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Improving health
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Gender friendly nursery programme

The following case study looks at action taken by Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (GCHSCP). This action was to influence service providers within the early years and childcare sector to

  • better understand gender equality
  • recognise their role in promoting gender equality
  • gain recognition for the work they do in this area
  • identify improvements they can make.  

Reason action was taken

As noted in our take the right actions page, one of the key ways to reduce health inequalities is by having effective partnerships across sectors.

GCHSCP were inspired by the 2014 respectme conference where Zero Tolerance presented their new resource for promoting gender equality in early years called ‘Just Like A Child’. It was felt that there was great potential for this resource to be used as part of a wider programme to address things such as

  • gender based violence
  • mental health (particularly emotional literacy in boys and suicide among men)
  • the role of men in parenting and childcare
  • LGBT equality
  • creating more choice in education and employability.

A range of policies and strategies support this agenda, including 

  • Equally Safe
  • Scotland’s Mental Health Strategy
  • Fairer Scotland
  • Developing the Young Workforce
  • Shifting the Curve
  • the National Parenting Strategy. 

By supporting early years’ staff to address these issues it was hoped they could work towards early years settings being safe spaces where children’s opportunities are not limited by their gender. This is an important step to addressing some of the equalities issues, recognising that tackling issues such as gender based violence can impact upon various inequalities.

Action taken

The Gender Friendly Nursery programme for early years’ establishments was put in place to reduce gender stereotypes and improve gender equality.

A training course introduced staff to the concepts of

  • gender
  • equity and equality
  • gender stereotypes and where they are found
  • the relationship with gender inequality and the harms this can cause.

Staff were able to reflect by working on an audit highlighting good practice and exploring areas for development. They were provided with tools and resources and encouraged to work on an action plan, and finally to apply for Gender Friendly Nursery status.

People who helped

The steering group included a range of organisations dealing with aspects of gender equality including

  • Zero Tolerance
  • Respectme
  • LGBT Youth Scotland
  • Men in Childcare
  • Fathers Network Scotland.

These organisations advised on the representation of their particular issues within the programme and the content of the programme materials. They also supported endorsement and promotion of the programme.

Guidance was also received from Glasgow Caledonian University.

Continuous work is being done with Glasgow Education Services to roll out the programme, with support from the Leaders of Early Learning team in particular. 

Links have also been established with Education Scotland’s Improving Gender Balance in Education and the Care Inspectorate plus Zero Tolerance resource, Gender Equal Play. 

Impact and lessons learned

Partnership working

Partnership working was key. It took up a lot of time and effort in the early stages, as did research and scoping activities. However, both provided a firm evidence base and rationale for the work and sources of expertise to support its development. 

Partnership with Education Services was crucial to the rollout, while links with other national developments also helped raise the profile. 

Evaluation results

An internal evaluation showed statistically significant changes in staff attitudes. It also revealed

  • key points around the value of the programme
  • the importance of engaging with parents and carers
  • there was a good fit with the wider agenda.

Staff reported

  • improved awareness and understanding of the issues and of why this work matters
  • increased confidence in challenging the attitudes of children, parents, carers and their colleagues
  • large and small changes they are making to their practice - including monitoring their use of gendered language, eliminating gendered presents and developing policy around gender equality.

Evaluation is continuing as the programme continues to be rolled out to ensure the successes of the pilot are maintained.


Two Glasgow nurseries have received Gender Friendly Nursery accreditation with several others working towards this and more undertaking the training.

Following evaluation of the pilot programme they are now rolling this out to partnership nurseries within the Glasgow City Council area using a ‘train the trainers’ model. The programme will be offered to local authority nurseries from summer 2020.

It is recognised that children’s time at nursery is limited and that there are many other factors at play here. Only with a combined effort by multiple players at various levels will change occur.

Further information

You can find out more about ways to reduce health inequalities within our reducing health inequalities section.

This case study is based on information provided by Barbara Adzajlic of GCHSCPs North East Health Improvement Team. If you would like to discuss further, you can contact our Health Promoting Health Service (HPHS) team by email at