12 June 2012: School children call for an end to gender stereotypes
A London school is introducing a teaching programme with the aim of exploring the influence gender stereotypes, following concerns from pupils and parents that stereotyping may be stopping children from fulfilling their full potential.
The programme will be taking place at Soho Parish Primary School in central London, and is a spearheading initiative in the UK.
The project follows results of a poll published last week by the Chartered Institute of Marketing that showed parents are worried about adverts and products which sexualise young children, despite David Cameron’s recent promises to protect children from inappropriate images and content. Much of this advertising is targeted at young girls.
The two-week teaching programme is run by new organisation ‘Breakthough: The Gender Stereotypes Project’. It is being led by Dr Laura Nelson, who at the end of last year successfully campaigned for Hamleys to remove the gender specific labels from toys, and Laura Kirsop, year 5 teacher at the school. It begins on 18 June.
In early discussions, children at Soho Parish School and their parents have said they believe it is time to raise awareness of gender stereotyping in society. They argued that both boys and girls are worse off when society labels them by gender as it inhibits their ability to reach their full potential.
During the programme, the children will discuss whether they agree with gender targeted marketing of clothes and toys, whether boys and girls are better at different skills and subjects at school, and whether boys and girls should have different career aspirations. The aims of the lessons are to stimulate debate and to encourage questioning of stereotypes, rather than pushing children into thinking a certain way.
Dr Laura Nelson, Director of Breakthrough, said: “At a time when the country needs innovation skills to boost the economy, young girls are veering away from subjects such as maths and engineering and men are still more likely to start a business. It does not make economic or social sense that the two halves of the population are getting different messages from society – be it from advertisers, the media, schools, family, peers or themselves – that certain routes aren’t right for them.
In the Breakthrough project, we have found that children, both boys and girls, want gender stereotypes to change, and parents are calling for discussions. It’s also important to stress that the project is not only about breaking down stereotypes around women and girls, but also about men and boys. Both men and women are disadvantaged by the rigid gender roles present in our society”.
Laura Kirsop, year 5 teacher at Soho Parish Primary School said: “I am delighted that Breakthrough has decided to work with our school on this important issue. From working with the children, we have seen that they themselves are sick of assumptions being made about them based on their gender.
For example, many of my female pupils hated the fact that they were only offered pink clothes and dolls in shops whilst their male friends were offered jeans and toy helicopters. Male pupils questioned why women’s football isn’t shown as much as men’s football on TV. We’re hoping that the next two weeks will show them that they shouldn’t feel restricted by stereotypes in wider society”.
Notes for editors
1. To arrange interviews, contact Dr Nelson.