Primary school bans ‘sexist’ phrases

A primary school has banned a string of phrases like “man up” and “good morning boys and girls” over fears they are sexist.

Sarah Hewitt Clarkson, from Anderton Park Primary, in Sparkhill, Birmingham, has claimed the phrase “good morning everyone” should be used instead of “boys and girls” because it does not create a gender divide and includes those people who might not identify as either sex, The Sun reports.

The move has sparked heated debate, with some branding the decision “ridiculous”.

Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, the head teacher said: “We’ve seen in the last year the biggest ever rise in child abuse, in grooming, and if our boys and girls grow up, and in school we don’t challenge this sexist language and boys are told, ‘man up’, ‘grow a pair’, ‘don’t cry’, ‘boys don’t cry’ – it’s very damaging for them and abusers later on potentially, or bullies, people they walk past on the way home from school – will also use this fear.

“Fear is the biggest weapon that abusers have and if boys are told ‘boys aren’t afraid, boys don’t get scared, boys don’t talk about their feelings’, then where are we going to go when they are afraid and they are frightened?”

She claimed that addressing boys and girls in a classroom was divisive for the youngsters.

She said: “Of course we use the words boys and girls if you just think about it for a minute it’s a slightly strange way of dividing a room of people and just ‘good morning everyone’ is more inclusive.

“There may be a couple of children in schools who don’t really identify as a boy or a girl so ‘good morning everyone’ is a far more inclusive way of saying everyone instead of choosing a division that is one particular characteristic of your person.”

Pupils have also been taught to hold up posters highlighting the “sexist” terms and the two pupils who find the best examples are given certificates at the end of the week.

But GMB host Susanna Reid challenged the decision – asking what would happen if a teacher used the phrase “good morning guys”.

Hewitt Clarkson responded by saying that both her and Reid were not “guys,” and was a male word that was being used as a meaning for everyone.

Journalist Nana Akua, who was also taking part in the debate, said the head teacher was mixing up two different ideas – one using damaging phrases such as “man up” and the other about using inclusive language by saying “good morning guys”.

Akua said: “To be honest I’d be worried if this woman was teaching my kids – it’s absolutely ridiculous.

“What I think we’re doing here now is dissecting language in the most clinical form and creating a generation of wallflower kids who are listening for an offence.

“It’s getting to a point where we are losing a grip here, we need to be looking at the context of language.”

The discussion over the “woke” move also sparked a fierce debate online.

One teacher disagreed with the head, writing on Twitter: “That head teacher. Really? I am a teacher and think this is ridiculous. Concentrate on reading, writing and maths with the boys and girls.”

Another person said: “Teaching toddlers about sexism whatever next! Absolutely ridiculous! At this age they should be worrying about finger painting and Peppa Pig not the fact that women might be offended by the phrase ‘hey guys’.”

A third person added: “I say guys in my classroom as I believe it is gender neutral. I agree with Ben. I dismiss rows or I say off you go boys or girls? Can I no longer say this … ridiculous.”

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But others came to the defence of the head teacher.

One wrote: “Actually, she’s right. I’m an academic, I’ve used “hi guys”, “hi folks” and I’ve honestly never considered this before.

“So actually I will now make much more of an effort to use folks from now on. I hadn’t even considered this. Because as we get older we do segment based on this.”

A second person commented: “I’m so glad she came out against “guys”. It’s both sexist and patronising.”

A third added: “I agree with the teacher on this one. Changing the way children speak in their formative years may open conversations early on and change the way they think as they grow.”

Anderton Primary, where more than 80 per cent of pupils are Muslim, was at the centre of a fierce row two years ago over the teaching of gay relationships.

Parents staged a number of protests over the school’s “No Outsiders” policy which was designed to teach pupils about diversity, tolerance and acceptance, as well as LGBT rights, same-sex relationships, gender identity, race, religion and colour.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and has been republished with permission.

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