New guidelines are to be issued to teachers in the hope of reducing gender stereotyping in schools.
The use of ‘sexist’ words and phrases such as ‘sissy’, ‘man-up’, ‘cupcake’ and ‘don’t be a girl’ will be strongly discouraged from use by children from as young as five.
Clare Thompson from the Institute of Physics, who was involved in drawing-up the guidelines, told The Sunday Times that “even low-level comments are potentially an issue with teachers using phrases such as ‘man up’.”
The guidelines will be sent to every school in England from tomorrow, along with the request that every school appoints a ‘gender champion’ to encourage girls to take more traditionally ‘male’ subjects such as science and economics, and more boys to take-up subjects viewed as ‘female’ including English and psychology.
Gender stereotypes have been blamed for the disparity between children selecting such subjects for GCSE and A Level – with boys being twice as likely to study maths, and girls being twice as likely to study English.
This subject divide has been blamed for the gender pay gap which currently stands at 19%, as the stereotypically ‘female’ subjects are viewed as ‘softer’ choices that lead to lower-paid careers.
The new policies have already been piloted across several schools, before being implemented across the country, and some schools have reportedly already created volunteer ‘girl squads’ to report sexist behaviours to teachers.
Additionally, head teachers will be encouraged to ensure that sexist language is taken as seriously as racist language, among pupils.
Janice Callow, deputy head of one of the pilot schools - Fairfields High School in Bristol, told The Sunday Times: “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,” she says.
“Language is a very powerful tool. You have to be so conscious of what you are saying to children.”