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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Gender Equality in Primary Schools: A Guide for Teachers by Helen Griffin

‘Essential reading…it offers a brilliant round-up of all the issues, literature and research over the last 20 years to enable schools to understand why and how to challenge gender stereotypes.’ – Let Toys Be Toys

‘A brilliant, comprehensive and action-focused guide.’ – Sara Shahvisi, Director of Programmes, Fearless Futures

‘Offers an instantly usable range of tools to develop gender equality in primary schools.’ – Dr Anna Carlile, Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Education, Goldsmiths, University of London

We are very excited to announce that this book, which is based on the work of the Gender Respect Project, is now out!

This hands-on guide supports primary teachers and other school staff in
challenging gender stereotypes, and sets out advice on how to implement
gender equality and respect in the curriculum, and in all areas of school

The book is full of lesson plans, case studies, clear guidance and
recommended actions as well as further reading and resources. Extending
beyond awareness of other genders, this book provides a framework for a
gender equality approach in the classroom, and empowers children to think
critically about gender and to respect themselves and others.

Aimed at: primary school teachers, trainee teachers, head teachers, teaching
assistants, pastoral teams and governors.

Publisher: Jessica Kingsley PublishersScreen shot 2018-02-27 at 10.31.36

Price: £14.99

ISBN: 9781785923401




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Gender Workshop at CRESST Peer Mediators’ Conference

The Gender Respect project was involved for the third year in CRESST’s annual Peer Mediators’ Conference with ten Sheffield primary schools. For a short film of the conference click on the image.

Screen shot 2017-03-21 at 17.01.41


Helen and Heather ran three 50-minute workshops for all the children with the aims of

  • exploring what it’s like to be a boy or girl in South Yorkshire in 2017
  • looking at the attitudes and assumptions people have about boys and girls;
  • considering how these thoughts may affect their peer mediation work

The children engaged readily in discussion about gender equality and their comments were very similar to previous years and to the Scoping Study carried out by the Gender Respect project in 2013.

When asked at the beginning whether there were any issues in their schools relating to gender, every group identified a problem with girls being excluded by boys from football with general agreement from many of the children including the boys: ‘Boys are reckless and don’t pass to girls’. Yet when we discussed this further most of the children told us that girls could be just as good as boys at football and it was only because ‘boys play football more’ that they ‘can be better’. With one group we had a lively agree / disagree line from a statement by one of the children that ‘professional football should have mixed teams’. Children stood along the line presenting strong arguments at either end for why this would advantage or disadvantage women. None of the children suggested that it would ruin the game or spoil it for men.

The discussion about jobs and occupations prompted by some photographs of people in non-stereotypical roles prompted surprise from many of the children particularly at female builders and pilots and men involved in childcare. Most of the children said that they hadn’t seen women builders or pilots:

‘When you think of a pilot you think it would be a man, and staff are women.’

‘You don’t see girls playing with planes and pretending to be a pilot.’

‘Really excited when I saw a female pilot on board, as it made me feel like I could do anything.’

Since a number of the children were doubtful whether men were capable of childcare we had another agree / disagree line with the statement:

‘Men are not good enough to take care of babies’

Agree   Disagree
Don’t put enough work in There’s nothing wrong but they need to know they can Dad looks after baby sister
Women want to Men can’t deal with it as well They can learn to look after their babies

The children’s wishes at the end of the session displayed a heartfelt belief that there should be equality:

‘I wish that boys and girls all believed they can do anything they want, e.g., girl  –  football, or boy – ballerina.’

‘I think that boys should pass in football and understand that girls are equal to boys.’

‘I wish that girls and boys would get along together, work together and play together. I wish they could share and play together. I would help them share.’

‘I wish that girls and women would be expected to do as much or as little as boys and men. For example, in football games, rock-climbing, dancing, being pilots and many more, and get paid equally for the quality of their work. For example, a male footballer who plays for Sheffield and scores three goals every game should be paid as much as a woman footballer who plays for Sheffield and scores three goals every game. And the same with boys doing things you normally see the girls doing.’

Although in order to explore gender inequality we had to identify perceived differences between girls and boys  some of the children were aware of the problem of naming girls and boys as separate and opposite in the language they used in their wishes:

‘Whatever gender you are, you can do everything.’

‘Any person can do any job or play any role regardless of their gender.’


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Gender Respect Pupil Conference 2 – 17th June 2016

The pupils were all very excited to meet back together for a second pupil conference to share what they had been doing in school. There were two primary and two secondary schools represented. As a warm up and ice breaker that would introduce ideas around consent that were suitable for the primary school pupils, Chella chose a simplifed version of the handshake activity by Justin Hancock of Bish Training, which can be found in the Consent Issue of The Sex Educational Sex Education Forum’s e-magazine. The use of a handshake as a metaphor for the basics around negotiating good consent was helpful for pupils and staff, and some fun and complicated handshake/fistbump/wave routines were created and shared, all in the space of a few minutes! The activity was followed by a discussion about which greeting felt more comfortable and how we can give our consent as to whether or not we wish to shake hands with someone. Chella linked this to stroking pets and how we can tell when a cat doesn’t want to be stroked.


The pupils then shared some of the activities they had been doing in school. We were very impressed with the creativity of the pupils and we enjoyed listening to the songs they had created and a video of a boys’ dance competition.

These were the pupils who organised a boys’ dance competition and made up a rap.


They did an assembly and inspired other pupils to get involved. This is a poster that someone made. When the school were asked if they would like to have an annual boys’ dance competition and how many would enter, they were overwhelmed by the positive response.


We had a great song all about respecting one another. Below is the song and the lyrics:

You respect me,

I respect you,

Respecting each other is so cool when your with your best friends even people you don’t know.

This is what we all expect you’ve got to learn to show respect or you might end up sad and all alone.

So lets come together, stand together, play and work and rest together.

Nice with each other now and forever yeah, ohhh yeah.

Cause we can be who we were born to be, living and working in harmony.

Respecting each other, protecting each other.

We come together, stand together.

Boys and girls forever together as friends.

Gender Respect!!!!


These pupils are part of a debating club. They created and performed a song about gender respect.


These are the words of their song:

Sometimes I wonder,

If there was no gender,

What would the world be like.
No sexism,
No bullying,
Free to do whatever I want.
All I wish there was, was equality because
I’m not a girl,
I’m not a boy,
I’m just a person in the world.
I’m not strong like a man,
I don’t throw like a girl,
I can cry! I can shout! I can scream!
I just want to be free to be me.
I’m not a girl,
I’m not a boy,
I’m just a person in the world.
Sick of all these labels.
I’m not a girl,
I’m not a boy,
I’m just a person in the world.

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Pupil Conference 2 – The Workshops

The Secondary Workshop

The workshops planned in the second part of the day were linked to needs pupils had expressed around the most important idea they wanted to address with their classmates. For the secondary pupils these focused on two key issues: identifying and challenging verbal and physical harassment, and sharing good etiquette that would support inclusion of trans and non-binary classmates.

Chella and Becky used teacher in role and forum theatre techniques to bring up the issue of gender pronoun etiquette, this time using a different metaphor. But first, Chella asked everyone to think about whether someone had ever offended them and then spent so long apologising that they made it all about them, and didn’t really even think about or learn from their own mistake. There were several nods of recognition. Pupils identified the feelings around this as guilt, embarrassment, shame, fear of looking ignorant in front of their friends. She then asked if anyone had been afraid to get things wrong or over-reacted after making a mistake – more nods of recognition.

They talked about asking for someone’s pronouns  – their classmates at school who identify as non-binary or genderfluid have said they prefer to use the word ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’. We had a pupil time us having a quick exchange about it, and it took 12 seconds. We gave pupils a generous 15 seconds to have the same chat in pairs, and then again, swapping pairs to try it with someone else.

Then Chella changed the subject completely for our role play and asked them to imagine they were horses. She was given dubious looks:

Chella: Hi! Let’s all welcome our new friend Debra!

Becky: Actually my name isn’t Debra. It’s Zebra. I’m a zebra.

And then Chella went into paroxysms of guilt and melodramatic apologies all about getting it wrong for what felt like ages, until Zebra walked away to get a cup of tea.


They asked the group to change the scene and make it better for Zebra. Again, they only had 12 seconds.

They shared some of their scenes with us.


This was one version:

Chella: Hi! Let’s all welcome our new friend Debra!

Becky: Actually my name isn’t Debra. It’s Zebra. I’m a zebra.

Chella: Oh! I’m sorry – how rude of me. Everybody, this is Zebra!


They asked why it was important to take the focus off yourself and make a quick apology, and the pupils discussed that feeling like you were left out or in the minority was frustrating enough – to be ignored once and have someone correct their mistake and learn from it was helpful, but to be ignored twice while the person went into a whole giant insincere apology and then made the same mistake next time was disrespectful. The pupils talked about the intersection of race and gender and we also briefly talked about microaggressions, where a series of seemingly small instances of disrespectful treatment could add up throughout the school day and have a big impact on someone overall.

Carol and Boo took it from here, linking straight into a mind map session around types of harassment based on gender, gender identity and sexuality. Pupils discussed words heard around school and types of verbal and physical harassment witnessed or experienced, based on a survey that a group of the Gender Respect teacher researchers had given out earlier in the term. Name calling and gender-loaded words were queried, as were certain types of touching and contact, linking back to the consent starter activity and taking it further.

The activity ended with the group planning freeze frames and captions for image theatre, and coming up with some comebacks that could be safe and assertive responses to unwanted behaviour at school.

The session led straight into a quick-fire response round. Everyone was energised and ready to take on the world of Gender Respect, and we wanted to harness that!



How to get these ideas out quickly and creatively, using the pupils’ own ideas for text and artwork?

In the planning session last month, some of the teacher researchers reported that their pupils felt anxious about coming to the end of the school year and not having disseminated what they’d learned yet – that big plans were hard to achieve in one lunchtime a week, or when assemblies were quite busy already.

Chella thought about the project’s activism roots and then realised that the tools of art activism – murals and zines, could spread the word quickly. Murals could double as assembly presentation slides and adverts for schools with flat screens in public areas.  Zines (also called fanzines) are tiny home-made magazines or booklets on any topic you like. They can be any size, but the simplest ones to make are 1-page mini zines. Here’s a good tutorial. Chella calls mini-zines ‘Paper Buzzfeed Listicles’ and bigger zines ‘paper Tumblr’ – they’re analogue social media, and they’re fun.


First Becky and Chella asked the pupils to choose their favourite topic they’d explored that day, and write top five things they wanted their classmates to know, then three reasons it was important to them, and come up with a doodle or emoji that would convey this issue. Becky showed her example using the Debra Zebra story to explain how to ask for pronouns and apologise for mistakes. This formed the six pages of the zine and the covers, and we got folding and cutting our zine templates while Boo, Caz, and Helen passed out snacks and juice for a working break – these kids were on a roll! They were so energised and empowered, and their work was really impressive – even over such a short amount of time! There were some good metaphors – one pupil used a conversation between a cartoon potato and a peeler to talk about consent, and another drew one of her favourite fairy tales, Rapunzel, but with a reclaimed ending. The group decided to call their zine collection, which they will complete, share and develop into presentations and murals, the SAGA Saga, after one pupil’s discovery of the phrase Sexuality and Gender Alliance in their online readings about equality, and after the Norse word for story.




The session concluded with Chella inviting pupils to begin a round of powerful final thoughts from each pupil, secondary teacher and volunteer sharing something starting with either ‘I hope…’, ‘I enjoyed…’ or ‘I feel…’  – and we had some lovely thoughts all the way back to the start of the project, and excitement about the ways pupils felt empowered to carry on the project’s aims now and in future. It was a fantastic afternoon, and we are looking forward to how their work carries on back at their schools!


The Primary Workshop

In the primary workshop we gave the pupils gender-based scenarios that we felt they might come across at school:

  • You are working in a group with 2 girls and 2 boys. The boys keep taking the lead, making the decisions and dominating the conversation. What do you do?
  • You are a girl and you enjoy playing games and creating a PowerPoint on the computer. One lunchtime, you are working on something and a boy comes over and takes over from you, saying he is just showing you how to do it. What do you do?
  • You are a boy and your friend has just hit you on the arm and told you you’re no good at running. You begin to cry. Another friend comes over. What happens next?

We asked the pupils to create a drama showing the scenario and what they would do next. We had a really interesting discussion about their experiences of these situations and what they did.


Using the scenarios and discussions as stimuli, we asked the pupils to come up with a philosophical question. These were some of the questions generated:

  • Why is blue seen as a boys’ colour and pink seen as a girls’ colour?
  • Are boys and girls allowed to express their feelings equally?
  • Why is it sometimes difficult for boys and girls to be friends?
  • Do boys talk louder to make themselves heard?
  • Why do people sometimes get teased for doing things that the other gender does?

The question they choose was: ‘Why is it sometimes difficult for boys and girls to be friends?’ The pupils said that sometimes they were teased for playing with someone of the opposite gender and people would say that they had a crush on them. They felt that it was unfair and that everyone should be able to play with who they wanted to, regardless of gender. They thought they would be more aware of it in school and would challenge people if they heard teasing.


Our second part of the workshop was to think about the role of the pupils next year as Gender Respect Ambassadors. We came up with a job description:

  1. To challenge gender inequality.
  2. To mediate arguments relating to gender.
  3. To run workshops to help people understand about gender respect.
  4. To create materials to raise awareness – posters, songs, PowerPoints.


Our Vision:

  • We will challenge others if we feel they are being disrespectful.
  • All genders will be playing happily with one another.
  • We will have equal participation.
  • We will listen respectfully to each other.
  • We will ensure our environment and materials reflect gender respect.

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Teacher Blog: Rebecca

Year 7 lesson on ‘men’s jobs and women’s jobs’

As part of our Year 7 careers topic I trialled a very simple activity where students were asked to sort a set of different jobs into a Venn diagram of ‘jobs for women’, ‘jobs for men’ or ‘both’. Initially there was a bit of confusion and most students said that it was a bit silly because it was obvious that people could do whichever job they wanted to now. Whilst I appreciated their awareness of anti-discrimination laws I wanted to scratch below the surface of their response so I asked them to think about stereotypes in careers (it might be an idea to cover in a previous lesson what a stereotype is- my students are great at spotting them now, ‘Miss, that’s a stereotype, that is!’) and traditionally which jobs were more suited to men and women.

And then the stereotypes came out; in abundance.

‘Women can’t work in construction, they aren’t any good at screwing things’

‘It’s too hard for them, they aren’t strong enough’

‘Men just aren’t any good with children, it’s a bit weird for them to be a nursery teacher’

‘Women are more caring and nurturing’

‘Women can’t fight in the army’

‘Male nurses are all gay’

‘There’s no way I’d let a man cut my hair (boy)’

Then we had a discussion to break down some of these stereotypes. Where did these ideas come from? Could they think of any exceptions to these ideas? I think this is crucial in breaking down stereotypes, if they can think of examples from their own lives that go against the assumptions. We talked about the skills and qualities needed to do each job and the type of person you’d have to be to be a good nurse, childcare worker, builder etc and, to some extent, they agreed that anyone from any gender could have those qualities. They still weren’t very convinced that men could be caring and nurturing though. We discussed why it was ok to have a male barber but not a male hairdresser (what’s the difference?!) and how from an early age the toys children play with prepare them for gendered careers and they started saying things like this:

‘We just don’t see many male nurses or women in construction’

‘It’s not normal because it’s really weird to see it’

‘Well, maybe it should be shown more on TV or something’

and then, my hero moment:

‘Miss, my uncle’s a nurse and he’s not gay’

Which is probably the statement that had the most impact all lesson.

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Teacher Blog: Carol

Talking group – secondary

Session Two – Consent

Carol – The government have recently passed a bill to make consent a compulsory subject for 11yr olds.   Lets think about this. What does it mean not to have consent?

J (boy) – It’s rape.

Carol – Remember to talk to the whole group not just me. Is it a good thing to have lessons for eleven year olds on sexual consent?

J (boy) – No some families might think it is not a good idea.

Carol – Are parents concerned?

I (boy) – My Mum would be concerned. They are only doing it because there have been quite a few cases.

Carol – How much rape do you think there is?

J (boy) – Quite a lot.

A1 (boy) – There was the thing in Rotherham with the taxis, lots of under-cover people, Jimmy Saville – no one expected that.

Carol – Is it just about pinning someone down?

S (girl) – We did it in Crime Awareness. It’s rape if you are under thirteen, if there’s peer pressure and…something else.

Carol: If you are drunk.

L (girl) – It’s good we learn about it. It might happen in later life and we might not have the confidence if we don’t know.

Carmel: Does learning make you safer?

Carol asks S not to be on her phone but she is looking up rape statistics.

S (girl) – 85,000 rapes in England and Wales last year and 400,000 sexual assaults.

Carol – Those are very large numbers and they are only the ones who went to the police. Are there any reasons why people might not go to the Police?

J (boy) – You might be frightened or ashamed.

Carol – Or very angry.

(Got distracted by taking about school dinners cat-food, dog-food)

A2 (boy) – I was playing a game and I pressed the chat button and the next day someone was chatting to me and said, “Do you want to have sex?” and I said “No” and she said “Do you want the best girlfriend ever?” I said I was a girl and turned the chat off.

Carol – Do animals give consent to sex? Described guinea pigs mating – talked about bringing baby guinea pigs into school for them to see.

The group got excited and were pressuring Carol to bring them in soon.

Carol – I will not be pressurised into bring them in!

Some laughter – they saw the link

A1 (boy) – Is bringing animals into school allowed?

Carol – It is for me. Do you think rape is used as a slang word now? On Grand Theft Auto there are rape rewards where you get to rape a prostitute.

D (boy) – They do it to advertise the game more.

S (boy) – Like Pretty Woman.

Carol – Who would that appeal to?

? – People who watch porn.

A1 (boy) – Is it women rape men or men rape women?

Carol – Mostly men play. CBBC are bringing out a drama based on GTA for Cbeebies.

Shock from the whole group

J (boy) – They will learn to play it.

L (girl) – It’s frightening, rape, heist, sexual violence, robbery.

A2 (boy) – I’ve got GTA on my ipad and I play it, you don’t have to be 18.

D (boy) – On the shop it asks you for your age but not when you play it.

H (girl) – I have to ask my parents to download for me when I want things because it is on their account.

S (girl) – The law isn’t working it’s rubbish, it’s just on who buys it not on who plays it and there are no restrictions on watching.

Carol – Why should there be restrictions?

D (boy) – It’s a bad influence. Some children might not be very mature.

Carol -There was a case recently of a ten year old boy who watched something and then he sexually abused his seven year old sister.

H (girl) – There are age restrictions but you can put in a different date of birth.

S (girl) – My cousin’s tablet wouldn’t let us watch a video. We only wanted to listen to a song but it came with a rude video.

A1 (boy) – When something has age restrictions it makes you want to watch it more.

Carol – So it makes it worse?

S (girl) – But I don’t want to watch a PG or a 12. 15 and 18 are good films. I like horror movies.

I (boy) – It’s like smoking, young people do it because it makes them look cool.

Carol – When someone tries to control you it makes them rebel. –e.g. of own children.

L (girl) – I’m not allowed to watch 16+ programmes. My parents would have to watch it.

? – A ten year old boy would want to watch it then tell his friends, it’s being cool.

A2 (boy) – I had a friend who kept talking about women. I told him to stop. I died in the game I was playing so I had a rest. He was on my ipad watching women having sex. I said this is not for your age and he gave it to me. Then my parents came in and I was holding the ipad and it was still playing. – long explanation of parent’s reaction.

Carol – When you have seen images like that they can stay with you for a long time.

I (boy) – What if you saw your children watching porn?

Carol – They wouldn’t choose to do that they are only 6 and 7 so it would be traumatic for them. They know about sex .

Carmel – My boys are 18 and 21 and I would be worried about it.

S (girl) – Models in shops always show perfect girls and men see them and think all girls are like that.

H (girl) – On YouTube there was a film about people who were dared to look at porn on a site and you couldn’t see what they were looking at but you could see that they were really shocked.

L (girl) – Can looking at porn cause post traumatic stress?

Carmel – You can get flashbacks from porn, just the same as with post traumatic, the images can seem to always be there and they won’t go away.

A2 (boy) – In Iran there were no rules, my friend watched a CD with really horrible sex it was so bad I broke it.

A1 (boy) – Can you get scarred if you see someone naked?

Carol – Well it could have the same effect that you can’t get the image out of your head if it had really shocked you.

Time ran out the group disbanded without any time to sum up.


Name Questions Comments Total
A1 (boy) 3 2 5
A2(boy) 4 4
Carmel 1 2 3
Carol 11 11 22
D (boy) 3 3
H (boy) 3 3
I (boy) 1 2 3
J (boy) 5 5
L (girl) 1 3 4
P (girl)
S (girl) 1 1
S (girl) 6 6