Increased Emphasis on Gender Equality in RSE
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Increase the emphasison gender equality when updating statutory guidance for Relationships and Sex Education in secondary schools. Commit to developing a clear and comprehensive RSE curriculum for schools to follow that includes a strong focus on gender equality and support this with compulsory teacher training.
What’s this campaign all about?
The Children and Social Work Act 2017 made it a duty of the Secretary of State for Education (Currently Damian Hinds) to make Relationships Education in primary school, and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in secondary school compulsory through regulations.
At the moment, there’s a consultation on RSE guidance until November 7th. Of Our Own wants to collect as many signatures as possible before then, when a letter will be sent to the Secretary of State for Education and the Department for Education. We really want young people concerned with gender equality to have a say in the consultation.
The Department for Education has said that the “overarching objective for these subjects is child safety, safe relationships, both online and offline, and preparing pupils for adult life.” Of Our Own believes that it is wholly impossible to achieve these objectives without an emphasis on gender equality. In the draft guidance, addressing gender stereotypes is briefly mentioned but there is limited focus on this and no recognition of how important equality is in relation to the objective.
Why is it so important?
The Department for Education has the opportunity to make a massive impact on attitudes to gender through Relationships and Sex Ed, but draft plans don’t consider gender inequality and sexism as the root causes of many of the relationship issues that the proposed RSE changes aim to address.
Gender discrimination is still prevalent in our society- take the wage gap, experiences shared on Everyday Sexism, rape threats on Twitter and the casual objectification of women in the mainstream media as a few examples. Educating children on these issues is a powerful way to change ingrained attitudes towards gender and will benefit everyone. Providing historical context and clarifying that equality is about fair and equal treatment of all people is an essential step towards exposing prejudices and reducing discrimination.
As well as considering feminism, there is also an increasing need to address the negative impact of toxic masculinity on male children. Alarming rates of depression and suicide among men, as well as worrying statistics on levels of violence against women, also point to the need for an improved PSHCE curriculum that challenges the damaging notions of stereotypical masculinity.
A well-considered and robust educational approach to RSE will facilitate long-term improvement and also help tackle the mental health epidemic facing the country.
Why does this mean so much to me personally?
In March 2017, at the age of 14, I started ‘Rooms Of Our Own’, a campaign for my Buckinghamshire secondary school to name rooms in their new building after an equal number of inspiring men and women. The campaign garnered 4,594 signatures but the school was absolutely furious, and pupils were told that plans to name the very large majority of the rooms after men were not sexist. My campaign resulted in me being labeled a ‘Feminazi’ and I was subjected to a torrent of online abuse from my peers (and even a few their parents). I experienced extreme levels of gaslighting (by teachers) for my actions and was bullied extensively for raising the issue. I was forced to close the petition, threatened with expulsion and legal action and had to leave the school in the middle of my GCSE’s.
My voice was silenced, and the school’s response left me with severe anxiety, which lead to depression and self-harm – the school did nothing to stop the bullying and continued to insist that gender blindness is gender equality. This sentiment was re-iterated to pupils and it became clear that staff lacked the knowledge and training to respond effectively to the issue. Many pupils and parents also failed to see the importance of equal representation and it became clear that there is a very real and urgent need to educate children on gender equality.
So, what can you do to help?
Hopefully I’ve managed to convince you that it’s a cause worth caring for. As well as signing and sharing the petition on social media, please make some time to respond to the consultation. There are opportunities to provide responses that highlight the need for a greater emphasis on gender equality as a core aspect of RSE and also to show support for improved teacher training.
The consultation is open to anyone over the age of 13 and Of Our Own is all about providing a platform for teens to have their voices heard. If you are a teenager yourself, please respond to the consultation and encourage your friends to sign the petition.
You can also get involved with the new Of Our Own website as I am actively looking for as many contributors as possible. The website is run for teens by teens and needs input from 13-19-year olds of all genders
If you are not a teenager yourself please tell any teens you know about the campaign and the website and encourage them to use both to raise their voice.
If you are a parent or work in a school, you can encourage your school to support this campaign. Contact your MP and write to the Secretary of State for Education to let them know you support this campaign and explain the need for a much stronger emphasis on gender equality.
Thank you so much for your support :)
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