Sexism is still endemic in schools, according to the leader of the new Women’s Equality Party.
The WEP has drawn up an equality manifesto, which places significant emphasis on the importance of classroom gender equality, and is calling for Ofsted school inspections to measure the problem.
“If there’s an accounting for the importance of gender equality set at the heart of the curriculum, then we start tackling attitudes in general, and also in individuals,” party leader Sophie Walker said. “We’re changing culture and changing attitudes. Gender equality is an essential part of the function of education.”
She said a teenage girl had contacted her to say that her A-level physics teacher thought it would be very funny if he stood at the whiteboard and mathematically proved that women are the root of all evil.
“The sad thing about it is it’s not astonishing," she said. "It goes on all the time.”
Ms Walker said the best way to ensure change was to focus on specifics. At the moment, the party is exploring the feasibility of gender quotas for headteachers.
“There’s an awful lot of women teachers, and a disproportionate number of male headteachers,” Ms Walker said. The WEP would also introduce external, Ofsted-inspected careers advisers.
“Girls need to be encouraged to know that they can do anything they want," she said. "If they want to wear a pink dress and become a train driver, they can. And, equally, if a boy wants to wear a pink dress and become a train driver, he can.”
This is an edited version of an article in the 18 December edition of TES. To read the full article click here (free to subscribers). Also, this week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here