Primary education: listening and observing
Primary education: listening and observing

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2.1.4 Gender

Both boys and girls spoke about quiet and still games, such as board games. However, there were a far greater number of girls who spoke about non-physically active games than boys. Only one boy drew a picture of a non-active game: ‘I did draw a picture of me and my friends doing a puzzle’ (Y1 boy), whereas many girls drew and talked about similar activities. Some of the girls spoke enthusiastically about the introduction of a new ‘quiet area’, away from the main play area: ‘I like it at some parts it’s quiet and you can sit down on the decking and read a book’ (Y4 girl).

There was an overwhelming sense in the conversations with the children at this school that gender segregation and stereotyping was simply taken for granted. On the whole, there was a shared perception that boys and girls had different interests and played different types of games:

Well the boys play basketball…and they play soccer, cricket… [Girls] just play hula hoping and skipping…. Mums and Dads, like that.

(Y1 girl)

A similarly clear division of activities was also upheld by a Year 2 boy:

The girls don’t like to join boys’ games they just like to do their own games like Catch.

A consequence of such a clean split between girls’ and boys’ activities was that when the genders did come into contact with each other on the playground, their presence was usually seen as an annoyance. Girls, in particular, complained about interference of boys:

When the boys are annoying you, you can rub your hands on the caterpillar [a plastic tube in the playground] and you can go shock them.

(Y4 girl)

There was only one instance of boys speaking about the importance of meeting the needs of girls. In this case, however, their understanding of girls’ interests seems rather less sophisticated!

I: And why can’t girls and boys play together then?

A: Because boys are better.

I: Because boys are better at football?

A: And we’re stronger and every time a girl does a mistake we get a bit angry at them because they just muck up a chance and do their own goals.

E: Because girls don’t really get the idea of football.

A: But we don’t really get the idea of Barbies.

E: Yes. It’s just like football and Barbies.

(Y4 boys)

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