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

 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 Stephen: Christmas in EYFS

Who would have thought that a discussion amongst four year olds about a baby born at Christmas time would have generated so much discussion with regards to gender?

Two of the four-year-old girls were sat dressed up in nativity costumes exploring a book of Christmas carols. The children thought that the baby in the drawing, in the arms of Mary, was calm, peaceful and quiet. I suggested it might be a boy, but they had already decided it was a girl. I then told them that the drawing was of baby Jesus, a baby boy. I explained that all babies can be calm, peaceful and quiet, in the same way that they can also be excitable and loud at times too. The baby was calm because he was in the loving arms of his family.

The rest of the conversation then resorted to the usual pattern of colours and gender, which I have experienced many times before.

Later on the two girls  were looking at the shepherds looking after the sheep. Even with the drawing of both men and women as shepherds the children stated that ‘Only men can be shepherds.’

I responded that ‘Shepherdesses’ are women that look after sheep and that it’s not just men that do this.

You can understand why young children might think this. Over the next three weeks many schools will be having the boys play the shepherds and the girls, angels in nativity plays, even though we know Angel Gabriel was a man (as far as angels have a gender) and that women worked as shepherdesses in the hills.


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Teacher blog, Stephen: Adults modelling respect for each other is so important

At a meeting today Helen suggested I put in writing something I observe in schools everyday.

I consider myself lucky to be in a school where the adults recognise that children observe how the adults in the school interact with each other. There seems little point preparing PSHE lessons in schools where the adults have little or no respect for each other.

It’s pointless the children hearing what is taught but seeing the adults doing the complete opposite. This confuses them and it may result in children starting to copy this behaviour themselves.

Schools that have a mixture of male and female staff have to be very wary that they do not send the message that ‘it’s the male staff who deal with behaviour’.

Behaviour should be addressed by the member of staff who is dealing with it, with other staff in a supportive role offering their presence but not being seen to take over.

Schools are not looking for superheros who come charging in to the rescue undermining everyone else in the process. The child seeing that the female dinner supervisor is dealing with it helps the child understand that all staff, whether female or male, teacher or not, are capable of managing behaviour. This respect for all the adults then influences how the child perceives the different genders in school.

I also think female staff can help male staff by helping to get across the caring side of male staff to pupils and male staff can help by getting across the message that female staff are more than capable of taking a lead on behavioural issues.

Challenging the ‘Wait til your dad gets home’ message, or the threat of ‘If you don’t behave I will send you to Mr….’ is key to challenging gender stereotypes in schools.

These gender perceptions are not healthy for any community and in my experience males in schools don’t want to be perceived as uncaring.

On the flip side I think female members of staff don’t need or want people undermining their authority by children seeing males as the only ones in authority. That’s why I like the phrase TEAM TEACH.

Behaviour should always be managed by a TEAM.

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Teacher blog, Stephen: Wow! It’s working

We spend so much time formulating ideas to challenge stereotypes and perceptions of children, but are they working?

I’m sat chatting at the Playdough station with a group of older nursery children, when suddenly one of the boys asks me,

‘Do you like pink?’

‘Yes I do. That’s why I wear a pink shirt or jumper to nursery sometimes.’

‘I don’t’ he says.


‘I just don’t.’

One of the girls joins in, ‘I like pink and I like all colours.’

The title of this blog is ‘Wow its working’ because although the boy doesn’t like the colour pink, he had noticed the colour of the jumper I had been wearing and wanted to talk to me about it.

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Teacher blog, Stephen: Colours mean so much

Because of a mixture of new starters and older children, the first half term in nursery is very busy, with lots of conversation as the children get to know each other.

I was cold one morning so I wore my pink/purple jumper.

I sat at a table full of maths games.

Two of the older nursery girls join me and started to play and started to giggle at my jumper.

‘What’s so funny?’ I said. ‘Its my favourite colour.’

‘Its pink, boys can’t have pink as a favourite colour.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because you’re a boy.’

Once again, these children were as young as three, but had already formed gender stereotypes regarding specific colours.

A lovely and insightful conversation.

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Teacher Blog: EYFS

The activity was baking buns. The mixture was ready and the children were ready to choose a coloured bun case. When it came to my turn I chose pink. Two of the girls giggled, then commented, ‘You can’t choose pink it’s a girls’ colour.’ Other children around the table agreed.

I asked, ‘Why?’

‘It just is. We have pink and boys have blue.’

I then said, ‘I like pink and it’s a colour I have chosen.’

Then one of the boys spoke up saying that he liked pink. I feel that my choice gave him the courage to share his preference. The conversation confirmed to the children that everyone can have a favourite colour and they should be free to make their own choice.


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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.