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A survey of provision and practice relating to gender in primary schools

Dublin City University. School of Education Studies
Publication Date
  • Education
  • Sex Discrimination In Education Ireland
  • Sexism In Education
  • Educational Equalization Ireland
  • Primary Education Ireland
  • Coeducation Ireland
  • Education


The study described in this thesis investigated the extent to which sexstereotyping is a feature of Irish primary schools. Information relating to educational provision, classroom practice, and teachers’ perceptions of pupils was obtained in a survey of more than 600 single-sex and mixed primary schools. School principals and teachers at three points in the primary cycle (senior-infant, third, and sixth class) took part in the survey which was conducted by postal questionnaire. Sex-stereotyping, though not reflected in the amount of time allocated to school subjects, was found in virtually all aspects of the investigation: in the staffing structures of primary schools (in favour of males in the senior grades and of females in the junior grades); in teachers’ perceptions of the behavioural and academic characteristics of pupils; in classroom practices relating to discipline and task allocation; and in the nature and extent of extra-curricular activity in schools with different gender compositions. Male and female teachers were largely in agreement about differences in the characteristics of girls and boys. Further, the differences observed by teachers were found to increase as pupils progressed through primary school and to occur to a greater extent in mixed schools than in single-sex schools. Even so, principals and teachers are generally in favour of coeducation, a finding which suggests that they may not be aware of the stereotyped nature of their perceptions and reported treatment of pupils. In considering action programmes to deal with problems of inequality, the survey data underline the need for teachers and principals to have more information about the implications for pupils of differential treatment on the basis of sex; for more school-based monitoring of sex-stereotyping; and for strategies that are sensitive to the characteristics of schools with different gender compositions.

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