Sexist remarks 'should be as unacceptable as racism or homophobia'


Sexist language among pupils should be as unacceptable as racist or homophobic abuse, a guide on countering gender stereotyping in schools has suggested.

The Institute of Physics (IOP) said it would also like to see schools appoint "gender champions" in school leadership teams and introduce a strict policy to ensure all subjects are presented equally to students in terms of relative difficulty.

This would mean teachers should not make any remarks to students about their own abilities in any subject.

When it comes to subject choices or career aspirations, the report found parents are often very influential and sometimes exhibit strong gender bias. It said opportunities should be found to discuss this with parents to break down prejudices.

Another issue highlighted was the common practice of placing students into sets in terms of perceived academic ability, which can sometimes lead to imbalances in the gender make-up of classes and reinforce stereotypes.

While not suggesting that schools impose a limit on the number of girls or boys in each set, the report said that if sets do turn out to be heavily gendered, schools should consider the reasons for the imbalance and take suitable action to rectify the situation.

The Opening Doors guide is due to be launched at a conference looking at gender stereotyping in education.

Dame Barbara Stocking, who is chairing the event, said: "We know we have a problem with gender stereotyping of subjects in schools.

"This is particularly an issue for girls in maths, physics and engineering, boys in modern foreign languages and a general under-performance in GCSE grades."

IOP president Professor Roy Sambles said: "The low uptake of physics among girls has been a long-standing concern of ours and a problem that we've been trying to deal with for some time.

"But we've found that it's not a job we can do completely by ourselves and that there's a lot in common between the low numbers of girls taking physics and similar gender imbalances in other subjects."

The conference in central London is being sponsored by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), which works to further and support equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education institutions across the UK and in colleges in Scotland.