Over the last two weeks BBC2 have screened ‘No More Boys and Girls – Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?’ and it is also available on iPlayer until mid September. You can read more about it here.
Dr Javid Abelmoneim poses some of the most profound questions facing the UK today. Is the way we treat boys and girls in childhood the real reason we still haven’t achieved true equality between men and women in adult life? And could stripping away the pink and blue – and the other more subtle ways that boys and girls are shaped to be different – be the way to raise kids with abilities and attitudes that are the same regardless of their gender?
In two hour-long programmes, Dr Javid sets out to find answers in a bold but simple experiment. He is taking over Year 3 in Lanesend Primary School on the Isle of Wight, aiming to remove all differences in the way boys and girls are treated and to see if, after a term of gender-neutral treatment, he can even out the gaps in their achievement across a range of important psychological measures – from self-confidence to emotional intelligence.
Dr Javid Abelmoneim poses some of the most profound questions facing the UK today. Is the way we treat boys and girls in childhood the real reason we still haven’t achieved true equality between men and women in adult life? And could stripping away the pink and blue – and the other more subtle ways that boys and girls are shaped to be different – be the way to raise kids with abilities and attitudes that are the same regardless of their gender? Dr Javid is taking over Year 3 in Lanesend primary school in the Isle of Wight, aiming to remove all differences in the way boys and girls are treated and to see if, after a term of ‘gender neutral’ treatment, he can even out the gaps in their achievement across a range of important psychological measures – from self-confidence to emotional intelligence.
Before he begins, he wants to understand what the kids themselves think – and their comments are shocking. Aged just seven, these kids have already absorbed the idea that boys are more important than girls, that strong is a word than only applies to boys and that the only thing that girls are better at than boys at is being pretty. As a doctor, Javid knows that there are basic biological differences between the sexes, but he believes our biology can’t fully explain why men and women’s life chances in the UK are still so unequal. He believes that how we treat our children in childhood has to be the deciding factor – and the latest research in how brains develop backs him up.
A visit to Prof Gina Rippon at Aston University, one of the UK’s leading experts in brain imaging and neuroscience, reveals that there is no such thing as a male or female brain type. Instead the brain is a plastic organ, shaped and moulded by experiences in which childhood is key. Giving boys and girls different toys to play with and different experiences as they grow up means that the genders develop different skills and different behaviours. So in theory, giving kids a childhood in which their gender doesn’t define how they are treated should enable to them to develop more equal abilities and attitudes – and ultimately allow them to forge their own paths in life regardless of their gender. But to be sure that his changes really do make a difference, he commissions Dr Stella Mavroveli from the psychometric lab at University College London to record what level of difference there currently is between the boys and girls across the spectrum of school subjects, but also in a range of behaviours and psychological traits from confidence and self-esteem to empathy and social skills. However much he was expecting to find differences between the boys and girls, Dr Javid is shocked by the test results. Girls show a consistent pattern of underestimating their academic abilities and lack confidence and self-esteem in comparison with the boys, while the boys demonstrate a worrying inability to express their emotions in comparison with the girls. The test results are enough to convince class teacher Graham Andre to adopt a broad range of changes and to eradicate from the classroom anything that reinforces the idea that boys and girls are fundamentally different. From the books the kids read to the way they are spoken to, the mission is to emphasize to the kids that gender makes no impact on what they are capable of achieving.
To achieve deeper transformation, Javid designs a series of focused interventions to target some of the children’s mostly deeply held views – from transforming their view of which jobs men and women are able to do to shocking them with the fact that contrary to what they have always believed, girls at their age are just as strong as boys. An emotional breakthrough for shy and under-confident girl Lexi convinces Javid his gender neutral approach is starting to work, but if he is to achieve real change he realises he is going to have to take his mission out of the school gates and into the kids’ home lives.
Out of school, Javid is astonished at how much childhood has changed since he was growing up. Clothes and toys have become a tsunami of pink and blue – ensuring that boys and girls play with toys that encourage very different behaviours. Boys playing with construction toys develop spatial awareness skills that girls simply don’t while surrounded by princess play outfits and dolls. He challenges the parents of Mr Andre’s class to clear out all of the gendered toys and clothes – and to change the way they divide housework and childcare. Will the parents get on board? And will Dr Javid’s gender neutral mission have produced meaningful change when he repeats his tests at the end of term?
How do the experiences shown in these episodes relate to your school and the pupils you support?
It is time to introduce yourself to your group before you start the course in September. We’re going to use Padlet for this. All you have to do is click on the link in the email sent to you to open the Padlet for your grou
When the Padlet opens you can click on the pink plus sign and this creates a box for you to type into. You can also add a photo by clicking on the small plus sign under the ox where you are typing. Here’s some information about posting onto a Padlet if you need help: how to post.
Just write a bit about yourself and your role in school so that when you begin the course you all know a little bit about each other. There’s no need to create an account with Padlet to post onto one.
Many of you will use social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and some of you might read or write blogs. You might find some of these useful in your study and support for learners as well as your social lives.
There are many teachers, TAs and academics on Twitter and lots of opportunity to share ideas and resources and interact with others. This article is a good place to get you started with thinking about Twitter in education. You can find and follow other TAs and people with interests in the same areas and subjects as well as join in with chats such as #ukedchat which is from 8 til 9 pm every Thursday based around a different theme each week.
There are also many people in education who share ideas and resources through their blogs. An example is Nancy Gedge (@nancygedge on Twitter). She is a parent, teacher and writer and her blog explores her experiences as a parent and educator. You can read it here.
Another example is a blog by teacher John Mitchell (@jivespin on twitter) who uses his blog to share resources and teaching ideas for secondary history. You can access it here. Many of his creative ideas for using resources can be adapted to other subjects and age groups.
Finally a site that many of you may be familiar with is The Literacy Shed. The Literacy Shed has a blog as well as lots of resources based around using film and animation to inspire writing in English and across the curriculum.
If you have a favourite blog or site feel free to add below in the comments section.
I am @JeanEd70 if you want to follow me on Twitter.
It will be useful for you to either download and save the relevant documents or save links to them so that you can access them online. You might also read through the one that you work within to get a feel for the contents.
The University of Northampton
Boughton Green Road
In September we will be moving to a new campus in the centre of Northampton called Waterside. We will keep you informed about the move and the new location during 2017/18. You can see more about the new campus here.
If you have not been to your venue before you should try out the journey so that you are ready for the first visit in September.
There is parking available at both venues. At Devonshire Place you can access the car park via Prebend Street. At Park Campus you can access the student car park but during the early weeks of the course you will need to apply for a barrier card. There is more information about travel and parking at Park Campus here. You might also consider public transport to both venues.
If you are starting a degree course it is worthwhile investing in a study skills book to support you as you develop approaches to academic learning. The Study Skills Handbook by Stella Cottrell is a good choice as it can support you throughout your three year degree. There are many other good study skills books too.
Now would be a good time to explore the early section ‘managing yourself for study’. This will help you think about starting to study in Higher Education and areas such as managing time and preparing for a new course.
There is a companion website with some additional materials to help you available here. In the Resource Bank you can find some audio files about critical analysis and creative thinking as well as a short interactive course called ‘What to expect from academic study’. You might find it useful to explore these resources.
Cottrell, S. (2013) The Study Skills Handbook. 4th ed. London: Palgrave.
Using your computer, laptop or tablet will be essential to your success and efficiency as a student.
Whilst you may receive paper copies of some materials, most will be in digital form for you to open as links or download and save to your computer. it is useful to be able to store these in folders related to each module that you are studying. these are the titles of the FDLT year 1 modules so you can make your folders now.
As you find resources and reading online you will also need to devise a system of saving and organising links. This might be saving links to a word document, using the tools on your browser or using a bookmarking tool such as Pocket.
As a student with access to the University of Northampton library you will be able to save useful articles and books within your library account. you will be introduced to this in the early weeks of the course.
You might find it useful to have a go with saving favourites or setting up a bookmarking tool now if you haven;t done this before.