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Schools’ audit on gender stereotyping

Posters on local people who could be role models for our children 'like a male nurse who works at the Royal Free'

04 February, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Helen Bruckdorfer from Torriano School

HEADTEACHERS say they are “auditing” their primary schools to ensure there is nothing on display that will reinforce gender stereotypes for pupils.

Five schools said they had signed up for help from Lifting Limits, an organisation which advises on how to remove “unconscious bias”.

Helen Bruckdorfer, headteacher at Torriano School in Kentish Town, said: “It was an extensive piece of work, from looking at the types of books we have, the language and the way we talk as well.”

She spoke at last week’s full council meeting about the need for schools to open up to outside agencies. Brookfield, Carlton, Gospel Oak and Kentish Town primaries have also taken part in the work with Lifting Limits.

Jacqueline Phelan, headteacher at Carlton Primary, said: “We went into it to make sure our curriculum reflected equality. I wanted to make sure that the material we put on offer to our children matched our ethos.”

She added: “Part of the pilot was a two-day audit of the school – looking at displays, books and how teachers were teaching. We encourage our staff to think of our language and self-bias through stories or issues with texts. They also gave us posters on local people who could be role models for our children, like a male nurse who works at the Royal Free.”

Campaigners draw parallels between gender stereotypes and the lack of women in science and tech jobs, with women taking up just 15 per cent and the lack of boys studying literacy subjects after school.

Caren Gestetner, co-founder of Lifting Limits said: “There are lots of things that people think are really harmless, like continuously praising girls for their appearance, and people see that as a positive thing. If that’s what a girl hears over and over, she will think that’s what society values her for.”

She added: “Our approach is about early intervention. There is a lot of good work already happening at secondary schools but there is a struggle to undo the norms children learn when they are really young. Research shows that tends to happen around the age of eight. Gender stereotyping does not stay outside the school gates and even the most conscious schools are not immune from its influences. Schools can, however, be powerful agents for change in challenging gender stereotypes.”

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