When I first joined the Gender Respect Project, my plan was to use my school’s enrichment time as a way to provide both girls and boys from Y1 to Y6 with the opportunity to choose and participate in one of a variety of activities for a whole half term. By using carefully planned SMSCD sessions, the idea was to ‘break the mould’ and show them that the activity that they chose should be their own choice, not what society says is the right choice for their gender. All was going great and we were seeing positive results, but then, for a variety of reasons my school stopped providing enrichment time. Although the school could keep on promoting the idea of turning our backs on stereotypes, without the enrichment activities we would have no way to measure its success. I had to think again about how I could do this.
The solution came in the form of our after school clubs. My school’s current arrangement is for all teaching staff to deliver (as part of their directed time) an after school club for a half term at some stage during the school year. Teachers are provided with a list of activities from which they sign up to deliver one. Because the activities are already given a particular half term as a time slot, the school can guarantee that there are clubs available throughout the year. As a school we decided that the children should have a say in some of the clubs that were to be offered, so through class and school councils we compiled a selection that is to be offered next academic year. In the same way that children chose their own enrichment activity, now they can choose their own after school club and we can continue to measure the impact of our work on gender and choices.
The class and school councils consist of a fairly even mix of boys and girls, meaning that the addititional clubs suggested have been chosen by a range of children from both genders. Although the lists have not been finalised, they could be described in the following gender neutral ways:
Do you know self-defence? (Karate)
Can you pass a ball to score hoops? (Basketball)
How can you express yourself through art? (Art)
Can you control a ball with a racket? (Tennis)
Can you pass a ball to score goals? (Football)
One possible way to ensure an equal number of boys and girls for each activity is to split the places equally between both, thus ensuring that none become ‘heavy’ with one particular gender; plus creating an expectation that both genders will sign up.