Driving Social Change
To achieve gender equality in society, we believe that challenging gender stereotypes and promoting gender equality must be ‘mainstreamed’ in schools.
This has to happen throughout our school system: pockets of discrete activity will not drive meaningful social change. Staff and pupils must be as alert and responsive to it as they are other forms of prejudice and inequality.
With this in mind, Lifting Limits works with schools through a whole school approach. We have also developed resources that can be easily and effectively replicated through networks of schools.
At the same time, we engage policy influencers to help create conditions where schools are encouraged to undertake gender equality work.
A whole school approach
We take a whole school approach to gender equality in schools. Evidence indicates this is the most powerful means to ensuring children are hearing consistent language and messaging about gender equality and stereotypes are not being inadvertently reinforced.
For example, the positive effects of a lesson about gender stereotypes can be easily undone by another teacher telling a child “man up” or “you run like a girl”. Or indeed by a lesson on explorers or inventors that teaches only men (mostly white men). These are just some examples we see in practice in schools, without any sexist intent on the part of school staff.
“Tackling gender differences that have a negative impact on educational achievement is best done at a whole school level and as part of the institution’s general ethos.”Gender Issues in School, DCSF 2009
A whole school approach involves a school’s ethos, routines and practices. We start with a ‘gender equality audit’ to identify areas of good practice and development. This helps to bring gendered stereotypes into the open, wherever they are encountered. Through a combination of ‘gender lens’ training for staff, lesson plans and school wide resources, gendered stereotypes become topics for discussion and challenge.
We help schools to:
- Examine the part they play in perpetuating or challenging gender stereotypes
- Equip their pupils to demand a more gender-equal world
- Better represent women and their achievements in their curriculum and resources
- Show all genders in non-stereotypical roles
- Engage parents and carers in these conversations
- Increase staff awareness and confidence in addressing sexism and stereotyping with pupils, colleagues and parents
Our focus is at primary school level because evidence shows that the limiting effects of stereotyping on children’s aspirations, choices, behaviour and sense of ‘self’ start young.
“Efforts to broaden students’ aspirations, particularly in relation to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), need to begin at primary school. The current focus of most activities and interventions – at secondary school – is likely to be too little, too late.”Aspires: Young people’s science and career aspirations, King’s College London, 2013
Our aim is that young people do not internalise gendered norms and expectations or grow up experiencing the limitations they effect.
Instead, our approach is to head off gendered norms and expectations before they take hold. For this reason, we work mainly in primary schools with EYFS, Key stage 1 and Key Stage 2.
In 2022, we also conducted a pilot running our programme in early years settings. Click the link below for more info on this Early Years Pilot and how we will be moving forward with this work.
For more information on our programmes, please follow the links below: