|Posted by God Loves Women on April 22, 2012 at 4:55 PM|
My children go to a local Church of England primary school who have embarked on the noble quest of pushing more parents to read with their children. So far this quest has taken the form of a reading raffle every Friday, in which children who have had the reading record signed by an adult five days out of the week will be entered into a raffle in which they can win a lovely book.
I have quite a lot of problems with this reading raffle business, I feel it misses the point, parents not reading with their children has a deeper root than just a lack of a good reward for their child, but I haven’t felt it is the right battle to fight. Until last Friday.
“Last Friday?” You ask, “What happened last Friday?”
Well, I shall tell you. Last Friday my children arrived home with a letter from the teacher responsible for reading which said the following (and I quote):
“A big well done to all those children who were entered in the reading raffle this week. The children had to read 10 times over the holidays [yes, you read right, over the *flipping* holidays, no rest for the wicked, or at least small children, I say…] and have their planners or reading records signed for each time [their emphasis, not mine]. I was very disappointed however that the numbers of children entering the raffle weren’t higher. Only 34% of girls and 35% of boys were entered in the raffle this week, meaning that 2 in every 3 children seem to no be reading enough at home. To try and raise this we have started a “Battle of the Sexes! [Yes, you did read that right…] The gender with the higher percentage will receive 5 minutes extra play every week. This week the boys won. Well done boys!” [Yes, you also read correctly that they have already started this scheme].
I am utterly furious! Who do they think they are?! Regardless of my issues with the reading raffle and my disappointment at them rewarding children if their parents read with them, that is nothing in comparison to my shock at the decision to penalise 34% of female children even though their parents did sign their book, purely because of their gender. While 65% of male children got extra playtime, even though their parents did *not* write in their books, purely because of their gender.
I work very hard to ensure that my children do not feel their gender is in anyway a barrier to them. Both my 6 and 9 year old know that the broadly speaking the only differences between men and women is that women have babies and men wee standing up. To polarise my children so thoroughly in this way, purely because of their gender is totally unjust.
As someone who works very hard on domestic violence prevention, this could not be further from the actions required of a school in promoting positive relationships. When looking at how we promote positive relationships for younger children, it is about challenging gender stereotypes, not reinforcing that it’s boys versus girls. For every boy in that school who was allowed extra playtime, what the school has said is, your gender allows you privilege, and for any of those boys who live in homes with an abusive man, the school has just reinforced *every* view of women that man is telling that boy.
Since Friday, I have been learning about what I can do about this situation. Firstly I rang up the school to speak with the teacher who has sent the letter out, she wasn’t available immediately. I rang up the County Council’s equality and diversity department to get more information from them (they are going to ring me back). I also looked up the Equality Act 2010, which tells me that gender is a “protected characteristic” meaning that the schools actions are a form of inequality and also that potentially, from what the act says, this could be considered indirect discrimination.
Some may say I am overreacting, investigating things this thoroughly, but I do not want to be accused of being a “politically correct zealot” and so I thought I should get my facts straight.
Tomorrow I am going to the school to request a meeting, and I am going to explain how this “Battle of the Sexes” must not be allowed to continue and ask that an explanation be sent to every parent of the “un-thought through nature” of the scheme, before next Friday (when the next raffle and gender war is to take place). I know the school may not be particularly amenable to this suggestion, but my next stage will involve the Governors, the Vicar, other parents and perhaps even the press if necessary, so I shall keep you updated!
P.S. Since first writing this blog, I have discovered that the boys extra playtime will be awarded on Thursday and hasn't already taken place. I am requesting the school change the scheme before this is due to take place.