Votes for Women: 100 Years On

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Claire Boyd

Claire is a Head of Junior School at Sydenham High Junior School GDST. She gained her QTS in 2005 and started her career as an EYFS/KS1 specialist in a large state community infant school in Hounslow, West London where she developed an interest in EAL...
Read more about Claire Boyd

What will you be doing to raise awareness of women’s rights?

I have a bug bear; in fact, if I am honest I have quite a few. But the one that is irking me particularly at the moment is the slow creep of awareness days into the fibre of schools around the country.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I have nothing against penguins – their well being or happiness – nor do I have a problem with livers, storytelling or birdwatching. I agree wholeheartedly that they are important organs, skills and hobbies respectively.

What I do have a problem with though is the fact that, just this month alone I have been needled by email, post and social media to get my school behind National Penguin Day, National Storytelling Day and National Bird Watching Day.

No doubt all worthy and important causes but the prolific number of awareness days targeting at schools is reaching epidemic proportions.

I would be more than surprised to find a school that has not fallen foul to the pressure to press ‘hold’ on the curriculum and download an awareness day resource pack and call a mufti day in fundraising tribute.

The net  of this ‘awareness mania’ is ‘awareness fatigue’ which sees teachers around the country switching off from potential enrichment opportunities simply because there are just far too many of them crammed into school calendars already groaning under the ordinary business of school life.

There becomes a real danger that events of the most considerable importance can be at risk of down played or even ignored altogether. On the back of this phenomenon, I am starting to get an edgy and uncomfortable feeling that schools around the country are at risk of missing an event against which few others can hold a light against.

Women’s Rights: 100 Years On

In my mind it would be nothing short of a failure for the children and young people in our schools to pass through the year without the recognising that 2018 marks 100 years of the Representation of People Act which afforded the vote to women aged thirty and over.

Tuesday 6 February 2018 was one of a number of anniversaries remembering the fight for universal suffrage fought on the streets of Britain. The democratic process, the recognition of equality between the sexes and importance of recognising the legislative processes and institutions of our country are values every school espouses.

I see it as incumbent upon us as school leaders and teachers to make sure that the significance of these historical milestones are commemorated, discussed and not allowed to fall below our radars.

No matter the age of the children or nature of the subject you teach there is an opportunity for you to connect your pupils will a watershed moment.

The backstory that led to the Representation of People Act finding its way to the statue books is a lesson in how hard it can be to affect change, the limitations of the act illustrates how far suffrage still had to go to open the vote out to all women and comparisons with the suffrage rights afforded to women around the world today is eye opening at the very least.

Any Early Years teacher worth their salt will attest to how acutely small children understand the concept of fairness. The Votes for Women Centenary can be explored even in the most simple terms as something that made a system fairer for those who were in it.

By holding a vote of your own or exploring the effect of arbitrary exclusion within a group will bring the importance of the centenary into sharp focus.

The are a wide array of resources schools can tap into to support the centenary but th pick of the bunch has got to be those available on the Parliament UK website  .

Parliament UK is leading a series of national events under the banner Vote 100 and their website is jam-packed with videos, downloads and a fabulous interactive timeline as well as details of events being held across the country over the course of the year. 

Don’t forget to also check out Teacher Toolkit’s 100 Years, 100 Women project!

So with the Spring Term whizzing by please do stop and consider how you can find some time and meaningful space in your classroom, your school and staffroom to ensure that we commemorate and celebrate ‘100 Years’ and not just on a key awareness day. 

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