As a teacher myself I understand the impact of testing especially on very young children. At a time when you want to be creating and inspiring pupils to have a lifelong love of learning some of the government testing initiatives result in teaching children to a test. This needs to stop. There is a lot more we could be teaching children. For example, girls need to know they can be astronauts and train drivers as well as nurses and teachers, and that it doesn’t matter whether they want to do it in pink sparkles or blue checks. Boys, too, can be liberated by letting go of gender norms. Boys can learn to play creatively and sensitively and should be allowed to express emotion without fear of mockery.
Schools also need to be places where both girls and boys learn about healthy, respectful relationships and about sexual consent. It is reckless to continue to ask our children to navigate the complexities of sexting, revenge pornography and sexual consent with such limited support.
WE urgently want an education system in Wales that creates opportunities for all children and an understanding of why this matters. On the Welsh Assembly, the Women’s Equality Party would establish the office of Education Governor to oversee the implementation of equality education on all levels. Girls are achieving in education and outperforming boys at school. But it doesn’t translate into life after school. Gender stereotyping in education leads to gender segregation in the workplace and at home. By the age of 13, girls are already beginning to assess career options that could help them balance work and care.
Across the UK almost seven out of 10 female students have been subject to verbal or physical sexual harassment, significantly threatening women’s equal opportunities to education. While many schools do an excellent job of challenging gender stereotypes and push both girls and boys to fulfil their potential, more action is needed. Education is the key instrument to achieve gender equality.
- Promote the ‘whole school approach’ on gender equality, which should include staff training; pupils’ and parents’ involvement; a commitment to diversity and equal opportunities; and building up a positive environment for all genders.
- Include gender equality in the guidelines that set out what under-5s should learn and work to recruit more men into childcare and primary teaching.
- Require all schools to conduct a gender audit of their curriculum to ensure they are working to challenge gender stereotypes, rather than reinforcing them.
- Encourage more girls to take subjects that will lead to careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) industries and end the ‘leaky pipeline’ that prevents talented women from entering and thriving in STEM industries.
- Make sure physical education promotes sports equality, rather than increasing the gap between girls’ and boys’ sports skills at an early age.
- Work with schools and experts to free all children from biased career guidance and stereotyped work placements.
- Design and fund a plan for schools in Wales to be recognised for best practice in delivering age-appropriate, specialist sex and relationships education across all school levels. This would include education on sex and relationships, consent, mutual respect, sexual health and sexual orientations.
- Require all educational institutions, as well as apprenticeship providers, to have a formal sexual harassment policy in place that includes support for victims, disciplinary procedures, and mechanisms for reporting and investigating sexual harassment.
- Encourage universities and colleges to provide workshops for all new students and staff on respect, equality and consent.
- Take action to guarantee equal opportunities in teaching and school leadership.
- Create a technology road-map that leverages tech education in order to extend variety and choice for young people to improve their technology skills. Revise the school curriculum to include relevant project-based lessons covering a more diverse spectrum of roles and functions in tech, from planning through to design, coding and implementation.
- Work with universities to tackle the ‘lad’ culture of higher education and create truly equal educational opportunities for all.
Education is one of the most effective tools that we have in creating a fair and equal society. What we teach children today will impact on the life choices that they make in the future. If we want an equal society, we have to embed it in our education system. If we want to inspire all children to achieve their best, promote positive relationships and increase gender equality we have to rebuild positivity in our education system. We need to reduce teacher’s workloads to allow them to teach effectively and we need to do it now before the damage to our teaching profession is irreversible.
Emma Rose is a candidate for the Welsh Assembly in South Wales Central