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A Fife primary school is taking part in a project challenging ideas that some school subjects and careers are ‘just for girls’ or ‘just for boys’.

Duloch Primary School has been working with Improving Gender Balance Scotland, a partnership between Skills Development Scotland (SDS), the Institute of Physics (IoP) and Education Scotland.

It’s aiming to empower pupils, teachers and parents to address the complex issues that can lead to gender stereotyping when it comes to picking school subjects, and supporting them to challenge traditional career choices.

Duloch Primary School teacher, Gemma-Rose Lansdown, said it’s been a positive experience for her class.

The primary three teacher said “I would definitely recommend getting involved to other teachers.

“The first lesson I did with the class on this I was terrified they wouldn’t say anything, but they were brilliant, so animated and so enthusiastic. It made me realise how important it was to stand back and allow the learners the time to talk to one another.

“They already have ideas about they want to do when they grow up, and the lessons we’ve had are about preventing any early bias in those ideas about career choice.

“We want to challenge their thinking and support them to find out more.”

A range of resources are now available for schools across Scotland to take part in the programme.

Improving Gender Balance Scotland project officers can also be called upon for advice to embed the programme.

 

“They already have ideas about they want to do when they grow up, and the lessons we’ve had are about preventing any early bias in those ideas about career choice. We want to challenge their thinking and support them to find out more.”

Gemma-Rose Lansdown, Teacher, Duloch Primary School

Heather Earnshaw, Improving Gender Balance Scotland Project Officer said: “One thing that’s really hit home for me while working on the project is that you can never start too early when it comes to gender stereotypes.

“The level of debate and conversation in the class, the way they challenge each other and articulate their thoughts at ages seven and eight, is just one example of how meaningful a conversation this is for young people.

“It’s important we start this conversation at a young age with teachers, pupils and their parents and carers, to ensure young people are empowered to make subject and career decisions based on their interests alone.”

The project has a particular focus on addressing gender imbalance in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

The project is part of SDS’s Modern Apprenticeship Equalities Action Plan and complements work across Scotland as part of the National STEM project, as well as the work of SDS careers advisers.

“One thing that’s really hit home for me while working on the project is that you can never start too early when it comes to gender stereotypes."

Heather Earnshaw, project officer, Improving Gender Balance Scotland

Karen Murray, Head of National Training Programme Development at SDS said: “SDS careers advisers have always discussed with young people how issues around unconscious bias may be having an impact on their decisions.

“Improving Gender Balance Scotland is a great way to widen out that conversation across the whole school community, and to give practical support to teachers and parents to address any issues.

“SDS has expanded its careers services in schools this year to include more time with pupils before they make subject choices.

“That offers us another chance to continue those discussions on a one-on-one basis at a crucial decision time for young people.”

Duloch Primary School is developing a plan of progressive lessons to be taught throughout the school, with particular events throughout the year. It has also now formed a focus group of pupils from primary two to primary seven who have been preparing to talk to teachers, pupils and parents about their action plan for the school.

 

Linda Skelding, Depute Head at Duloch Primary School said: “The pupils have great ideas, and have already been talking about how they can bring those into the physical environment in school, for example making sure men and women are represented on jobs or skill displays in the corridors.

“The project has really taken root here, we have a much stronger awareness of issues like unconscious bias and how we can introduce a culture in the school to address them. 

“That embedding of ideas will ensure we’re carrying on the good work for years to come.”

 

Find out more about Improving Gender Balance Scotland.

Go to the resources.

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