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

 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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CRESST Peer Mediators’ Conference

Kathryn and Heather ran a Gender Respect workshop at the CRESST conference for peer mediators on 7th January, 2016. We ran the workshop 3 times with 3 different groups of children in Y5 and Y6 from 10 schools in South Yorkshire.

Our aims were:

  • Explore what it’s like to be a boy or a girl in South Yorkshire
  • Identify attitudes we have about boys and girls
  • Think as peer mediators how we can make it fairer.

We used the same images of sports, careers and emotions that we had used in the scoping study as stimulus for discussions. We used continuum lines with agree and disagree about a view or attitude that emerged to generate further thought and discussion.

DECSY Gender Respect (16)

These are some of the attitudes that we drew out from the lively discussions:

Sports:

  • Many girls want to play football at play time but don’t because boys are too rough.
  • When we asked boys ‘Is this true?’ some replied ‘Yes, because we’re more competitive than girls.’
  • Football is a boys’ sport. Boys are tough and can be aggressive.
  • Girls are not as good at sport.
  • Girls can be stronger than boys and they can play football as well as boys.
  • Some boys like dancing and are good at it.
  • Boys can be embarrassed to be friends with a girl.
  • Some schools had girls only football at play time. Other girls said they did not want this. They wanted to play with boys but for boys not to be so rough and obey the rules.

Careers:

Strong views were expressed about equality, that men and women should be able to do every job.

  • Boys and girls can do every job.
  • It’s good to see a woman pilot and men looking after children.
  • Usually women do childcare. They have carried the baby so they are more in touch. However, men can look after children too.
  • Comparisons with the past. Men used to go out to work and women stayed at home. Now more women go out to work.

Emotions:

  • You sometimes see women being angry, but they’ve got good reasons to be angry. They do not get equal pay and are often treated unfairly and not with respect.
  • It’s unusual to see men cry but they all agreed that it’s acceptable for them to cry.
  • Boys and men act really tough. If they cry, they think they’ll look weak.

We asked the children: ‘If you had super magical powers and had one wish, to make things fairer and kinder between men and women, girls and boys what would that be?’

  •  Girls and boys can play together
  • Don’t judge people by if they’re black or white
  • Girls are the same as boys and everyone is treated fairly
  • Girls and boys are in the same team in any sport
  • Make girls confident to do sports
  • Make more jobs accessible to different genders
  • Freedom of choice
  • Change attitudes
  • To make sure men and women get treated equally and have the same rights
  • Boys and girls shouldn’t judge each other by what they look like
  • Everyone having the same opportunities
  • That men and women should share their feelings
  • To make every man, woman and child get along so everyone should stop bombing and attacking people.
  • For people to aim for their dreams

Finally, we asked them ‘As a peer mediator, what could you do to make it fairer?’

  • Talk to the school in an assembly, about genders getting along with being friends and making sure you are able to do what you want to do. E.g. being able to play football if you are a girl.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover
  • To make sure you’re not taking sides
  • Don’t judge people by their gender
  • Giving people the opportunity to play
  • Make girls try to play sport and not make boys make fun of them
  • Play together fairly. Treat people respectfully. Practise together.
  • Collaborate more
  • Listen to other people’s opinion
  • Encourage people to believe in themselves and do what they want with their life
  • Use encouragement to build their confidence
  • Make a rota (that’s clear) for girl’s football on a certain day, same with boys, ‘We have a rota but whenever I look at the football pitch and there are always boys, the same boys.’

DECSY Gender Respect (23)

Our reflections

We really enjoyed the workshops and felt very encouraged by the opinions of the young people. We realised we had the benefit of being with a selected group of hand-picked 10 and 11 year olds, trained in listening and mediation. The children were forthcoming in their views and able to discuss their differences. They had strongly held views about the importance of equality – between men and women, boys and girls, black and white. This held true for occupations, emotions and relationships. We were very interested to hear that some girls and boys did not like the banter about ‘Girls are best. No! Boys are best.’ which they said was very prevalent in their schools. ‘Because we are all human beings. We want to be treated like human beings.’ However, in the everyday experience of playground football, girls expressed their reality of exclusion. This held true across all 10 schools represented. It may be boys had not heard this before and discussions like this could make a difference, especially as peer mediators are mostly engaged because of conflicts at play times. However, some boys’ view that they were more competitive than girls seemed insightful, and may reflect an underlying culture.

Thoughts for the future of the Gender Respect project: We were encouraged that some children spontaneously suggested holding an assembly on gender equality. We hope their teachers will be able to support them in this. This idea may be developed at the young people’s conference later this month. All the children said they would love to come to a Gender Respect student conference if there was one in the future.

 

 


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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: Carol

Nature of and frequency of friendships between girls and boys: survey and intervention
The results from a mixed gender friendship questionnaire delivered to Year 7, 8, 9 and 11 students (aged 11 – 16) showed that on average 2 in 5 of the students surveyed did not have a good friend of the opposite sex (boys and girls).  
Reasons for this stated could be summarised into
  • religious restrictions
  • embarrassment and misunderstanding intentions
  • fear of sexism and violence from boys
  • disliking boy’s attitudes/ not being respected
  • girls having different interests
  • not having shared experiences with the opposite sex
Students cited their friendships coming out of:
  • being stuck up for in a vulnerable situation
  • being able to be honest and one’s self
  • shared opinions (eg. dislike of a teacher!)
  • finding the same things funny
  • playing/chatting together
  • shared experiences, special & everyday
The talking group provides a space for sharing and debating issues of importance to students.  It is mixed sex and includes students across Y7-Y9.  Students agree ground rules and decide democratically topics that they like to discuss but this is not rigid within the session if another topic of interest arises.  The group of 16 is facilitated by two adults (both Philosophy for Children trained).  Some of the outcomes hoped for are:
  • an experience of constructive dialogue
  • new friendship connections
  • space to speak, listen and be listened to in a mixed group.