7 ways to start the school year more gender neutrally

September 2019

It’s the start of the new school year and our Co-Founder and Director Natalie Jackson has 7 ways to start the new year more gender neutrally in your school;

Don’t split classes or groups up by boys and girls – it sends the message that girls and boys are inherently different, which feeds into lots of other places where boys and girls, and men and women, are treated differently.

Don’t refer to children’s gender as a way to identify them – “Come on girls”, “Stop that boys!” or “Well done boys”; whether praising, shouting or encouraging, identifying children by their gender sends the message that it is an important characteristic. We wouldn’t identify them by any other physical characteristic, so why do we do it with gender?

Don’t give out different tasks to boys and girls – girls are perfectly capable of moving benches and boys are capable of taking a register to the school office. It is still all too common in schools for boys to be asked to lift or move things, and girls to be asked to do more administrative tasks. Mixing it up sends the message that everyone is capable of all of these things.

Don’t assume boys and girls will be into different clubs – make sure that all clubs are genuinely offered to everyone, regardless of gender, and that anyone who dismisses the club too quickly be given more encouragement to try something new or different.

Similarly, don’t assume that boys and girls will choose to spend their break time differently, and encourage all children to try different things.

Use stereotype-busting examples in your lessons or assemblies without it being the main point of the lesson – if talking about a footballer or a dancer to illustrate your point, use examples of the non-stereotypical gender just as part of the story, not as the main focus of the story.

Don’t colour code classroom furniture or wall charts – you’d be surprised how often we see this – girls’ coat hooks or drawers labelled in pink lettering and boys’ in blue. Again, it sends the message that girls and boys are different, and reinforces other gender stereotypes too.

Be aware that anything you do which identifies boys and girls, or treats them differently as a group, might be playing into and reinforcing gender stereotypes. We have all grown up in a world where gender stereotypes have been in play, some of which we have never noticed. It is always sensible to sense-check what you are doing for gender stereotypes. You never know where a sneaky one might be lurking!

For more gender stereotype busting advice and resources to help you do more for girls in sport, sign up to our FREE Girls and Sport Pledge.