Debbie is the founder of the End Sexism in Schools campaign. She is a parent of two teenage boys who, between them, have attended four primary and secondary schools. She came across everyday sexism in all these schools and has always tried to raise it, with varying degrees of success and failure! As Debbie’s children have gone through the school years, she has watched the patriarchy reproducing itself.
In Debbie’s day job as an NHS quality improver, there is an oft-quoted saying that every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets. Debbie came to realise that this is true of the education system and its supporting infrastructure. Ofsted’s 2021 report into sexual harassment in schools, found that in all schools they visited, boys have a sense of ‘superiority’ that makes them feel they can treat girls as they wish and that sexism and sexual harassment is normalised. The school and education system is perfectly designed to get this outcome and Ofsted recognised the need for culture and system change. The invisibility of women and girls in the everyday taught and -examined curriculum – in which pupils spend most of their time – and the unequal addressing of teachers as Sir and Miss are major parts of the problem.
Debbie decided she needed to find allies to help address these issues and found them at a Women’s Equality Party conference. Together they have kick started this independent campaign to End Sexism In Schools. Debbie will be satisfied when 50% of the books read in English are by female authors, when women are studied throughout all periods in the history curriculum, and when women are reflected equally across every subject area. Sexual harassment and school rape culture will only be tackled when issues relating to women and girls are not limited to PHSE, or standalone modules to be ticked off as done, leaving the rest of the school institution untouched. Schools cannot do this alone and need support from Ofqual, Exam Boards, Ofsted, government policy, and the law.
Debbie has a Masters in Women’s Studies from Bradford University. She currently works for an NHS Hospital, leading improvement and transformation activity, having previously worked as a General Manager running hospital services, and working for the Health Inspectorate and NHS England in various roles.
Jen is an ex-English HLTA and literacy specialist now working in PR and marketing. She is also a writer and published her first collection of poetry and short fiction in 2019.
With a background in teaching and youth work, Jen has worked with children and young people in different settings for over 15 years.
Although she no longer works in a school setting, Jen still cares passionately about education and she signed up to be involved in the End Sexism in Schools campaign when it was brought to the WEP conference in 2020. She hopes to see a fundamental shift in school culture and curriculum that better prepares young people for life in the 21st century and supports progress towards a more equitable world.
Rachel is an English and Drama teacher with ten years’ teaching experience in UK state and independent schools. She has spent the past six years leading the English department at an international bilingual school in London, and alongside this is a school governor, textbook author, teacher trainer and education consultant, specialising in curriculum design. Rachel is also a youth theatre practitioner and playwright, and is currently taking a break from the classroom to both focus on her playwriting, and devote more time to the End Sexism in Schools campaign.
A devout feminist, Rachel is tired of seeing sex education in schools touted as being the only answer to endemic sexism. Wanting to be part of tackling the disease rather than the symptoms, she joined the End Sexism in Schools campaign when it was brought to the WEP conference in 2020. Rachel wants to see a radical rethinking of the school curriculum and culture to enable women’s voices, experiences and histories to be given equal prominence, significance and respect as men’s. A firm believer that we are what we read, Rachel is delighted that the End Sexism in Schools campaign is starting with tackling the English curriculum in secondary schools, but also excited that this is just the beginning!
Sue is a retired teacher who for many years worked abroad. She also ran her own supply teacher agency, but now is a writer and campaigner for women’s equality.
In 2013 she published a fictionalised diary about an early female Labour MP (Edith Picton Turbervill) who had been forgotten. She more recently published her first novel ‘Behind the Oleander’ about her time working in Iran with the military and before the Revolution, and an anthology of stories about Catalonia.
Four years ago while living in Scotland, she became branch leader of the Women’s Equality Party in Aberdeen.
She has been a lifelong feminist, inspired by her dad, and is very pleased now, to be assisting in the End Sexism in Schools project and with the History Sub Group.
Women from all classes have been sidelined, forgotten, or just airbrushed out of history. Sue hopes the group’s work will help future generations of boys and girls begin to understand and learn just how valuable women have always been.
Katrina took on the headship at Kent College Pembury in January 2022, having previously been Deputy Head and Acting Head at Nottingham Girls’ High School. A passionate advocate of the benefits of an all-girls’ education, Katrina believes in a learning environment which nurtures confidence in girls, by providing cutting edge teaching and learning, an extensive enrichment programme and outstanding pastoral care, where all girls can unleash their potential and be extraordinary. Her aim is to give her girls the opportunity to become resilient and compassionate leaders of the future, ready to take up their place in the world on an equal footing with men, as considerate and kind global citizens.
For Katrina, raising confident, morally thoughtful and intellectually curious young women is key to steering the world towards a positive future. Our modern world still has a significant gender pay gap and, for example, only 12% of workers in STEM professions are women. Katrina believes that an all-girls education is paramount to correcting these realities and she wants to empower the next generation of women to challenge such inequalities. A girls-only education instils confidence in young women, through a stereotype-free and non-patriarchal environment: every scientist, mathematics scholar and Young Enterprise Managing Director is a girl, meaning they never question their ability to lead, or be limited by societal norms. By instilling true self-belief during their formative years, they leave school equipped to take on the real world and rebalance these disparities.
As Stakeholder Manager for ESIS, Katrina has the opportunity to further the work she is doing in her own school to a wider platform.
Diana studied sciences, maths, woodwork and metalwork at school and then took a science degree at university back in the 70s. She enjoyed a very successful career in Biomedical Sciences and rarely felt disadvantaged, despite being a woman in a then male dominated field. Now having retired from full time work, she is increasingly perplexed and horrified by the current trend in sexism and misogyny in the workplace, in the street and in schools. Committing to this campaign, she hopes to improve the school curriculum so that her grandchildren can enjoy an equal chance of gaining a fully rounded non-sexist education.
Diana joined the campaign to work on the original phase of crowdresearch and now supports the work of the Strategy team.
Jen works in the charity sector for a charity that specialises in the needs of children. She sees first-hand the impact sexism in schools can have on development and signed up to ESIS to promote positive change. Jen is a feminist who enjoys volunteering for a number of charities supporting women and girls and hopes to bring her knowledge and charity connections to increase the reach of the campaign.
As stakeholder manager Jen is able to use her fondness for building relationships (and talking) to sustain partnerships for End Sexism in Schools, recognising the power of passionate people working together towards a common goal.
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