The Gender Friendly Nursery

Case study

The Gender Friendly Nursery (GFN) was delivered as a pilot programme in North East Glasgow from October 2016-April 2018, and is now being rolled out across early years provision in Glasgow City. The GFN programme was developed and delivered by North East Health Improvement staff with the support and advice of national organisations with an interest in improving gender equality:  Zero Tolerance, Respectme, LGBT Youth Scotland, Men in Childcare and Fathers Network Scotland. Inspiration came from the Zero Tolerance, Just Like a Child workshop at the 2014 Respectme conference. An idea was mooted about an award, in keeping with the Breastfeeding Friendly Award, which recognised good practice around gender in early years settings. A steering group composed of representatives of the organisations mentioned above met to discuss, and the Gender Friendly Nursery programme was created.

The main aim of the project is to work with early years establishments to examine all aspects of nursery life and practice to ensure that children and staff are not in any way limited because of gender or gender stereotyping.

We aim to provide training, via a supported training for trainers model to all nursery staff.  Areas which are explored include the concept of gender and discussions around equity and equality; gender stereotypes and where they are found; their relationship to gender inequality and the many harms this can cause.  We discuss gender based violence, homophobia and transphobia, mental health and emotional literacy, and inequity in educational and career settings as issues that can be addressed through work on gender equality.  Staff are asked to reflect on their own practice, and that of their nursery, by working on an audit highlighting their existing good practice and exploring areas for development.

The audit tool supports nurseries to consider their practice around the following areas:  leadership and management; staff awareness; curriculum, learning and teaching; environment; resources; and communication with parents, carers and the wider community.

In order to receive the award establishments are asked to work on an agreed action plan (taken from areas for development in the audit) and within approximately a year should be ready to apply for GFN status.

We have awarded Gender Friendly Nursery status to 3 nurseries so far, and there are a number working towards the award.  We delivered a training for trainers session in May to staff from around 25 nurseries, and have further sessions scheduled over the coming year.

Evaluation of the initial pilot showed that the programme had a positive impact on staff knowledge and understanding of the impacts of gender stereotyping, and has influenced practice across nursery establishments in a number of ways.  Staff spoke positively about the programme and could clearly see the relevance and benefits of the programme for their nurseries and the children who attend.

Deirdre Kilmurry, Manager of Milton Community, one of the first nurseries to receive Gender Friendly Nursery status said: “Equality between boys and girls has always been part of our ethos so all nursery staff were keen to take part in the Gender Friendly Nursery programme. As a staff group we now feel more confident to challenge stereotypical comments and behaviours with parents/carers and visitors albeit gently and respectfully. Achieving the award is wonderful for the staff but it is not the end of the journey, we now have a policy to share and implement, new staff will need trained, and existing staff will continue to be good role models.”

We are now working with colleagues in Education Services to roll out the programme to all early years establishments in Glasgow City by 2022 using a training for trainers model. This is being supported by further development of a range of paper and electronic resources, and we are working on how we can quality assure and further evaluate the rollout model. We also have ambitious plans which include widening the reach of the programme beyond Glasgow City.

We are happy to chat to anyone about our project, so please do get in touch with us.

Some materials, including our evaluation report and trainers manual are available on our website, and we are happy to share any aspects of these with anyone who feels they can use them.

If you are aware of other work like this or innovative projects which aim to tackle gender stereotypes we would love to learn about them in order to widen our own knowledge and understanding of this topic.  One aspect we are particularly interested in is how you can begin to work with parents on this topic.