School sparks outrage after offering cooking and drama for girls but design and technology for boys

Critics on social media describe decision as 'Victorian' and 'utterly shocking'

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Friday 07 June 2019 15:24 BST
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Primary school pupils were told girls would study cooking while boys did design and technology
Primary school pupils were told girls would study cooking while boys did design and technology (PA)

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A primary school has sparked outrage after deciding that girls would be offered a cooking and drama class while boys would take a design and technology class.

One nine-year-old girl at the Lincolnshire school, who wants to be an engineer, was upset by the allocation, her mother said.

The classes for year 4 pupils are one-off sessions at single-sex secondary grammar schools and are designed to help them prepare for the transition.

A letter to parents said the eight and nine-year-old girls would take part in a food technology and drama class at Spalding High School while the boys would study design and technology at Spalding Grammar School.

Critics argue that the subject choices reinforce old-fashioned gender stereotypes.

On Twitter, a mother said her daughter was confused and saddened by the decision.

She tweeted: “Shows that as a country/society, we have not progressed one cm in 30 years.”

The government has been pushing for more girls to study science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) from a young age.

Since the post was shared online on Tuesday, the parent has been inundated with support from politicians, teachers and academics.

Conservative Vicky Ford, the MP for Chelmsford, tweeted that the letter was “utterly shocking”, adding that children need to live in the 21st century “not Downton Abbey”.

Lord Ralph Lucas, editor of the Good Schools Guide and a backbench peer, also offered to “apply leverage” to help the parent out with the case.

Mark Maslin, an academic at University College London, suggested that the school should be reported to Ofsted “on the grounds of sexual discrimination”.

Meanwhile, Elisbeth Salisbury, another Twitter user, wrote: “That is outrageous and Victorian. I would be up at that school banging on the Head’s door.”

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It is understood that concerned parents are now speaking to the primary school, which has not been named, about a way forward.

A joint statement from the grammar schools said: “As part of a broad Primary Liaison programme, helping primary school pupils to transition confidently to secondary school, Spalding Grammar School (for boys) and Spalding High School (for girls) work together to provide a range of experiences, including an opportunity for local pupils to spend part of a day with us.

“Across the last 10 days, we have welcomed over 700 pupils from 24 schools, and they have experienced the full range of subjects available at both schools; the actual subjects offered on any given day is simply dependent on the availability of staffing and resources.

“We have received, as we do every year, a huge amount of positive feedback about this initiative and it is a shame that our intentions have been misinterpreted in this way.”

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