Pupils eager to bring about greater equality in schools are participating in a six-day course to learn the most effective ways to make changes.
The aim of the course is to teach the students how to take action to ensure equality, both in the school curriculum and in wider school culture.
Among the pupils taking part in the "Gender Equality Accelerator" course is Jessy McCabe, the 18-year-old whose 3,880-signature petition persuaded the Edexcel exam board to add female composers to its A-level music syllabus.
But, says Rachael Curzons of the campaigning charity Fearless Futures, which is running the workshop, there are many other ways to achieve equality in schools.
“A petition is obviously an amazing tool – it was highly effective for Jessy last year,” she said. “But another approach might be to work with other people collaboratively.”
Redrafting and redrafting
This is the approach that the course – which are being run over six days throughout August – teaches participants.
“If you think about normal school subjects – English or science – you might go through several drafts of an essay or several versions of an experiment,” Ms Curzons said.
“This is the same: redrafting and redrafting and redrafting potential solutions to a problem, until they feel that the solution will be something really successful. Working things through again and again, until they find the best way to effect change.”
Participants in the workshop, which Fearless Futures organised jointly with gender-equality charity The GREAT Initiative, will be practising these solution-finding techniques. They will discuss ways of ensuring that their schools are welcoming spaces for people of all sexualities.
They will also look at addressing violence against women and girls, and body image in the fashion industry.
'Unlearning all we were taught'
Seventeen-year-old Caliya Mahammed, who attends Swanlea School in East London, is among the participants. “You’re at that age when you just see the news and see everything going on the world, and start to notice everything that goes wrong,” she said. “So I just wanted to be able to have a more educated view of things.
“You can discover yourself and how you view the world, without the pressures of people telling you how you need to view it – unlearning all we were taught by the system, and discovering your inner self.”
Ms Curzons – who is a former teacher – says that the skills participants learn during the workshops may prove as useful in the classroom as in the school-council meeting. “It’s about approaching problems creatively,” she said. “It’s going away from having one solution to a problem. Knowing there are many possible answers is a really useful skill.
“You’re always wanting to find the best possible solution, not the first solution. It means the work they’re producing is unique, and the very best it can be.”
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