31 MAY 2021 

The Fawcett Society and Lifting Limits have led a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson MP, calling for early intervention on gender stereotypes. The letter was signed by a group of organisations and individuals working in the fields of gender equality, violence against women and education, who are acutely aware of the violence and harassment that many women and girls face on a daily basis. The link between gender stereotyping and a range of unequal and unacceptable outcomes, including male violence against women and girls, is clear and established.

Based on a range of compelling evidence, we believe that educating children about gender equality from an early age is an essential part of the solution. Children grow up surrounded by gender stereotypes – at home, in school and in the wider world – which send them strong messages about how girls and boys, women and men, should look and behave. This happens at a critical stage in children’s learning about the world and their place in it, with gendered attitudes ingrained in children from around the age of 10.  Any strategy that fails to recognise this link and the need for early intervention is setting itself up for failure.

In recent months, the spotlight on sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools confirms pre-existing evidence showing these to be prolific. These outcomes are deeply unfair to all children.  

A full roll out of the new Relationships and Sex Education curriculum in summer 2021 must be prioritised, with no further delays. However, in order for schools to be part of the systemic response, all those bodies with responsibility for the content, quality and delivery of children’s education have a role to play. We therefore call on the Government to implement the following as a matter of urgency:

  • Make actively challenging gender stereotypes integral to 0-11s education practice.
  • To work constructively with experts, the specialist women’s support sector, the education profession and organisations in the field of gender equality in education to ensure that the necessary resources and training are made available to schools, building on the existing research and small-scale work already happening with proven impact and providing funding for this work.


This letter was signed by:

  • Felicia Willow, CEO, The Fawcett Society
  • Caren Gestetner, Chief Executive, Lifting Limits
  • Professor Dame Alison Peacock
  • Chartered College of Teaching
  • Hannah Wilson, Co-founder and Director, Diverse Educators
  • Gender Action
  • James Humphries, Head Teacher, Kentish Town Church of England Primary School
  • John Hayes, Headteacher, Gospel Oak Primary and Nursery School
  • Helen Bruckdorfer, Headteacher, Torriano Primary School
  • Laurel Robin, Headteacher, Brookfield Primary School
  • National Literacy Trust
  • Girlguiding
  • Plan International UK
  • IC Change
  • Institute of Physics
  • Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, UK Women’s Budget Group
  • Abi Shapiro, Interim Chief Executive, Young Women’s Trust
  • Professor Becky Francis, UCL
  • Deniz Uğur, Deputy Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition
  • White Ribbon UK
  • Bilkis Miah, CEO and Co-Founder, You Be You
  • Camden Learning
  • Our Streets Now
  • Beyond Equality
  • National Education Union
  • Professor Wendy Sigle, Professor of Gender and Family Studies, Department of Gender Studies, London School of Economics & Political Science
  • Elliott Rae, Founder & Editor-in-Chief, MusicFootballFatherhood

In 2020, The Fawcett Society published Unlimited Potential, a final report from our 18-month commission on the impact of gender stereotyping in early years. The report called for action from Government, the commercial sector, parents and educators.