Responding to Sexism in Schools

Responding to sexism in schools

Adopt a ‘whole school approach’ to tackling sexism.

A ‘whole school approach’ means action to promote equality between girls and boys and is supported by an overarching framework involving all members of the school community. This enables a consistent approach and long-term change.

The three key components of a whole-school approach are:

• An institutional framework: put in place a strategy, support it through school policy, and drive it with leadership.
• Building staff capacity: equip teachers and all staff with the skills, knowledge and resources to understand, identify and tackle sexism, including through the provision of training opportunities. This may need to be done by teachers attending training on how to tackle sexism and make this a core
and compulsory component of all teachers training requirements.
• Empowering students: enable students to discuss and learn about sexism, report incidents, and take action for equality.

How the school can take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment, effective immediately;

• Sexual harassment should be specifically and explicitly addressed through school policy, including clear procedural guidelines which are consistently enforced.
• All staff should know what the school’s policies and procedures are regarding incidents of sexual harassment.
• All students should be aware of the school’s zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment and be supported to report incidents.


● Each school should address sexism in their school Anti-Bullying policy.
● Use the curriculum to address and prevent sexism.
● Have an Anti-Bullying Programme in place within the school to address a range of areas associated with bullying and addresses inappropriate behaviours. ABC’s FUSE Anti-Bullying and Online Safety Programme is an educational programme designed to tackle bullying and online safety.
● Clearly communicating the stance of the school against sexism.
● Employing some of the formal strategies for parental engagement making the issue known to them.
● Change behaviours and attitudes of students and staff through training and awareness-raising.
● School climate needs to be addressed; This can be done by incorporating a school-wide programme that teaches about sexism being unacceptable.


● Support any individuals dealing with this situation.
● Respond to the individuals engaging in this behaviour. Schools should have a procedure in place to address this issue.
● A whole school response; learning from the incidents. What are the dynamics driving this behaviour and how to change the policy to deal with such behaviour in the school.

Keep records of incidents

Recording and reporting incidents of sexist behaviour is a crucial part of any successful anti-bullying strategy.
● Effective recording and reporting allow schools to respond effectively to individual incidents of sexism.
● To respond effectively to incidents of sexism incidents need to be recorded by type as displaying these features.
● Gathering and analysing data allows schools to effectively evaluate policies, practices and systems, and develop them to improve outcomes for individual children.
● Records need to be analysed and findings need to be reflected in updates to the school’s anti-bullying policy

Addressing the issue with Training and Education

● As a starting point, the Irish Centre for Diversity may be of some interest as they deliver many types of EDI training and have a specific module on gender equality:
● Additionally, the European Institute for Gender Equality always has a lot of very thorough and well-researched resources. Here is their resource for gender equality training but there may be other resources on their site that you find interesting:

LinkedIn learning also has some great EDI training resources:

● Fighting gender bias at work:
● Becoming a male ally at work:
● Skills for inclusive conversations:

1. The staff could also complete the Gender Equality Matters course MOOC

Contains four modules and it will help enhance their understanding
1. Rights and Equality
2. Gender Stereotyping and the Media
3. Gender-based Bullying and Gender-based Violence
4. Responding to Gender-based Bullying and Gender-based violence
There is also classroom materials available to use in this programme but it is age-specific.

2. The FUSE Anti-Bullying and Online Safety Programme
Contains five workshops and teaches all about
● What is Bullying and the Importance of Noticing
● Empathy and Relationships
● Online Safety and Social Media
● Bystanders, Responsibility and Reporting
● Policy and Action Plan

FUSE is an anti-bullying and online safety programme developed by the Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre in DCU, supported by Facebook. The programme launched in September 2019 across Ireland.
FUSE is grounded in Irish and international best practice research, consisting of a series of workshops and projects aimed at 2nd Year Students in Junior Cycle, their parents and school staff in post-primary schools across Ireland.

Always at the centre of this programme are young people. FUSE aims to support and empower young people to find solutions and initiatives themselves, to tackle bullying and online safety.

FUSE is also a research and evaluation programme, enabling schools to identify areas of improvement and self-evaluation. The curriculum focuses on empowering students to develop initiatives in their schools that tackle bullying and raise awareness of online safety.

Workshop Activities
Activity 1 Understanding Gender Identity 30 Mins
Activity 2 Gender Roles 30 Mins
Activity 3 Institutional Sexism 30 Mins
Activity 4 Changing Times 20 Mins
Activity 5 What is Empowerment? 20 Mins

Useful information on Bullying within a Workplace

Bullying in the Workplace
● Health and Safety Authority – Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work
● Gender politics and Exploring Masculinities in Irish Education Teachers, materials and the media

Organisations that offer support to anyone who experiences sexual harassment and/or sexual violence:

● Text 5808
Free 24/7 Support in a Crisis – Text ‘HELLO’ to 50808
● Samaritans
National Helpline – 116 123
● Dublin Rape Crisis Centre
Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s 24-hour helpline – 1800 77 8888
Your local Rape Crisis Centre/Network
● Sexual Assault Treatment Units
● Women’s Aid
24-hour helpline – 1800 341 900
● Men’s Aid
National Confidential Helpline – 01 554 3811
● Your local Gardaí

● HSE My Options
Freephone – 1800 828 010
● LGBT Ireland
National Helpline – 1890 929 539


By Colm Canning

Education Project Coordinator