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Jenny Buckley, headteacher at Chichester Nursery and Children’s centre
Jess Day, spokeswoman for Let Toys Be Toys
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Gender-specific activities can aid children’s development at nurseries particularly boys, according to the head teacher at Chichester Nursery and Children’s Centre.
Jenny Buckley has introduced gender specific activities at the nursery on its ‘Boys’ Days’ to engage with boys and encourage them to learn as she believes children can benefit from this approach.
“We are very aware that boys do not advance as well as girls. Boys play in a different way. “They need more time than girls to explore fine motor skills.
“Some of the activities we did tapped into boys’ interests.”
Learning on Boys’ Days was tied to boys’ interests after staff observed how and where the children played.
For example, playing in a builder’s yard with bricks and using measuring tapes to record measurements helped the children learn about numeracy.
But the head teacher stresses that the girls got involved in the activities just like the boys.
Mrs Buckley believes the decision to plan some activities according to boys’ interests paid off, resulting in the nursery seeing dramatic improvements in boys’ development.
“The boys may have begun their time at the nursery behind the girls but improvements made by staff helped dramatically improved the boys’ performance. Boys made greater progress than the girls during their time at the nursery.”
The nursery’s activities helped transform it from a nursery that needs improvement to an outstanding nursery. She added: “If there are some activities tailored to the interests of specific genders, this can help with children’s learning.”
Let Toys Be Toys is a voluntary group of parents campaigning against the targeting of specific genders in the marketing of toys.
Spokeswoman Jess Day believes that any activities tailored to attract a specific gender are wrong.
She said: “It’s not something I as a parent would support.Gender interventions are counter-productive. Whether or not there are differences in boys and girls development, these are merely tendencies.
“There is no evidence that gender-directed curriculum impacts on children’s results. In the short term, it’s a great disservice to all children because many have varied interests that do not fit into a gender box.
Referring to guidance produced by the Department for Education in its 2009 report 'Gender issues in school – What works to improve achievement for boys and girls', she said: “This government report references research showing that gendered education interventions have little evidence to support their effectiveness and may be counterproductive if they reinforce stereotypes.”
The report says that educational policy has been concerned about the ‘gender gap’ in achievement, specifically boys underperforming when compared with girls. However, the report says this focus on all boys as underachievers is misleading.
The document says achievement gaps for social class and ethnicity often outweigh those for gender, and it is the interplay of these factors that together impact on the performance of girls as well as boys. Jess Day added: “No decisions should be influenced by gender. What children do as activities in nurseries influences what they do when they grow up.
“You’re telling children that their choices are dictated by gender. It’s no wonder then that more boys do physics and girls do English and French.”
To view the report visit http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/9094/1/00601-2009BKT-EN.pdf