Volunteer squads to report sexist language in schools

The Sunday Times is reporting that new government-backed guidelines are being sent to all schools in England this week to urge head teachers to ensure that sexist phrases become as unacceptable as racist language.

In the guidelines, to be published on Tuesday, schools will be advised to appoint senior teachers as “gender champions”. They will also be told to have policies to get more girls to study “male” subjects such as economics, computer science and physics at GCSE and A-level and more boys to take “female” subjects such as English literature, foreign languages and psychology.

Some schools are reported to be creating volunteer squads of girls to police sexist language or behaviour and report any incidents back to teachers.

Clare Thomson, of the Institute of Physics, who helped to draw up the guidelines, is quoted:

“Even low-level comments are potentially an issue with teachers using phrases such as ‘man up’.”

The paper reports that research funded by the DfE in 10 schools found that where there was a pattern of girls choosing “female” GCSE subjects there was often also a wider culture of sexist attitudes and language.

Janice Callow, deputy head at Fairfields High School in Bristol, one of the pilot schools, said that in her school a volunteer group of girls was being assembled to spot sexist language.

“We have always had clear policies on racist language but now we are making it clear to staff that any kind of sexist language is not acceptable,”

“We used to say ‘Man up, cupcake’. We’ve stopped that. Saying ‘Don’t be a girl’ to a boy if they are being a bit wet is also unacceptable. Language is a very powerful tool. You have to be so conscious of what you are saying to children.”

Professor Peter Main, of the IoP, is quoted:

“The government is backing this. They have told us to send our good practice guide to every school in the country. Sexist language has a considerable impact but in our research we found that it was often dismissed as just banter and was much more common than teachers were aware of.”

More at: No more sissies in the playground (subscription may be required)


Obviously we’ll see the full report later in the week, but are you supportive of the initiative to crack down on sexist language in schools?

What about the idea of volunteer squads to report any incidents of sexist language back to teachers? Everyone happy about that?

Please give us your reactions in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Policy.


  1. Nor_edu

    SchoolsImprove first (of many) issues with this – why are the sexism police *groups of girls*? Surely that I itself is sexist…

  2. brighton118

    SchoolsImprove-Man up cupcake ? It is important to be aware of language use,was told not to use term manufacturing ( I taught Bus Ed) Hmm!

  3. TW

    Will this apply to private schools?  Or just another way to get people to despise state ‘education’ aka indoctrination.

  4. AynieLR

    SchoolsImprove WHY ‘necessary? IF teachers had time during ITT they’d understand cumulative effects of sexism/racism compound disadvantage.

  5. FelishaFem

    I notice “Don’t be a girl” mention in the article. That is a phase used in a derogatory way that hurts both genders.

  6. angelt42

    SchoolsImprove this is a long way from what the report and best practice guide is actually about bit of a press Chinese whisper going on.

  7. TeaLadyJune

    SchoolsImprove I think the Institute of Physics would be better looking at the content of the Physics curriculum & how it is taught.

Let us know what you think...