Minister launches roll out in Scotland of gender balance programme piloted by IOP

12 June 2018

Minister in the Scottish Government Shirley-Anne Somerville announced on 7 June that a pilot programme to improve gender balance in STEM learning managed by IOP is to be rolled out across Scotland.

Minister launches roll out in Scotland of gender balance programme piloted by IOP

Speaking at the Improving Gender Balance in Scotland conference, held in Edinburgh to celebrate and share good practice from the pilot project and launch the new programme, she said that extending and embedding the Improving Gender Balance (IGB) Scotland project was an important element in the Scottish Government’s STEM Strategy for Education and Training.

Minister launches roll out in Scotland of gender balance programme piloted by IOP

Ms Somerville, who is Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, gave the opening address, in which she spoke about the need to tackle gender stereotyping, unconscious bias and gender inequity and to do so from early years settings upwards.

The conference also heard presentations from some of the six clusters that took part in the three-year pilot. This was completed in March 2018 and was a partnership between IOP and Education Scotland and funded by Skills Development Scotland. There were opportunities for round-table discussions to share lessons learned from the project and to shape plans for the new programme.

Minister launches roll out in Scotland of gender balance programme piloted by IOP

Chris Deaves (left) from Auchmuty High School, Fife, which was one of the schools in the pilot project, shared research showing how pupils have stereotyped views of male and female careers from their earliest years and how this can be addressed by changing the mindset of the whole community. 

Minister launches roll out in Scotland of gender balance programme piloted by IOP

Irene Johnson (left), from Thornton Primary School, which is in the same cluster in Fife, described a range of work in the school including language awareness, a gender imbalance in the media project and efforts to stop using girls as the enforcers of good behaviour.

Our Head of Education, Charles Tracy, presented some of the stark statistics on the gendered take-up of school subjects and described how the pilot had taken a blended approach to tackling it, working with students on gender stereotypes, with teachers on inclusive techniques, and with the whole school staff on unconscious bias. The approach would only work if all three elements were in place, he said.

Minister launches roll out in Scotland of gender balance programme piloted by IOP

There were presentations on the impact of the project and lessons learned by Ian Menzies from Education Scotland, Debbie Pavia (left) from Skills Development Scotland and IOP’s Project Manager for IGB Scotland, Heather Earnshaw (below left), and a presentation from IOP’s Gender Balance Manager Beth Bramley, on promoting gender-balanced schools and centres. Katie Hutton, Director of National Training Programmes Scotland opened the conference by saying that there was a need to work together to produce systemic change to improve gender balance.

Minister launches roll out in Scotland of gender balance programme piloted by IOP

Every state school in Scotland is part of a cluster comprising a secondary school with their associated primary schools and early learning and childcare centres. The goal of the new programme, which will be led by Education Scotland, is to reach every school cluster in Scotland by 2022. As well as planning to recruit a team of six gender balance officers by this autumn, Education Scotland will work with other partners such as colleges, STEM hubs, universities, public science engagement and apprenticeship programmes.

Heather Earnshaw said: “We’ve been absolutely delighted by the response from the schools involved in the pilot and by the level of interest in our approaches nationally. We’re looking forward to the challenge of sharing the learning and successes with every cluster in Scotland.”



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