Don’t tell me girls’ schools are no longer relevant

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Blogging weekly as a Head is a resolution I almost always fail to adhere to. Other things – known as The Job/life – get in the way and before you know it weeks have gone past.

And yet here I am, less than a week after writing about Andrew Tate’s aggressive misogyny and its influence, feeling I must yet again put pen to paper. The horrific and creepingly familiar revelations in the news this morning regarding serial rapist and former Met officer David Carrick signals so much that is deeply and inherently wrong with our structures, institutions and wider society when it comes to the treatment of girls and women. And how tired and yes – angry – I am as the Head of a London girls’ school of being told that feminism has gone too far, that all-girls communities are no longer relevant, that they don’t prepare you for the ‘real world’. You only need to delve into the comments section of any article about gender equality to find any one of these arguments. But if the ‘real world’ means the very people who are meant to protect us – all of us, not just girls and women – are the ones abusing and assaulting and killing us – then that’s not a world I want young people to be experiencing as they grow up. So yes, I am angry: I am angry at how little we have moved forward since the murder of Sarah Everard, since campaigns such as MeToo and Everyone’s Invited. I am angry about the utter failing of the Met police to protect girls and women, to take them seriously, to listen to them and to act upon their reports, to properly screen and vet their own employees, to be actively curious about what is happening in their workplaces, to stand between the vulnerable public and these officers wielding unchecked power. All of it leaves me quite breathless with anger, in fact. 

And to link back to the headlines of last week – Tate’s arrest and influence – if this is happening, and regularly happening, within our own sanctioned institutions, of course this is the air that is being breathed by girls and boys as they grow up and try and navigate adolescence and relationships, figuring out who they are and where they stand with others. Of course someone like the despicable Tate has followers, of course there is room for misogyny and prejudice to flourish, and of course as educators we feel somewhat defeated, stuck between continuing to empower our students and ensure they feel confident and comfortable in their skin, whilst also giving them the tools they need to combat the dangers out there including practical, pragmatic tips to stay safe and well (such as, don’t allow a lone policeman to approach you, at any time. A reminder: it’s 2023).

No matter how tired or angry, I know we need to continue to speak up about this, about all of it, and to battle on behalf of and alongside our girls and young women. I’m so proud of our amazing school community, with its students who are unwaveringly clear-sighted about how we expect to be treated, and how we are expected to treat others. But I know you’ll forgive me for feeling, if only for today, slightly less optimistic than usual that the battle is even close to being won.