to address Gender Respect.

Today they were very professional, confident and worked clearly in a team to share the message to the rest of school. I’m delighted that the ‘pupil voice’ is now discussing more than dressing up days and fundraising and that children are supporting their own community by voicing their feelings and desires.

DSC02394

It was interesting that after numerous days working together, the boys didn’t show for one of the lunchtime sessions. The girls said that the boys had needed a day to play out and that they had let them. The boys in effect had left the girls to write and design so they could play out. However, the boys still wanted a say when it came to decision making.

It generated a discussion and I reminded them that we are all in it together with a shared responsibility. You cannot opt out and yet still want a say. They understood the message and recognised that sacrificing playing out is part of teamwork. They agreed that after the assembly they would meet one lunchtime a week.

They still have the passion for Gender Respect and I’m looking forward to seeing the impact across the school.


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Teacher Blog: Stephen

 A safe place to show my socks

One of the boys who comes from a family with a history of aggressive behaviour is enjoying the carpet area. He has four pairs of socks on brought from home. He takes them off one by one. The staff are curious by the third layer. He then reveals the final pair. Pink and white. I ask him his favourite colour. With a smile and with pride he shouts ‘It’s pink.’

How pleasing that nursery is a safe environment where he can be himself. How sad that he conceals the socks prior to nursery.

Proof that we need to support boys who feel that they can’t be themselves.


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Teacher Blog: Ade

RSE Policy

As a school, we knew that our SRE policy was becoming a little out of date and needed refreshing. The first thing that we did was to rename it so that it is now called RSE, with the emphasis on the relationship aspect. Although it is only a subtle change, the response from other teachers has been amazing! It’s the sort of thing that makes you ask why you never did it sooner. By simply swapping two letters, we’re now saying that we’re going to be learning about how we relate to one another;  what it means to be in a relationship; how we treat others, and yes, an element of what we’ll be learning about is sex, but as part of a relationship centred around love and respect. The idea has gone down well.

 

In addition, we decided to restructure what each year group will cover. Being an academy allows us some flexibility with this. Beforehand, I picked the brains of some of the members of the Gender Respect Project for ideas and then sat down to map out our RSE overview.  The new curriculum took shape and is now part of our policy. In brief, we begin in Y1 with a focus on naming parts of the body that can be seen on a clothed person e.g, head, hands, arms, legs, etc. During Y2 children are learning about the life cycles of animals. In Y3 and Y4 children use PHSE / P4C sessions to explore the concept of consent. This is a new addition to our curriculum and aims to bring awareness of valuing another person’s personal space, that nobody has a right to invade it in any way. Clearly, this is not a session in sexual consent – the children are too young to be discussing that – however, it does lay some foundations for such discussions at secondary school. Moving into Y5, children learn about the content associated with a typical SRE curriculum: puberty, menstruation, reproduction, etc. Formally, this had usually been taught in Y6, but we chose to move it so that the Y6 could focus on more thought provoking issues such as relationships and families, name calling, body image, bullying and self-esteem. This is also a new addition to our RSE curriculum, but an element that some would argue is the most important of all.

 

We have yet to try out our new structure. As I write this, letters have been sent to parents informing them of our changes and we have invited them to take a copy of our policy and / or attend a Q and A meeting to address any concerns. To date, (over a week since the letters went out), only one parent has responded and has asked to see the policy. The rest seem satisfied. I might be speaking too soon, but early indicators suggest the idea is popular with parents too. Maybe there is a collective understanding that to live happily alongside others in our modern day society, we need to dedicate time to learning about the values promoted by the Gender Respect Project. Let’s hope so!

 

Update: The policy has now been adopted by the school and a copy can be found here: Relationships and Sex Education overview


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Teacher Blog: Abbey

Roller Derby

Sheffield Steel Roller Girls is a local roller derby team. Roller derby is a full contact sport played on roller skates. It is possibly the most inclusive sport out there and has been praised for the way it allows girls to see athleticism in women of all shapes and to allow girls to play aggressive sports. They have recently created a junior league, allowing their positive message to reach a whole new generation of girls at an age where sports can often be a minefield of negativity.

See their website for more information:

Junior League


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Teacher Blog: Rebecca (and Clive)

Boys’ Talk

The Boys’ Talk lesson (see Secondary lesson plans) was trialled with a Y10 class of 13 pupils (9 male and 2 female), all deemed of fairly low ability.

They engaged well with discussions about harassment and sexual harassment, coming up with good ideas and examples. When looking at the ‘Vital Statistics’ from Everyday Sexism (by Laura Bates), there were some derogatory comments about India.

Forum Theatre:

The script provoked a lot of discussion, with several boys saying this was an unlikely conversation, that boys did not talk like this, that they would not get involved etc. When asked, the girls confirmed that ‘slag’ was the most common word they heard around school attached to girls. The boys seemed to think that a girl was a slag from the way she dressed. A definition was given for the word slag ‘A woman who people disapprove of because she has had a lot of sexual partners.’ (Cambridge English Dictionary) and that this had nothing to do with dress.

For the plenary, comments about what the pupils had learned were:

‘Harassment is very bad and needs to stop.’

‘What sexual harassment is.’

‘The meaning of different types of harassment.’

‘I have learned what harassment is and how to stop it.’

‘I learned today what (slag) means.’

‘You can also in school if it is something of discriminating women.’

‘I have learned what is the importance of women and how to treat them.’

In discussion afterwards, Rebecca felt she needed to do more with them on how to challenge views without escalating into a fight (a concern amongst the boys) and to find ways to give the girls more of a voice and get the boys to see issues from their perspectives. She felt that these pupils were used to seeing issues in extremes, and perhaps a topic like FGM might get consensus on what is ‘wrong’ in gender relations and build from there.