Breaking down gender barriers in the classroom

Taskforce will embed gender equality in education.

A taskforce to tackle gender stereotyping in the classroom will meet for the first time on Tuesday (25 February 2020). 

The Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning will be jointly chaired by 17-year old Razannah Hussain and Education Secretary John Swinney.

It will work with education, youth and equalities experts and the Scottish Government to lead and drive bold and far-reaching actions to improve gender equality from early years through to secondary school. 

It will develop a strategy during the next 12 months bringing together new recommendations alongside actions already being taken to eliminate gender inequality in education and learning.

At present, female pupils consistently outperform males at school and in gaining entry to further and higher education, however more males stay in work and there is a gender pay gap of 15%.

Statistics also show that at Higher level female pupils are more likely to study subjects like art and design, health and food technology, and childcare and development, whereas male pupils are generally more likely to study STEM subjects.

Education Secretary John Swinney said:

“Greater equality in education and learning gives everyone the same opportunity to succeed, and helps ensure a more robust and fair workforce while tackling the gender pay gap. We know young women and girls are significantly more likely to be disadvantaged by gender inequality while at school, leading to issues later in life, and the taskforce will help inform how we reduce the impact of this.

“We are making good progress with initiatives already underway to address gender imbalance in key areas, but there are always areas in which we can do more and do better to ensure that gender equality is embedded in education, so its benefits are felt by individuals in early years settings, at school, and in the world of work. 

“The expertise and experience represented on the taskforce, including the voice of recent school leavers, will ensure it delivers a cohesive strategy identifying where gaps still exist and how we can build on successes to tackle the root causes of inequality in education.” 

Razannah Hussain, Gender Equality Taskforce Co-Chair, said:

“The taskforce’s ambition – to ensure that girls and young women have a gender equal experience of education and learning – is a fundamental part of achieving a gender equal Scotland, which will benefit everyone. It is essential that young women like me, and the others on the Taskforce, have direct input in this way. Developing policy informed by lived experience is the best way to create a fairer Scotland.”

One of the recommendations of the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG) was to form a commission to tackle gender issues in education.

Throughout its lifetime, the taskforce will demonstrate commitment and leadership and ensure close collaborative working between key parts of the education system and individuals who can provide challenge and expertise and ensure gender competence in policy making. 

Actions already being undertaken to tackle gender imbalance in education include the Developing the Young Workforce Strategy, the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan, the STEM Strategy and Education Scotland’s Improving Gender Balance and Equalities Programme.

SQA data shows that in 2017 at Higher level young women were more likely to study art and design (82%), health and food technology (87%) and childcare and development (95%), while young men were more likely to study computing science (84%), physics (72%) and graphic communication (68%). This issue leads to gender segregation across jobs later in life.

Girls have consistently outperformed boys by as much as 1.7% at SCQF level 4, with the gap widening to as much as 12.6% at SCQF level 6. In 2017-18, more female school leavers achieved one or more passes at Levels 4, 5 and 6: 

  • 96.8 per cent of females at SCQF Level 4 or better, compared to 95.6 per cent for male school leavers
  • 88.2 per cent of females at SCQF Level 5 or better, compared to 83.7 per cent for male school leavers
  • 68.6 per cent of females at SCQF Level 6 or better, compared to 56 per cent for male school leavers

The Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning is made up of:

  • Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education & Skills, John Swinney MSP (joint-Chair)
  • Razannah Hussain, Young Scot Ambassador (joint-Chair)
  • Minister for Older People and Equalities, Christina McKelvie MSP
  • Louise Macdonald, Chair, NACWG (correspondence member)
  • Graeme Logan, Director of Learning, Scottish Government
  • Joe Griffin, Director of Early Learning & Childcare, Scottish Government
  • Eileen Flanagan, Gender Equality Team Leader, Equality Unit, Scottish Government
  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive and Chief Inspector of Education, Education Scotland
  • Hannah Axon, Equality, Representation & Diversity Officer, COSLA
  • Peter McNaughton, Chief Officer, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Andrea Bradley, Assistant Secretary, Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS)
  • Professor Ian Rivers, Chair, Scottish Council of Deans of Education
  • Dr Marion Alison, Director, CLD Standards Council
  • Lauren Kelly, MSYP, Education & Lifelong Learning Committee, SYP
  • Amy Woodhouse, Head of Policy, Participation and Projects, Children in Scotland
  • Emma Ritch, Chief Executive, Engender
  • Anna Ritchie Allan, Executive Director, Close the Gap
  • Rachel Adamson, Co-Director, Zero Tolerance
  • Kathryn Dawson, Prevention Co-ordinator, Rape Crisis Scotland
  • Khaleda Noon, Chief Executive, Intercultural Youth Scotland
  • Dr Mhairi Crawford, Chief Executive, LGBT Youth Scotland
  • Dr Maureen Sier, Director, Interfaith Scotland
  • Jan Savage, Director External Affairs & Strategic Development, Enable Scotland
  • Katie Horsburgh, Girlguiding Scotland


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