Ask your school about gender equality

One thing you can do is to research your local school’s equality scheme and action plan.Details about Bristol schools can be found by visiting the council’s website.
As a first step, take a look at your chosen school’s website. Do they have an equality scheme or equality objectives published on the site? Schools are required by law to publish their objectives but will not necessarily do this on the internet. If you can’t see it on the website, you can write to or telephone the school and ask for a copy.

Schemes that are in place

Have a look at your school’s scheme. Each school is different but below are some areas where they might be considering gender equality (with thanks to ThinkingPeople, authors of the Bristol Toolkit).
If you think the school’s scheme could do with taking more of these issues into account, contact the school (via their inclusion co-ordinator, if they have one) and talk to them about your concerns. Remember, all staff and governors in schools, are busy people
with a lot on their plate, and it is unlikely that any shortcomings are a reflection of deliberate hostility to gender equality issues: time,
awareness and resources are the key here.

You might like to contact the school and ask them about their progress in working towards completing the actions that will give them the measurable objectives they have identified. If you can offer to help with the development a scheme, the school might be very grateful for the offer of your time.

No scheme in place

If the school has no scheme in place, it is worth a polite reminder that

  • Ofsted will judge all schools on how they are working towards gender equality.
  • Having a scheme in place can help schools deliver on their core work.
  • It can ensure schools are prepared for the government agenda on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls.
  • It is necessary to obtain the Bristol Inclusion Standard.

Some of the issues to be considered in developing gender equality objectives within an equality scheme


  • Numbers of boys and girls
  • Attendance and unauthorized absence
  • Prevalence of sexual, sexist and homophobic bullying and violence
  • Domestic violence – Research by four universities including Bristol found that over 75% of 11-12 year old boys thought it was acceptable that women get hit if they make men angry. (EOC, 2007)
  • Culture and gender roles
  • Gender relationships in class and outside of class and prevalence of gender stereotyping
  • Different bullying strategies used by girls and boys and different responses by teachers
  • Attainment, value-added, attitude to study and assessment preferences
  • Subject choice – 91% of hairdressing apprentices are women; 98% of construction, motor industry and plumbing apprentices are men.
  • Quality of careers advice
  • Work placement opportunities especially for non-tradional roles
  • School council membership
  • Mentors and buddies
  • Uniform
  • Participation in sports and approaches to health
  • School environment – toilets, changing rooms, cloakroom and corridor environment, school playground, library, images around school.
  • Take up of extra-curricular activities
  • Caring and domestic responsibilities – do girls in your school have to do more than boys?
  • Young mum and dads


  • Settling in periods in first years of schooling - do they prevent primary carers from attending work? This is indirect discrimination.
  • Covering for sickness and in school holidays - Mothers are nine times as likely as fathers to arrange not to work during school holidays
  • Domestic violence
  • ‘Cultural’ practices – FGM (female genital mutilation) (7,000 girls a year are estimated to be at risk in the UK - FORWARD in EVAW Factsheet, 2009), forced marriage (3,000 at risk of forced marriage - Guardian 08/03/08).
  • Culture and role models – in some communities it may be harder for some staff to communicate with mothers and female carers as there may be lower levels of fluency in English and lower levels of literacy.
  • Dropping off – who tends to do this job? What does this mean for the school and parents?
  • Parental engagement in school life (parents’ evenings, PTA, family learning etc)
  • Parents’ reactions to gender of teacher
  • Perspectives of gender brought from home


  • Recruitment, selection, ratios (of all staff including peripatetic staff), retention and reasons for leaving
  • Pay gap (pay systems discrimination eg. discretionary payments, performance related pay, occupational segregation, and caring responsibilities) and glass ceilings - at primary level 65% of head teachers are female; at secondary level this falls to 36%.
  • Occupational segregation – eg. in Bristol 96% of the learning support assistants were found to be female. These are the lowest paid staff in Bristol’s children’s workforce (CYPS children’s workforce strategy 2006-09). Which genders predominate with
    pastoral work and which with academic?
  • Part-time workers
  • Acknowledgement of good practice in gender equality work in performance management of staff
  • Support for pregnant staff and staff on or recently back from maternity/paternity leave
  • Transgender staff and parents – has this issue been considered? Are you confident of your confidentiality procedures?
  • Access to CPD opportunities – do part-timers have equal access? Are there differences in what men and women take up and why?
  • Informal staff networks – accessible to all? Who do these benefit and how?
  • Prevalence of sexist incidents aimed at staff by pupils, colleagues and people outside of the school.
  • Response to bullying and sexist incidents in school community
  • Grievance procedures
  • Communications about school ethos – is gender mentioned?
  • Staff as role models – who takes on what formal roles and what informal roles?
  • Staff expectations of pupil behaviour, attainment and aspirations - “If sensitivity, emotionality, and warmth are desirable human characteristics, then they are desirable for men as well as women…if independence, assertiveness, and serious intellectual commitment are desirable human characteristics, then they are desirable for women as well as men)” (Bem, 1970)
  • School responses to pupils with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (BESD) – boys are 5 times more likely (especially middle class boys) to be labelled as being autistic or having BESD but researchers question if girls’ special educational needs are just more hidden and therefore attract less resourcing.
  • Discipline and rewards systems
  • Curriculum & role models
  • Choice of learning resources – what gender bias exists in electronic and hard copy resources?
  • Systems for deciding work placement allocations
  • Selection of gifted and talented pupils – when methods other than tests are used in identification twice as many boys as girls are likely to be identified. Parents identify two boys to every one girl.
  • Allocation of budgets – who gets how much of the budget? Is there a gender bias?
  • Impact of policies and procedures on women and men – any differences?
  • Level of mainstreaming of thinking on gender
  • Gender information – already collected? How often? Who? Used in planning?
  • School to home correspondence – “They normally say mums…rarely do they say dads…they normally say give this letter to your mum…” (Pupil comment from a Year 1 and 2 gender equality focus group at Christ Church Primary School, Bristol)
  • Domestic violence
  • Personal care of pupils


  • Representation
  • Nominated person responsible for gender
  • Sub committees

(Page text last updated in 2012)