Chapter 4 Schools
This chapter looked at how schools have a key role to play in helping young women make transitions into a broader range of more successful careers. It looked at addressing gender stereotyping, occupational segregation and sexist behaviours in schools. In doing so, the chapter recognised the need to ensure practitioners are adequately equipped in understanding gender equality, hold positive attitudes towards girls and boys, and have the opportunity to learn about gender issues, which is essential if all pupils are to become confident individuals, successful learners, responsible citizens and affective contributors.
The impact of COVID-19 on schools and education as a whole during 2020 and into 2021 can't go unnoticed. We have seen schools close, phased returns, protective measures being put in place and long periods of children learning from home. In this unprecedented time, it has meant that while these actions still remain relevant, some timescales have moved in order for us and the wider education system to respond to the pandemic.
We will also continue to pursue our gender equality ambitions in education and learning via the mechanism of the Deputy First Minister's Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning. Given the evidence which suggests that girls and young women are disproportionately impacted by crises such as COVID-19, we will continue to work with education and children's and equality stakeholders to ensure that girls and young women's experience of the education and learning landscape is a gender competent one.
Challenging gendered subject choice
We want children in Scotland to receive an education which challenges gender stereotyping, and encourages them to pursue study which matches their interests and skills, resulting in more balanced participation in courses which are traditionally seen as 'for boys' or 'for girls', thus challenging later occupational segregation. Within the 'knowledge' domain of the Gender Equality Index the main driver of inequality was subject segregation which we know begins at school.
Building on the work schools are already doing, we committed to publishing an equality action plan in 2020 with issues of gender segregation in education at the fore. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for the education system to adapt quickly and support education recover, the delivery date for the equality action plan has been postponed. This will ensure the new Education Scotland Equality Strategy and Action plan takes account of the significant changes Scottish education has made to support educational recovery in light of COVID-19. We remain committed to this work and plan to publish this before summer 2021.
We highlighted in the original action plan that Education Scotland had recruited a team of six Improving Gender Balance and Equality Officers. We also committed to develop professional learning approaches in collaboration with practitioners in early learning and childcare and in schools with a specific focus on challenging gender stereotyping and addressing unconscious bias.
This work has been undertaken by the Improving Gender Balance and Equality Officers, who continue to engage with practitioners, schools and settings in diverse ways to build the confidence and capacity of education practitioners to challenge stereotypes and unconscious bias and embed equality in their practice. The team have engaged with 512 distinct establishments and have had over 4,900 practitioner engagements across sectors since forming in January 2019.
The professional learning and support they have provided has taken many forms. This includes close partnership working with individual schools, settings and clusters looking to adopt effective whole-school approaches to equality. Professional learning has also been provided through regional and national training sessions and a blended learning approach.
To continue their support during the pandemic, the team switched quickly to an online webinar format. Some 91% of respondents rated these online sessions as 'very good' and 'good' with 84% of respondents reporting that they were 'likely' or 'very likely' to share what they had learned with colleagues.
Bearsden Primary School in East Dunbartonshire Council
In 2020, Bearsden Primary in East Dunbartonshire Council approached Education Scotland's Improving Gender Balance and Equalities (IGBE) team for support. The initial request was for the IGBE team to provide professional learning to all staff to help them address gender stereotypes and unconscious bias. The session was developed in discussion with the school and included tools for reflection, suggestions for audits and identification of materials that could be used directly with children and young people. The session prompted discussion amongst teachers and personal reflections about unconscious bias. This led to a programme of activity which initially focussed on language used in the classroom and around the school. Further actions included an environmental audit, consideration of seating plans and the introduction of gender equality lessons.
STEM ambassadors were invited into the school during the school's STEM week to support the theme of gender equality and to help to subvert stereotypes. Through lesson activities, the school found that children already had a good awareness of anyone being able to do any job. However, learners' understanding was progressed through pupil enquiries with an equalities focus. These were then shared through an online blog to engage families in the conversation around equalities. Gender equality is now part of the school improvement plan at Bearsden Primary School, thereby ensuring it remains a continued focus for the school and community.
"The professional learning provided by the IGBE team has been incredibly valuable as it has generated important discussion in our school about our own unconscious bias and given us advice on how we can begin to change this in a positive way. The team have also supported our school in developing an action plan by providing us with lesson ideas and resources to use with the children relating to gender stereotypes and equality."
Bearden Primary School
We want our young people to be encouraged and supported to make choices based on their own interests, talents and ambitions. We committed to build on the work Skills Development Scotland (SDS) is taking forward with parents on Apprenticeships, by asking them to expand this work to wider gender stereotyping which impacts on subject choices. SDS published their Careers Information, Advice and Guidance Equality Action Plan 2019-20 in December 2019, which includes actions to tackle gender segregation in school subject and career choices. As Foundation Apprenticeship frameworks expand in schools, SDS will continue to monitor participation across key equality groups including addressing gender segregation. SDS have continued to capitalise on engagements with young people and their parents/carers to challenge gender stereotypes, for example at S2/3 subject choice. They have reviewed - based on discussions with partners - messaging to ensure that they are addressing the range of issues that discourage young people from pursuing non-traditional careers and incorporated this messaging into their group work materials. This builds on the content to challenge gender inequality across key points in our engagement with pupils from P7/S1 transition through to Senior Phase. The Improving Gender Balance and Equalities (IGBE) team is working with school clusters to explore and assess interventions to address gender imbalances in participation, curricular preferences and learner pathways at every stage (3-18 years).
We said we would deliver a new careers strategy to set the vision for high quality career information, advice and guidance services accessible to all, and which reflects the importance of challenging occupational segregation. We published Careers Strategy for Scotland: Moving Forward in February 2020 as well as the subsequent EQIA in April 2020 outlining how we will ensure that all individuals have access to careers support to fulfil their potential, taking into account the role careers advice can play in specifically tackling inequalities women can face in the labour market. The implementation planning work for the strategy was on pause due to COVID-19. This work has since been reinstated and the Strategy remains our starting point in developing our approach to CIAG in Scotland. Skills Development Scotland (SDS) are reviewing the current Careers Strategy based on the recommendations outlined in Sandy Begbie's Young Person's Guarantee – No-One Left Behind report. We remain committed to supporting young people transition successfully into the labour market and recognise the challenges that they will face a result of the COVID-19 crisis. These recommendations set out our commitment to ensuring that no young person is left behind.
We agreed within the Programme for Government to review actions within our Gender Pay Gap action plan, ensuring they remained relevant and fit for purpose. Part of this work included refreshing our action to accelerate progress on the DYW Scotland's Youth Employment Strategy interventions, to reduce gender imbalance and undertake a practice and improvement evaluation of equality outcomes in Developing the Young Workforce (DYW). This action will take the impact of COVID-19 on young women into account. The revised action is noted at the end of this chapter in the going forward section. Through the enhanced provision within DYW Regional Groups to support education-employer partnerships we continue to engage with a variety of third sector specialists partners, including Close the Gap, to assist in tackling gender segregation issues. We will do this by working with DYW School Coordinators and the expansion of DYW's digital provision in 2021-22.
We said we would work with employers to conduct a review to identify the extent to which industry led DYW regional groups and other school/industry partnerships are delivering actions that will address gender stereotyping and occupational segregation. We undertook an audit showing concentrated activity around gender, disability and care experienced young people. The report was presented to the DYW Programme Board and Equalities Working Group to determine next steps. Key Performance Indicators have been developed to measure progress. As part of the Young Person's Guarantee we have allocated funding to support tackling gender segregation through the work of DYW Regional Groups. We will look to upskill those working with employers and those working with young people.
Teachers play key role in addressing issues of gender stereotyping which in turn leads to occupational segregation. The General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS) launched a new suite of Professional Standards on 13 January 2021, and will be enacted on 2 August 2021. These standards include a commitment to social justice through fair, transparent, inclusive, and sustainable policies and practices in relation to protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex, sexual orientation) and intersectionality. They also seek a commitment to demonstrate to motivating, and including all learners, understanding the influence of gender, social, cultural, racial, ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds on experiences of learning, taking account of specific learning needs and seeking to reduce barriers to learning. Furthermore, the Guidelines for the Accreditation of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) Programmes states that the overall aim of programmes of ITE is to prepare student teachers to become competent, thoughtful, reflective and innovative practitioners, who are committed to providing high quality learning for every learner.
To ensure newly qualified teachers are adequately equipped in understanding gender equality, it is important that equality is threaded through all ITE programmes both practical and theory, including challenging gender stereotyping and occupational segregation. This is why we committed to work with the Scottish Council of Deans of Education to consider how gender and other equality issues can be made more prominent within ITE.
We met with the Scottish Council of Deans in August 2019 to consider how gender and other equality issues can be made more prominent within ITE. Across the sector we have seen many more women enrol on leadership programmes at SCQF 11 and also many more women taking up EdD and PhD opportunities within Faculties/Schools/Departments of Education. We are seeing more women who are STEM graduates entering the profession than before and the Scottish Government's STEM Bursary scheme has helped provide the financial support to enable this. Scottish Council of Deans of Education (SCDE) reported to the LGBTI Inclusion Implementation Group on the progress ITE providers are making in terms of including LGBTI content in their curricula. Two ITE providers had sought (and one had already gained) LGBT Youth Scotland's Bronze Charter Mark. Each SCDE member institution sent a delegate to a one-day meeting in Edinburgh on the 19th February 2020 to discuss LGBTI inclusion, chaired by the former SCDE chair: Professor Ian Rivers. Based upon these discussions, five recommendations were established which the group agreed that each ITE provider could sign up to.
The Scottish Council of Deans of Education (SCDE) has identified 'Diversity' as the
next thematic focus for its self-evaluation activity. This will provide an opportunity
for stakeholders to examine progress
in all aspects of diversity, while identifying tangible next steps to ensure teacher education institutions deliver appropriate training on gender stereotyping
and segregation. The intended SCDE
self-evaluation seminar on diversity
in ITE was postponed due to COVID-19. This will now take place in June 2021.
Challenging sexist behaviour, including harassment and violence
There is evidence to show girls can be marginalised at crucial stages by sexist behaviours - including harassment and violence - which can go unchallenged and unrecorded. To help address this, the review of Personal and Social Education (PSE) contained a recommendation to convene a PSE Lead Officers network, which would initially focus on resources to address the issue of sexual harassment in schools. The Network consists of all local authorities and key third sector partners such as Rape Crisis Scotland, Zero Tolerance, Scottish Youth Parliament and Children's Parliament. They have met on several occasions since forming in 2019. This includes a Sub Group of the Network specifically tasked with looking at the sexual harassment recommendation, their initial work sought to create a definition of sexual harassment as well as collating information on good practice resources being used across the country. Zero Tolerance and Rape Crisis Scotland are part of this Sub Group. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Network has not met as education stakeholders focus on education recovery. Education Scotland did host a webinar on PSE on 23 June 2020.
To understand further the issues around sexual harassment and violence against girls in schools, we committed to collaborate with COSLA and the teaching unions to develop mechanisms to collect and report on this information. We established a gender-based violence working group jointly chaired by the Scottish Government and Zero Tolerance/Rape Crisis Scotland. Membership includes representatives from Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES), Women's Aid, NSPCC, and Education Scotland. This will be supported by appropriate teaching resources to help school staff deliver confident and meaningful learning to combat sexual harassment and gender-based violence in schools. As well as the review of existing resources and development of new resources, the group will also seek to identify examples of effective practice and how to effectively monitor and record incidents of gender-based violence. This work is expected to be completed in 2022. The gender-based violence working group has continued to engage and meet virtually, allowing this work to progress as expected.
Going forward 2021-2022
In addition to taking forward the work we have started above. We will also take forward the actions below.
- Updated – take into account the impact of COVID-19 on young women continue to accelerate progress on the Developing Young Workforce Strategy interventions to reduce gender imbalance and undertake a practice and improvement evaluation of the equality outcomes in Developing Young Workforce as part of the delivery of the Young Person's Guarantee. This will involve the development of an evidence base of existing practice, the identification of good practice and the sharing of this across schools, colleges and the DYW Regional Groups.
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