Replace ‘sir’ and ‘miss’ to be more gender inclusive, charity advises

One model suggests asking students to call staff by their chosen honorifics

Saman Javed
Wednesday 16 February 2022 14:20 GMT
Educate and Celebrate has suggested asking pupils to learn teachers’ honorifics
Educate and Celebrate has suggested asking pupils to learn teachers’ honorifics (Getty Images)

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An education charity has advised schools to move away from using generic terms “sir” and “miss” for teachers to allow all staff members to have an equal status.

In a recent webinar about LGBT+ inclusion in schools, Elly Barnes, founder of Educate and Celebrate, advised attendees on two possible models that could be adopted by schools to promote greater equality.

The webinar discussed the hierarchal nature behind the use of the terms “sir” and “miss” in the classroom, with “miss” being “lower in status”.

While teachers have been advised to adopt “sir” and “madam” to overcome this, questions remained about how students should address non-binary staff members.

The first model suggested replacing the terms with honorifics, with teachers asking pupils to learn whether they should be addressed as Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, Dr or Mx.

Alternatively, Barnes suggested that staff should be called “teacher” or “headteacher” followed by their surname.

The comments were met with criticism during a discussion on ITV’s This Morning on Tuesday 15 February, with presenter Dermot O’Leary telling viewers he thinks it could be an added pressure for young children.

“The pressure is going to be on the kids to try to get their heads round this at an age when they should just be being children and not worry about it,” he said.

Educate and Celebrate, which aims to make learning spaces such as nurseries, primary schools, high schools and universities LGBT+ friendly, also advocates for gender-free uniform policies.

The charity wants to see separate uniform categories for boys and girls removed and replaced with multiple options that allow both genders to choose between skirts and trousers.

The National Education Union, which organised the webinar, told The Telegraph it does not believe that gender-neutral language should be adopted “across the board”.

“An increasing number of teenagers are identifying as non-binary, and education needs to respond to this - but the NEU does not believe that schools can or should adopt gender-neutral language across the board,” a spokesperson said.

“This training came from an external provider and was organised locally. The NEU will review its contents to ensure it is consistent with our policies.”

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