How Do Schools Deal With Sexism?

By adding short, simple anti-sexism activities to lessons or form time, you can start a conversation about sexism, change the culture, and motivate students to take action.

Look for places in the curriculum where you can start talking about how men and women are treated differently. If the curriculum is too narrow, like if there aren’t enough women authors or characters on required reading lists, talk to your students about it.

Gender stereotypes reinforce different ideas about what women and men, boys and girls, should and should not do. These ideas about sex roles can be very harmful because they put arbitrary limits on children and make prejudice and discrimination worse. Students can challenge stereotypes through the materials they use, the things they do, the things they see every day, and the conversations they have with their teachers and peers.

When you see or hear gender stereotypes in the classroom, use it as a “teachable moment” to talk about the issue with your students. Encourage language that includes everyone, such as “firefighter” instead of “fireman.” Run the UK Feminista activity on gender stereotypes in the classroom to make kids more aware of the problem. You could also use display boards to fight against stereotypical images and show a variety of people who could be role models.

Schools are full of people who talk in sexist ways. UK Feminista and the National Education Union did a study and found that 29% of teachers in secondary schools with both boys and girls say they hear sexist language every day.

Make sure you know your school’s rules and policies about using sexist language. When you hear sexist language, call it out and, if possible, use it as a “teachable moment” by having a conversation with the class about what it means and how it affects people. Use the UK Feminista activity in the classroom to start a conversation about sexist language with your students.

The Institute of Physics did research on how much people took part in physics classes. They found that teachers asked boys and girls about the same number of questions on average, but boys spoke up and raised their hands a lot more.

Watch how much girls and boys take part in whole-class and small-group discussions. If girls aren’t able to participate as much as boys, there are a number of ways to get more girls involved. For example, you could tell students about the problem, set ground rules for discussions to create a supportive and respectful environment, pick students to speak instead of waiting for volunteers, or let students think about questions on their own or in pairs before having a class-wide discussion.

36.7% of girls in secondary schools with both boys and girls have been sexually harassed at school. This kind of harassment can be verbal, nonverbal, or physical, like making sexual comments, taking “up-skirt” photos, or touching someone in a sexual way without permission.

Find out what your school’s policy is on sexual harassment and how it is handled. If your school doesn’t have procedures, talk to your senior leadership team or a staff member who works in that area. Make sure that students know that the school has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and that they know how to report it. Use the UK Feminista classroom activities to talk to your students about sexual harassment.

Students have a big part to play in fighting sexism and making things better, both in school and in the world as a whole.

Send students to UK Feminista’s student resources to get ideas and help on what to do. Help students who want to start a feminist group or run a campaign, and praise students who do good things to make sure women and men are treated equally.

Individual actions and one-time events can make a difference when it comes to sex inequality. But a “whole school approach” is needed to make big, long-lasting changes. This means that everyone in the school is involved in making sure that girls and boys have the same rights and opportunities.

Your senior leadership team should be told about the whole school approach. Use the tools provided by UK Feminista to show why this approach is important and how it can be used. UK Feminista can help schools develop a whole-school plan to fight sexism by giving them extra training, advice, and resources.

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