From parish politics to the global village – QE pupils given food for thought as the world celebrates International Women’s Day

From parish politics to the global village – QE pupils given food for thought as the world celebrates International Women’s Day

Pupils at Queen Elizabeth’s School have been celebrating the achievements of women and reflecting on the issues they face, as people around the world marked International Women’s Day (IWD).

English teacher Eleanor Pickering put together a pack of resources to encourage discussion in tutor groups on the day itself or – with boys returning to their classrooms this week after Covid testing – in the following few days.

The resources include a PowerPoint presentation, suggestions for activities and videos. They ranged from the literally parochial – the recording of a Cheshire parish council meeting that went viral last month – to the global – an Oxfam presentation that posed questions about international aspects, including women’s earnings around the world.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We recognise the importance – not least since we are an all-boys school – of celebrating the achievements of women and girls, of raising awareness of bias and of challenging inequality.

“The work and lives of female scientists, writers, historical figures and politicians are increasingly being covered across the curriculum, while outside lessons, we seek to keep these matters to the fore through discussions in tutor groups, through our Personal Development Programme and through our appointment of senior pupils as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Ambassadors.”

IWD was adopted by the United Nations in 1977. Its theme this year was #ChooseToChallenge. Tutors at QE took the opportunity to ask boys what they might choose to challenge in their own lives.

The Oxfam presentation asked how much less women earn than men globally and on average – the answer is 23%, according to a UN report.

The presentation explained that while gender imbalances are reducing in some areas – 25 per cent of all national parliamentarians are now women, up from 11 per cent in 1995 – in other areas, formidable barriers remain, with, for example, women in 18 countries needing to have permission from their husbands to work outside the home.

The Handforth parish council Zoom recording became famous because of the calm and decisive way in which Jackie Weaver – chief officer of the Cheshire Association of Local Councils – dealt with councillors during a heated, and sometimes chaotic, meeting.

Other resources available to the boys’ tutors included Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk from 2012 entitled We should all be feminists in which she urged people to work towards a different, fairer world with happier men and women who are truer to themselves. This perennially popular talk has had more than 4.6m views to date.

A further suggestion was a TED talk from Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project.