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Government criticised for 'cutting feminism' from A-level politics

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Labour has jokingly questioned whether the female reproductive system would ever be dropped from biology lessons, after the government moved to "cut feminism" from the politics A-level.

Government whip Baroness Evans of Bowes Park said politics A-level would have a "new focus" because universities had indicated that the three core theories of conservatism, socialism and liberalism would "best prepare" students for their undergraduate studies.

But shadow education spokesman Lord Watson of Invergowrie told her: "I hope we're not seeing a pattern developing here because in addition to the A-level politics syllabus, recently the A-level music syllabus had to be changed because it featured 63 male composers and no female composer – and now includes five."

He joked: "Can I say with a nod to the season...can I ask you if the government has any plans to drop the female reproductive system from the biology syllabus?"

Lady Evans replied: "I think the answer is probably no and I think I'll leave it at that."

The House of Lords debate came after the Department for Education last month published a revised version of the A-level politics course, with sections on feminism and gender equality removed. Of seven political thinkers listed in the new version, just one – Mary Wollstonecraft – is female.

Lady Evans said feminist thinkers could still be studied within A-level politics once the content had been revised. She said exam boards were sifting through responses to a public consultation on the proposal.

Liberal Democrat Baroness Parminter earlier told Lady Evans: "Increasing awareness of the outstanding challenges facing gender equality requires young people to be familiar with political thinkers and the movements which have generated progress to date.

"So can I ask you why the government intends to cut feminism and limit to one political female thinker in the proposed politics A-level syllabus?"

Lady Evans replied: "You'll be aware there is currently no requirement in the existing A-level criteria to study feminism.

"Exam boards have worked closely with universities on the proposed content and that's why the recently consulted content has identified three core political theories to be studied.

"But, of course, the work of key female thinkers can be included within these."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Tackling gender inequality at all ages and levels is at the heart of this government’s commitment to extending opportunity for all.

“We expect schools to highlight the issues faced by women and the contribution they have made throughout all walks of life and ages in history, as part of providing a broad and balanced curriculum. We have deliberately freed teachers from an overly prescriptive curriculum, but this does not in any way preclude them from celebrating the important achievements and contributions of women not only in politics, but across the fields of science, literature, music and the arts.

“The proposed new content for Politics A level will provide scope for pupils to study the work of key female political thinkers within the ideologies covered as well as in dedicated modules on UK and global politics. However, as always we will listen carefully to the views of the sector and the wider public as part of a full consultation process.”

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