At Coates Lane, we believe that stereotyped ideas about what’s suitable for boys or girls can limit children’s opportunities to learn and develop. We aim to create an environment which encourages children to think of themselves as individuals, rather than editing their choices through a gender filter.
We try to help children by affirming unconventional choices, reassuring them that it’s OK to be different and encouraging a culture of acceptance.
We challenge stereotypes when we hear them - ‘Why can’t a boy wear pink? My Dad does.’ ‘Why can’t a girl like football? My wife plays for our local women’s team.’ Children are often very keen to ‘police’ one another and make sure their peers follow the gender ‘rules’ they’ve learned. We aim to set the example by questioning them, and offering counter-examples from our own experience.
We TALK about stereotypes – we plan lessons that are designed to help pupils start to question stereotypes about boys and girls.
We try to provide a range of role models around school and aim to give children real-life examples that counter stereotypes, both in our own activities, and in topic work and external visitors e.g. Woman authors, women firefighters, male dancers etc.
We make the most of books! We look at the stories and factual books in our classrooms. We check to see if there are examples of working women, caring fathers, active girls and creative boys.
We make sure there aren’t ‘girls’ jobs and ‘boys’ jobs. We question who gets asked to do what? Is it always ‘three strong boys’ who move the chairs? Or ‘two trustworthy girls’ who take a message? It’s easy to fall into a pattern so we try to mix it up!
We aim to pick other ways to divide up the children – we question ourselves! Are girls’ and boys’ coat pegs labels or lunchbag shelves coloured pink or blue? Do boys and girls line up separately? Using gender to divide the children up can be quick and convenient, but it gives them the constant message that being a boy or a girl is the most important thing about them and reinforces stereotypes. We get the children to line up a different way – by age, birthday, alphabetically – can be a subtle but effective way of encouraging them to think about their identity in different ways.
We use learning partners in class; encouraging children to work in mixed pairs or groups.
We aim to use inclusive language. We try to make small changes, like saying ‘children’ instead of ‘girls and boys’ or ‘parents and carers’ or ‘families’ rather than ‘Mums and Dads’. We feel that this can help to affirm the things we have in common rather than our differences.
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