Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning minutes: May 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the taskforce on 16 May 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Andrew Drought, Chairperson
  • Eileen Flanagan, Equality Unit
  • Mhairi Brodie, Education Scotland
  • Carolyn Fox-McKay, Girlguiding Scotland
  • Anna Ritchie Allan, Close the Gap
  • Laura Tomson, Zero Tolerance
  • Maisie Geelen, Zero Tolerance
  • Mhairi Crawford, LGBT Youth Scotland
  • Michelle McCartney, LGBT Youth Scotland
  • Iain Menzies, Education Scotland
  • Niamh Kerr, Rape Crisis Scotland
  • Kathryn Dawson, Rape Crisis Scotland
  • Marion Allison, Head of CLD
  • Amy Woodhouse, Children in Scotland
  • Andrea Bradley, EIS
  • Beth Goodyear, Children's Parliament
  • Mo Whelton, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Ellie Craig, MSYP, Glasgow Cathcart
  • Ellie Hutchison, The Collective
  • Megan McHaney, The Collective
  • Nuzhat Uthmani, The Collective
  • Keith Dryburgh, Education Analytical Services, Scottish Government
  • Judith Ballantine, Secretariat, Scottish Government
  • Pauline Hendry, Secretariat, Scottish Government


  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive, Education Scotland
  • Ollie Bray, Strategic Director, Education Scotland
  • Laura-Ann Currie, Head of Inclusion, Wellbeing and Equality, Education Scotland
  • Katie Horsburgh, Girlguiding Scotland
  • Rachel Adamson, Zero Tolerance
  • Hannah Axon, COSLA
  • Razannah Hussain, #iwill ambassador
  • Ian Rivers, SCDE
  • Peter McNaughton, ADES

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and updates

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and noted apologies. New members and those attending in someone else’s place were asked to introduce themselves:

  • Carolyn Fox-McKay introduced herself as a representative of Girlguiding Scotland, attending in place of Katie Horsburgh
  • Laura Tomson introduced herself as a representative of Zero Tolerance, and advised that she will permanently replace Rachel Adamson as representative on the Taskforce. She also noted that her colleague Maisie Geelen would be joining the meeting later
  • Michelle McCartney introduced herself as a new attendee on behalf of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual (LGBT) Youth Scotland
  • Ellie Craig, Member of Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP) for Glasgow Cathcart (Taskforce member) introduced herself to the meeting and noted that she would be presenting the Scottish Youth Parliament report with Mo Whelton

The Taskforce was notified that Louise Macdonald, who was a correspondence member of this group, has decided to rescind her position, in light of her joining the Scottish Government as interim Director General Economy.


  • members were reminded that the last meeting of the group took place in December, the third in a series of three workshops delivered by The Collective. The aim of those workshops was to capture input from the range of organisations represented on the Taskforce, on a series of education and gender equality themes, in order to create a Theory of Change model to provide a framework for the ambitions of this group and to enable progress to be achieved
  • thanks were expressed to members for their attendance at the workshops, and to those who provided written submissions outwith them. The importance of doing so was noted, as in order to create a comprehensive and relevant Theory of Change model, input was required from all sectors represented on the Taskforce
  • the reports from The Collective, Children’s Parliament and the Scottish Youth Parliament have been shared with the Taskforce in confidence, and members have been asked to provide written responses by 23 May 2022, which the Secretariat will use, along with the outputs from this meeting, to produce the overall Taskforce response to the reports

The Taskforce were reminded that as none of the reports will be published until the Taskforce agrees its response, they should not be shared outwith the group until after publication.

Part one: what the report authors learned and their suggested way forward

Beth Goodyear, Children’s Parliament spoke to her report. The presentation slides she used are an attachment to these minutes (see Annex A). 
27 children from a range of local authorities were engaged in this project. A human rights-based methodology was employed, and although both boys and girls were involved in the project, the children were engaged in single sex group in order create safe spaces and ensure all participants were able to share their thoughts and feelings freely.

Large props were used to capture the input from children. Some created powerful drawings which supplemented the other evidence gathered.
When speaking to girls, it was found that experiences from outside the classroom were directly impacting their learning. The playground was cited as an issue, but experiences from outside school were also mentioned, with harassment and intimidation experienced by many of the girls involved. The girls spoke about society and wider issues in terms of gender inequality, not just the education system.

A male staff member worked with boys in pairs. There was a lack of awareness of gender inequality amongst the boys, along with a sense of denial that this was even a problem in their school, or even in this country. 
This highlighted a gap in terms of understanding of the topic being discussed – girls were able to understand and effectively discuss their experiences. The boys struggled to understand the key concepts of gender inequality, stereotyping etc.
It was hoped that more allyship would emerge between the boys and girls who participated – instead it demonstrated how big the divide is in terms of understanding, with more work needing done to bridge the gap.

Taskforce members were encouraged to send any feedback on the Children’s Parliament report to Beth, for sharing with the children and young people involved in the project.

Ellie Craig MSYP, Scottish Youth Parliament presented on their report. 

14 interviews took place in the compiling of this report, nine with young women, four with young men, and one with a non-binary person.

The young women involved were keen to share their negative experiences and reflections in relation to their experiences of the education system. 

The young males involved were aware of the need to take a stand to call out misogynistic behaviour when they see it occur – they didn’t deem it to be solely women and girls’ responsibility.

Among the recommendations from the young adults were the following:

  • all teachers should receive training on the issue of gender equality and this should include an understanding of the negative impacts of gender stereotyping
  • the curriculum should be updated to ensure all pupils understand gender inequality
  • an intersectional approach should be taken in effecting change
  • it was suggested that a campaign within the education system may have impact – gender equality is not talked about enough and needs more attention in schools
  • incidences of gender inequality need to be recorded better by schools
  • leadership – a whole school approach to gender inequality

Megan McHaney, The Collective, presented their report. The presentation slides she used are an attachment to these minutes (see Annex B).

The Collective was tasked with creating the Theory of Change model. They designed workshops which took place in November and December last year. The workshop facilitators were mindful of the fact that at that point, the Taskforce had not met for some time, and looked to explore the shared language around the gender work. 

The previously agreed goals of the Taskforce were the parameters around which the workshops were designed. Some draft additional text has been suggested for inclusion in the goals, which reflects ideas and themes from the workshops. It is recommended that a shared understanding of the goals needs to be re-established going forwards.

Four dependences were identified in order for the work of the Taskforce to be successful:

  • a need to ensure resources in place for teachers
  • shared language around gender competency
  • intersectionality
  • linked to other policy areas, work not to be undertaken in isolation

11 outcomes for the work are listed in the Theory of Change model, followed by nine high level activities.

There is a recognition within the outcomes that what happens inside and outside of schools is not mutually inclusive, and they reinforce each other. The Taskforce outcomes are focussed on classrooms and schools, and what is in the immediate power of schools.

It was noted that the recommendations outlined by The Collective in their report may shift and change depending on what is also happening in education in practice and policy spheres.

The short term recommendations centre around membership using an intersectional lens, agreement of definitions, the need to think deeply about participation, and the requirement to explore assumptions together. 

The medium term recommendations require discussion about the language used, for example, around developing and supporting actions – the Taskforce needs to have a conversation about capacity and ability to bear influence, both as a group, and as individuals.

The long term recommendations need discussion around the responsibility for delivering actions, and how to effectively blend policy and practice.

The report outlines a lot of work to be done, but the Taskforce’s starting point is to come together as a group, test assumptions, clarify membership of the group, bring the correct people around the table in order to start bringing the actions to life.

Question and comments

Q: Amy Woodhouse stated that a good job had been done of pulling together all the different schools of thought to create the Theory of Change. She asked to what extent the view of the children and young people were incorporated into the Theory of Change model?

A: Beth – The views were incorporated well, but it is important to ensure meaningful participation of children and young people as this work proceeds. The report represents the views of children and young people at a moment in time, but it should not be viewed as a static document.

There needs to be a sustained way of engaging with children and young people. 

Mo Whelton, Scottish Youth Parliament - The older boys who were interviewed were very in tune with gender inequality. However, it is acknowledged that they were a small sample, and there were quite different reactions from younger boys. There is a definite need to ensure wider engagement feeding into this work. 

Q: Marion Allison – It was very interesting to hear some of the results around informal spaces where young people congregate (such as playgrounds). It has provided something to consider.

A: Beth – The playground was a topic that girls were very keen to speak about, specifically their exclusion from play. Girls theoretically can play, but boys commandeer spaces to do so. Girls end up physically marginalised in the playground, pushed to the edges. This impacts confidence, physical health, and socialisation, and is an area which is often overlooked.

Q: Kathryn Dawson expressed curiosity about the references to the educational reform report by Ken Muir. The Theory of Change workshops were held prior to the publication of Ken Muir’s report, but The Collective’s report was issued after. The Muir report doesn’t appear to mention gender. It would be useful to know whether there is any opportunity for engagement with the reform process.

A: Judith – The topic of gender inequality not being reflected in the Muir report is an issue that has been raised by other stakeholders. Education Reform Directorate’s Policy and Delivery Unit is in the early stages of considering what the new institutions, as recommended by Prof Muir will look like. They haven’t carried out a huge amount of consultation with stakeholders yet, but links will be made as that work develops. The Secretariat for this Taskforce is happy to act as a conduit to that process.

Q: Laura Tomson –While early years policy is in the remit of the group, there is little on early years in The Collective’s report. Any action the group takes should encompass early years. It’s an area of focus for Zero Tolerance who would be eager to contribute any knowledge they can.

A: Andy – There is a balance to be struck between having a well-defined focus to allow us to make progress, while still paying attention to wider contextual societal issues. One of the recommendations in The Collective’s report references linking with other areas of work. It is still the intention that Early Years and Childcare will form part of this work, and this will be built in.

Action: Secretariat to pick up with Samantha Broadley about involvement of Early Learning and Childcare policy area.

Q: Anna Ritchie Allan – The reports highlighted a number of topics – underscoring the prevalence of gender-based violence for girls; behaviours that happen in the playground; and the experiences of female teachers, who experience sexual harassment and sexism. There clearly needs to be a systems wide approach to tackling gender inequality. Some of The Collective report recommendations seem to be outwith the remit of the Taskforce itself. What are the next steps beyond the Theory of Change?

A: Ellie H – The Taskforce membership contains a number of different roles and positions, some of which are related to embedding change operationally, and others which provide a more strategic approach. The Taskforce must determine how to carry forward the recommendations as a group.

Q: Maisie Geelen – Learning in Scotland is a devolved power. However, there is a patchy and inconsistent approach to, and support for, tackling gender inequality and gender-based violence. To what extent is there capacity for legislative drivers to effect change?A: Ian Menzies – The Education Reform agenda represents a period of significant change in education. There is work ongoing with the curriculum, an assessment board is considering Experiences and Outcomes, with an emphasis on embedding UNCRC.

He noted that in addition, Professor Louise Hayward is currently carrying out a senior phase review. There are lots of opportunities to explore pathways for girls into STEM subjects and those often dominated by boys and men. It will be useful for the Taskforce to have a close eye on developments in these areas.

Part two: taskforce reflections and response

Members were split into breakout rooms to consider the reports. 

The first breakout session considered the content of the reports, and members responded to three specific topics.

  • what stood out for you in the three reports?
  • what appears to be important to children and young people?
  • thoughts on the experiences shared by girls and young women of their experiences in school? Thoughts on the responses of young men?

Mentimeter was used as a tool to capture feedback on the first two topics. The results of the data gathered there can be found as annexes to these minutes (Annexes C.1 and C.2)

Members moved into different groups for the second breakout session. This considered the report by The Collective, specifically the Theory of Change model and the recommendations. Three specific topics were discussed.

  • what are your thoughts on the content of the Theory of Change model? Does it capture everything it should?
  • what are your thoughts on the overall aims included in the recommendations?
  • how do you think the recommendations should be prioritised?

Notes were taken by facilitators in each breakout room, and these can be found at Annex D.

There was not enough time to complete the recommendation prioritisation task, and Secretariat confirmed that this would be emailed to members for completion instead.

Action: Secretariat to send recommendation prioritisation task to members.

Next steps

Thanks were expressed to members for their input and the chair outlined the next steps:

  • the minutes of the meeting and breakout rooms will be shared a week after the meeting. The information that was input to Mentimeter will also be analysed and shared
  • members were reminded again that their written reflections on all three reports are due by Monday 23 May
  • all of this input will be combined to produce a composite response to the recommendations. The response will be shared with the Taskforce to ensure members are content with it, before it is published, alongside the reports, by the end of June


There was some discussion around members’ responses to the recommendations. Officials are keen to hear from members on topics such as the chairing arrangements, particularly as the Deputy First Minister, who previously co-chaired the group, no longer has the education portfolio. It was noted that maintaining a Ministerial chair would confer status on the Taskforce and result in more buy in. 

Driving participation was also discussed, with the view being that the Taskforce is missing representation from some key stakeholders. This can contribute to differing understanding of the issues. Consideration needs to be given to the governance of the group.

Members were asked to submit their thoughts on these matters now that the work is moving into an operational phase.

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