PublicationsSystematic reviewsGendergender - parent
A systematic review of classroom strategies for reducing stereotypical gender constructions among girls and boys in mixed–sex UK primary schools. Parent perspective

The broad aim of the review was to identify and systematically review successful interventions to support equity in primary schools. It was stated in the review that 'parents, pupils and policy makers have interests in ensuring pupils are provided with equal educational opportunities irrespective of gender, ethnicity, religion, social class and so on'. It would thus be expected that parents would have an interest in the outcomes of this review.

A major finding, that very little recent work exists in this area in the UK, is a cause for concern for parents. Given the recent moral panics about the 'underachievement' of boys, parents want to know what is likely to work in terms of intervening in classroom, home and peer group dynamics. Without such research, parents are left to rely on childcare 'gurus' whose writings are founded on opinion rather than systematic investigation. It was heartening, nevertheless, to read in the review that where such studies do exist 'an exciting finding from our analysis of the various study findings is the extent of success which the different interventions had in challenging, and often in reducing, primary school children's stereotypical constructions of gender'.

My main concern about the review as a whole is its inaccessibility to the ordinary parent. As a parent who is also an academic working in the field, I found the report easy to read and understand, though I share the authors' problems with the 'soundness' criterion. However, the style of the review (for example, the discussion of the minutiae of methodological details, and the systematic reviewing terminology) is likely to mean that the review makes little sense to non-academic parents. The intense discussion of the methods of the included studies could provide laypersons with the impression that research which we as researchers know is probably of itself absolutely fine, but is not reported in great methodological detail, is seriously problematic and has little or nothing to offer. So parents would draw the conclusion that much educational research in this area is rubbish, which is not the case. Furthermore, it is not clear what parents would do with these findings. Even those who are governors do not have the influence to introduce the sorts of interventions evaluated in the papers reviewed, which often took place at classroom rather than school level.

My conclusion, then, is that while the review itself is interesting and has come up with some important findings, it will not have a lot to offer to parents in its present form, and that this is an issue which the EPPI-Centre ought to consider for future dissemination practice.

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