Leadership, to me, means being the catalyst for change and encouraging others – staff, pupils, parents – to reflect upon current practice.
This work has encouraged me to engage with literature and policy to ensure the school’s approach is in keeping with Scotland’s vision for inclusive education.
As this has been a whole school project, I have been focused on ensuring that there is a consistent approach through relevant staff training and sharing of information and resources. I’ve also become acutely aware of the need to collect and collate data in an organised, meaningful way that doesn’t just rely on anecdotal evidence.
Finally, I have been thrilled to engage with pupils in relation to policy and practice and facilitate the opportunity for them to bring about positive change in their school.
The school is now engaged in the discussion about gender and what that means for inclusive practice. The staff survey was incredibly helpful for me to gauge if teachers felt their practice had changed in the past year. One teacher commented:
|I feel I’m only beginning to address these kinds of issues and don’t know why I haven’t before. So I feel a bit guilty for that! Especially with the younger ones as I think its so important that they understand these things from early on, discussed in a way appropriate to their age of course.|
I think that teachers probably unconsciously sometimes gender stereotype as we were brought up with but it is good that this current generation are the ones who are more aware of it.
With that in mind, I feel that the next steps would be staff development work around unconscious bias and its impact. We should also explore the representation of gender within our planning, teaching and resources.
The parent survey showed me that we need to be more transparent/explicit about gender inclusion why we promote it and what that means not only for our school but for Scottish education. One parent commented:
Why is Gylemuir/Scottish government forcing this on our children? It seems that it’s is their number one goal.
Don’t you have far more important things to consider and look into ? Gender is central to all life and trying to pretend genders aren’t different or that gender traits are wrong is nothing short of embarrassing.
I include these not to be dramatic, but to highlight the fact that there are a range of perspectives on this matter. The general consensus, though, was that the priority should be encouraging pupils not to conform to any kind of stereotype and to be comfortable in their own skin.
The implications of the enquiry thus far are that early intervention is key for children’s perception of gender. The school’s play policy has been updated to be inclusive of all forms of gender expression. Staff are looking critically and the books they use and implementing literature that is inclusive of different types of families, professions and gender expectations. We also need to improve parent engagement with regards to gender inclusion.
What forms of evidence tell me what I have learned?
I have captured data from staff, pupils and parents about gender in the primary school – specifically, in our primary school. This whole enquiry is very specific to my own setting and was sparked by the process of working towards achieving the LGBT Youth Scotland Schools Charter Award and being the first primary school in Edinburgh to do so. Therefore, the conversation around gender in my current setting has something of a unique perspective.
What happened for pupils?
I captured pupil views in several ways.
- Discussion with a pupil leadership group that I run:
- Exploration of gender in the early years with particular focus on a P2 class who were presenting an assembly about gender equality (which sadly had to be postponed due to school closures!)
- Delivering an Equalities programme of work to P6 which focuses on the protected characteristics. Unfortunately this was also disrupted by the school closures, but the lesson on gender was delivered and showed me that children understand, and are somewhat weary of being told, that boys and girls can be whatever they want. However, the discussions unveiled that there still was some unconscious bias there.
‘I think people should be whatever they want. But, like, i’d still assume you meant a girl if you were talking about a nurse and i’d maybe find it weird if a boy was a nurse. But I know I shouldn’t.’
What does this tell me?
Early intervention is key in relation to education and gender. I will discuss this more in my next blog post.
Staff and Parent Views
I surveyed staff and parents for their views on gender. Below is a summary and comparison of the key findings.
What does this tell me?
There has been a more prominent discussion of gender and teaching practice, which I am pleased about. It is important to note that there is a discrepancy between staff’s feeling that children are encouraged to identify and challenge gender stereotypes, whilst the majority of parent’s were not sure if this was the case.
What I Did and Why I Did It
- I have surveyed the P7 classes as part of our work on LGBT inclusion. Some of the data gathered is pertinent to gender equality. The reason for doing this was to gain opinions of pupils at the top end of the school in relation to their experiences.
- I had a discussion with our New Arrivals Ambassadors, a pupil group focused on befriending and supporting new pupils, about gender. They are a highly motivated group of pupils who seek to bring about positive change in the school community. I surveyed them because they represent a cross-section of year groups.
- I interviewed pupils in P2 about their approaches to gender stereotypes. This tied in with our work on LGBT inclusion, our Purple Friday celebrations and the pupils’ Health and Wellbeing work.
- I have surveyed parents about gender equality in early childhood and I have surveyed teaching staff about their approaches to gender in the classroom. I felt that it was important to have qualitative data that represented the views of all stakeholders. The questions for teachers were built from IGBE Scotland’s document about gender stereotypes – the reflective questions for practitioners were so, so helpful.
- I have updated the school’s uniform policy to ensure it is inclusive of all forms of gender expression. Fortunately it did not split the uniform into ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ garments anyway but it is now explicitly stated that children may wear what they wish regardless of gender.
What changed and Why?
- My initial plan was to explore football in the playground and the lack of female representation there. Due to the school closures this was no longer possible, but i was able to survey parents and teachers instead which, to be honest, has probably been better as it has provided me with more to think about, although i do feel like I have gone down a ‘rabbit hole’! In terms of policy, there is a plethora of research and paperwork from the Scottish Government which has very clear aims but which has a long, log way to go before it is embedded practice.
This post is well overdue for obvious reasons. As i’m sure is the case for many of the TLP participants, all normality went out the window weeks before the schools even closed and my focus was ensuring the wellbeing of pupils and staff.
Having had time to reflect, I have decided to continue with the program this year. It seems a shame to lose all of the work i’ve done thus far and furthermore be left without any kind of answers to the questions i originally posed.
- I will definitely still be able to survey parents about attitudes toward and perceptions of gender (and my survey may even get more responses than anticipated, given that parents are currently more attuned to school emails).
- My current role involves delivering lessons around equality and diversity for pupils from Nursery -P7. This gives me a platform to continue to explore gender with pupils.
- Twitter continues to be a source of support and ideas for my practice.
- I am undertaking an online CPD run by the University of Strathclyde entitled Gender Representation in the Media.
What Am I Not Sure About?
- Setting survey questions that provide meaningful data
- Opening the school up to potential criticism by doing the survey
- How to gather the views of pupils. It may be that i select a few ‘focus’ year groups
How has my recent reading, events and conversations influenced my thinking?
After a period of relative darkness in terms of inspiration, I have had several lightbulb moments this week! There are a few avenues I could explore in relation to gender and I think I will need to focus on just one if I want to conduct a meaningful enquiry.
The first is gender in relation to football – this is a HUGE issue in our playground at the moment, and I’ve thought of some ways to explore this which I will detail later in the post. The second is the gender of teachers and how this (potentially) impacts the experiences of learners.
As part of the school’s ongoing work toward achieving the LGBT School’s Charter award I reached out the STRIDE network. This is run by the City of Edinburgh Council and aims to ensure an open, honest and inclusive working environment. They provided me with data showing analysis of protected characteristic groups and what really caught my eye was that of the 6,483 teaching contracts in the council, 75% of these are held by women. I am really intrigued by this……however I think it’s a HUGE thread to pull at, and perhaps not pertinent to the aim of my enquiry.
What’s happening in my enquiry?
I have realised that I should explore gender as a construct and perhaps how this affects the ways pupils behave and interact. Football in relation to gender is a huge issue for us right now, due to the fact that girls are reluctant to join in with football at playtimes because it is so boy-dominated. We have set up opportunities for a girls only pitch but this has not been utilised and some pupils and parents have expressed annoyance at the ‘segregation’ of the girls.
I’m finding data from sources such as Active Schools and City of Edinburgh HR.
Some of the girls are really keen to promote football in the playground and get involved.
What am I not sure about?
As I write this, it seems like a frivolous issue. Football? Who cares? That’s not pertinent to attainment. Tell them to get on with it.
For me, though, it highlights the bigger issue in our school community that girls and perhaps some boys don’t feel they can be who they want to be. They are bound by gender ‘norms’ and expectations. I really feel that if I am going to explore gender expectations in school I can’t ignore this huge part of the school day.
I am going to speak to several boys and girls about their interests, and hope to use their responses as qualitative data. I would appreciate any feedback on the questions below:
I will also be collecting data from a focus group of parents. I will need to think about the questions I ask and what I want to know. I will also need to interview school staff for data.
Sometimes there’s nothing better on earth than someone asking you a question.
Lisa Taddeo, Three Women
Last Friday’s recall day was really helpful in terms of providing an opportunity to have discussions about enquiry with like minded practitioners. I wouldn’t say it left me feeling focused and invigorated – I now feel like I have so many ideas and possible tasks to undertake! – but i’m choosing to view this as a positive. Moreover, I’ve found a fantastic support network in my fellow TLP participants.
The key things that were highlighted to me are:
- My enquiry will likely result in qualitative evidence that is based around change in policy and change in learners’ experiences.
- I need to gather the views of pupils, staff and parents (i.e. all stakeholders) to gain perceptual data of the school community. I will most likely do this as an interview process and use the results as case studies. There may need to be a short survey for some qualitative data.
- I should think of different ways of asking the same question and it may be useful to have another member of staff ask the questions so the pupils don’t just say what I would like to hear.
So far what’s working well is the evidence I have accumulated regarding pupils’ views on gender. My enquiry is very specific to the context of my school and I need to ensure I make my ‘why’ clear to others. I am also part of a working group within the City of Edinburgh Council to examine a Culturally Inclusive Curriculum and I keen to make links to this within my enquiry.
I now realise I have a lot to move forward with and all that’s left to do is be proactive! I feel motivated by being told that Education Scotland aren’t looking for ‘best’ practice, but rather ‘interesting’ practice, and this will influence my enquiry over the next few months.
After undertaking the required reading, I was immediately drawn to the Spiral Enquiry approach. For me that’s exactly what this experience has been – a non-linear journey to discover what the ‘gaps’ are, what my ‘itch’ is.
Whilst reading Action Research in Education i was struck by Schon’s view that teacher enquiry is both reflection on action and reflection in action. This notion perfectly sums up my enquiry so far, something which has arisen from reflection of the changes in my current setting and also the daily, weekly, monthly reflections on where we’re at.
I have drawn my own version of the spiral approach with my own adaptations highlighted in green, specifically:
- The tangent of exploration on which we all inevitably go – in my opinion, a necessary step in the entire process in order to ensure that you have thought out the best line of enquiry
- Refining, because that is what i have been constantly doing throughout the time i’m developing my hunch
- And reflecting at the heart of everything – because if we are not constantly reflecting, then how can we even begin to measure the success of the enquiry?
I look forward to seeing other people’s drafts and approaches and to chatting about everyone’s journey at the recall day!