Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning: Theory of Change report

This report contains the Theory of Change model and its accompanying narrative. The Theory of Change will help the delivery of the Taskforce’s agreed ambition: to end systemic gender inequality in education and learning.

Theory of Change narrative

The Theory of Change diagram plots out the overarching goals, the dependencies needed to enable these goals to occur, other outcomes that will happen in the course of achieving these goals, and the agreed activities that should be undertaken.

For this work, the collective used the Hivos definition of a Theory of Change:

'[A Theory of Change is] an approach that enables individuals and organisations involved in change processes to: better understand the system they are part of without oversimplifying it, in order to support change in a strategic and responsive way; and to learn from how the process evolves in reality, so that strategies can be reviewed and adjusted along the way.' Marjan van Es, Irene Guijt, Isabel Vogel (2015) Hivos ToC Guidelines; Theory of Change in practice

Every Theory of Change is based on a series of assumptions and hypotheses that need to be named and tested, before embarking on any delivery activities. During the delivery of activities, it is important to build in reflection time to zoom out on the activity to check that it is having the desired impact, and to adjust it if not. This process of zooming in and out is further developed in the recommendation on building a framework of guiding questions to test assumptions.

The Taskforce started with the change it wants to see which is 'ending systemic gender inequality in education and learning'. There are three strategic goals to help achieve this aim. During the course of the workshops, Taskforce members added additional detail to those goals which are indicated in bold below. One of the first steps for the Taskforce will be to consider formally up dating these goals with this new wording.

  • be taught by gender competent, anti-racist educational professionals who understand intersecting inequalities
  • not experience sexism, sexual harassment or gender based violence in the classroom or other educational setting and
  • freely choose activities, subjects and areas of study, including those traditionally dominated by boys and men, and whereby boys, young men and non-binary people are also able to choose subjects traditionally dominated by women

The workshop participants, informed by the research of Children's Parliament and Scottish Youth Parliament, decided that the following would be successful measures of this Theory of Change:

  • Power balance between girls and boys will be equal
  • Adults, who believe girls, listen and act on reports of sexism - no more 'boys will be boys'
  • Children and Young People are learning in a safe environment
  • Children and Young People are free from gender stereotyping

There are four key dependencies that need to be considered when putting the Theory of Change into action. If any one of these dependencies are overlooked, the actions will not be meaningful.

  • Teachers have resources, money and time to take action
  • There is intersectional leadership at policy and practice levels
  • This work is linked to other policy areas
  • The Taskforce understands what gender competency means

The workshop participants determined that there were an additional 12 outcomes that needed to be achieved in order for the strategic goals to be realised. At the heart of this change is that there needs to be an intersectional analysis and understanding throughout the whole school. From this, the outcomes below will flow.

  • There is strong leadership around these issues in schools and policy arenas
  • Children and young people participate meaningfully throughout the delivery of this work
  • Professionals have a gender-sensitive, trauma-informed approach to sexual violence
  • Teachers have confidence in the systems in place when they step in
  • Survivors are meaningfully supported
  • School estate planning is gender competent
  • School culture is gender competent
  • Intersectional gender equality is integrated into education reform
  • The perceived undervaluation of early years and childcare work is addressed
  • Power hierarchies and gender segregation within schools is addressed
  • Communities are engaged in this work

These outcomes are directly challenging an assumption that schools are not affected by, or have any influence over what happens outside them. Children and Young people have clearly articulated that their own experience of sexism and sexual harassment outside of school has a clear impact on their ability to feel safe at school and make the most of their learning opportunities. Equally we know that teachers and school professionals have an impact on their pupils, pupils' families, and the wider community, which can reinforce or break down gender inequalities.

What happens within schools and outwith schools are not mutually exclusive, they will reinforce each other.

However, this Theory of Change focuses specifically on what is within the immediate power of schools and the wider education infrastructure in Scotland. And so, these outcomes focus both on what happens in the classroom - behaviour, curriculum - and on the support services within the school system - school estates, victim support services, accountability measures for reporting sexist behaviour.

The workshop participants mapped out a host of activities relating to each strategic goal. The collective facilitators have distilled these activities into nine headline activities that can help drive forward action for all three strategic goals:

  • Develop and support resource and curriculum development
  • Develop and support inspections focusing on high level outcomes
  • Develop and support accountability systems and support- including targets and gender budgeting
  • Develop and support survivor centred and trauma informed policies and procedures
  • Support the meaningful participation of Children and young people
  • Support and develop impactful professional learning and development with all school staff
  • Support and develop meaningful survivor centred support and knowledge
  • Support and develop gender competent school estate planning

These eight activities will need to have a range of stakeholders involved in a variety of capacities at each level, highlighted further in this report. The interconnected relationships between activities were detailed further in the online collaboration space.

The Taskforce began mapping potential stakeholders who would need to be engaged with this work, and this should be revisited once the initial outcomes are agreed. They are:

  • Scottish Government
  • Local authorities
  • Gender budgeting experts
  • Education Scotland
  • Skills Development Scotland
  • Education Authorities
  • University and colleges around ITE
  • Council of Deans
  • Association of Directors of Education Scotland
  • Regional improvement collaboratives
  • Children and young people organisations
  • Inspectors
  • Headteachers
  • Teachers
  • PSAs
  • Learning professionals
  • Prevention Workers
  • Youth Workers
  • Children and young people
  • Parents/carers
  • Social media/the media

The drivers for enabling the Theory of Change were not identified within the workshops. However, this should be revisited within the Taskforce.

In the following section, we provide some recommendations for the Taskforce to discuss in order to achieve these goals.



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