This company news piece delves into our recent events “Countering Extreme Views” and the best practice shared at the event.

Early in 2024, our Life Lessons team were hearing from a lot of our partner schools in the East Midlands about the growing challenges they were facing keeping their pupils safe, healthy and happy.

“I would say bigotry, misogyny and racism in general have become more prevalent over the last few years”, one PSHE lead in Derby told us.

A headteacher in Leicestershire came to us for support because, as she said, “we’re seeing a lot of underground sexism, that’s not always obvious and hard to stamp out”. Instead of just punishing students when they make offensive comments, she wanted stimulating, up-to-date video resources and discussion lessons that would make her students actually rethink their views on gender, and Life Lessons were happy to help.

Pretty soon, we noticed this was a widespread problem, and that there weren’t enough opportunities for the sort of regional networking that could help. Why should all these school leaders find solutions to the same challenge separately, instead of working together?

Collaboration Is The Solution: Countering Extreme Views, Our East Midlands Event

That’s why we set up a East Midlands network for Professional Development focused on Countering Extreme Views, beginning with an event on Countering Extreme Views held at Thomas Estley Community College in March 2024. Over 40 educators from across the East Midlands signed up, and we heard about amazing work being done in several schools and MATs. We received very positive feedback, with teachers saying it was “great to hear about current research & from other schools about their practice”. 

Some of the strategies discussed were:

  • Use anonymous surveys to identify problems such as sexism or sexual harassment: The results can be shocking and unpalatable, but can help you make a case for further action.
  • Deliver powerful, personal assemblies: One Assistant Head had spoken to the students about his life as a gay man, which had positively impacted LGBTQ+ inclusion at his school.
  • Recruit external speakers from diverse backgrounds: Or use the diversity of speakers in the Life Lessons video library – to introduce students in rural areas to a wider section of UK society.
  • Use data from PSHE assessments, surveys, and safeguarding concerns, to inform your future curriculum: Instead of just getting teachers to deliver the anti-sexist message, students respond better if you get the message across using relatable male role models and peers – see the clip below for more details.

Masculinity coach reacts to Andrew Tate

In this video, David Chambers, Relationships and Masculinity coach, reacts to several clips of Andrew Tate talking negatively about women and gender stereotypes.

A PhD candidate from UCL shared the latest research into youth misogyny, highlighting how:

  • Young men’s misogyny today is often a reaction against feminism: With only 20% of young men in the UK having a positive view of feminism. Perhaps educating students on what feminism really means and has achieved therefore needs to be part of any anti-sexist work.
  • Boys often feel victimised, and feel that learning about gender-based violence is “anti-men”: They express fears of ‘fake rape’ accusations
  • Boys can engage in misogyny and the objectification of women as a display for their peers that proves their ‘masculinity’: Perhaps this makes it doubly important to use male, traditionally ‘masculine’ voices to deliver the feminist message and model a healthier masculinity – check out the video below for more details.

How does it make you feel to know that most sexual violence is perpetrated by boys and men?

In this video, young people from Life Lessons discuss male-perpetrated sexual violence.

There are a variety of thorny questions when it comes to tackling bigoted views in schools. How do we make schools safe spaces for LGBT and gender questioning students when some other students, and even staff, may feel this contradicts their religion? What role should male colleagues specifically play in tackling sexist attitudes? How do we get a clear picture of ​​the extent racism, sexism or sexual harassment among students? Perhaps most awkward of all: are a school’s staff and uniform policy, for example, sometimes part of the problem? Can a school really dismantle sexist attitudes while still policing the length of girls’ skirts, but not the length of boys’ PE shorts? 

Many of the attendees of the event faced challenges they weren’t sure they had the answer to, and by discussing them and exploring solutions together we built up each other’s confidence that we were taking the right course in future.

Going Forward

East Midlands teachers are currently voting on what they want their next Life Lessons event to focus on. There are a number of issues that some want to prioritise: vaping, serious youth violence and safety for gender questioning students are some of the suggestions. 

Whatever the East Midlands teachers decide to vote for, and whatever they want to do next to make their school cultures healthier and happier, Life Lessons will facilitate a practical session on the topic and provide resources.

The East Midlands has some fantastic professionals who are doing outstanding work, and we want to help them continue to thrive.

Life Lessons supports schools across the UK with creating empathetic cultures through outstanding RSHE. If you are interested in continuing to improve your school culture and RSHE provision, please book a call today.