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Feminism Must Not Be Erased From Politics A-Level, Warns Labour

"Reconsider and reinstate these vitally important topics in the final draft," Labour warned the education secretary.

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Labour has written to education secretary Nicky Morgan demanding that feminism isn't dropped from the politics A-level syllabus.

BuzzFeed News revealed on Wednesday that the government has published plans to remove all mentions of feminism, sex, and gender from the syllabus.

Although the suffragette movement is mentioned in the new document, it has been squeezed into a section on "pressure groups". And there is only one female political thinker mentioned by name – Mary Wollstonecraft – compared to six men.

In a joint letter to Morgan, shadow education secretary Lucy Powell and shadow equalities minister Kate Green urged her to "reconsider and reinstate these vitally important topics in the final draft".

They said: "The decision to erase feminism from politics will limit opportunities for students, both male and female, to study the history and future of gender equality."

And they warned there was a "real risk of sending a message to the next generation that government thinks issues of equality are not a priority".

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron agreed. He told BuzzFeed News: "This decision must be rethought. Just like you can't teach maths without numbers, you can't teach politics without women.

"This seems to be a recurring problem with this government. This is the latest example in a long line from bank notes to passports. I really hope Nicky Morgan thinks again about this."

A Change.org petition on the issue had more than 33,000 supporters by Friday afternoon.

The government consultation closes on 15 December.

In response to the letter, education secretary Nicky Morgan said: "We have deliberately freed teachers from an overly prescriptive curriculum, but this does not in any way preclude them from celebrating the important achievements and contributions of women not only in politics, but across the fields of science, literature, music and the arts.

"The proposed new content for politics A-Level will provide scope for pupils to study the work of key female political thinkers within the ideologies covered as well as in dedicated modules on UK and global politics. However, as always we will listen carefully to the views of the sector and the wider public as part of a full consultation process."

Here's the letter in full.

Dear Nicky Morgan,

This month your department published draft subject content for the reformed AS and A level politics.
As Minister for Women and Equalities, alongside your role as Education Secretary, you will of course understand just how important it is for our country to tackle gender inequality once and for all. Women in the UK are twice as likely to live in poverty, are far more likely to be impacted than men by changes to tax credits, and are now effectively working for free until the end of the year thanks to the persistent gender pay gap.

We are concerned, therefore, that one outcome of your Department's review of the politics A level, has been to drop the key concepts of feminism and gender equality.

We believe that it is crucial that we support all girls and women in our country, from the classroom to the boardroom. As part of this, we must encourage our young people to discuss and explore the core ideas behind how we can work towards equality between the genders. We also feel it is just as important to provide the space for young men to discuss the issues that can arise from gender and increase understanding of feminism, as it is for young women.

Just this week you said that you were committed to ensuring equality of opportunity is at the core of this Government's agenda so that every woman and girl has every opportunity to reach their potential. We struggle to see how removing these topics from the curriculum helps to achieve this worthy aim.

We had hoped this was an oversight that would be rectified following the draft's consultation. However, it has since been reported that your Department has attempted to justify the decision through the pretence of giving schools more freedom. Whilst trusting head teachers is undoubtedly important, it strikes us as odd that the Department is content for this freedom not to extend to requiring students to know and understand the ideas of fifteen different male political thinkers, and just one woman. As a result, the decision to drop these topics comes with the real risk of sending a message to the next generation that government thinks issues of equality are not a priority.

It is vital that we ensure that the new curriculums in all subjects are of the highest quality and provide our young people with strong knowledge and skills for the future. The decision to erase feminism from politics will limit opportunities for students, both male and female, to study the history and future of gender equality. We're calling on you now to reconsider and reinstate these vitally important topics in the final draft.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Lucy Powell MP, Shadow Education Secretary
Kate Green MP, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities

Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Emily Ashton at emily.ashton@buzzfeed.com.

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