Sports day, speech day, prize giving, proms and new parent welcoming meetings. All these events are occasions when gender inequality can be an issue. Last year I sat in my son’s school for speech day and was horrified when every child chosen in Key Stage 2 was a girl. Equally I would have had the same reaction if it had just been boys that were chosen. Schools should reflect a community where both girls’ and boys’ contributions to the community are recognised. So these are some of the questions I would be asking:
How are the children chosen? Is it mixed gender or gender specific? If as a teacher you are aware that boys or girls outperform in a particular activity is it worth considering separating the sexes to stop it becoming one gender is better than others? (bearing in mind that single sex activities can reinforce differences) To encourage competition children need to know they have a chance of winning.
Speech day or prize giving
Are all sections of the community equally represented? Are the prizes not just a reflection on academic success? Have you a prize for the boy and girl who has demonstrated kindness to others? Is there a prize for a boy and girl who has been an ambassador to others?
A challenge more in primary than secondary. Lots of discussion and opinion. Parents and schools with different viewpoints. I personally have reservations whether primary is the right place. I’m very aware of self-image and I’m concerned that 10/ 11 year olds are encouraged to question their looks. Prom boy and prom girl misleads children to question their own appearance. For 10s and 11s a leavers party, in my opinion, is more appropriate.
New parents meetings
Are they at a time that encourages all parents to attend? Are there messages we want to share with parents that help parents to understand that equality in our school is important? I want parents in my school to know that an equal number of boys and girls are on the school council. I also want parents to realise that behaviour that doesn’t respect others isn’t tolerated. I want parents to know that a safe environment for all is equally important as academic achievement.
Over the summer lets see schools take a responsible lead on gender respect.