Girls’ schools will mix with boys’ schools more in academic settings in an effort to tackle misogyny and sexual harassment.
Speaking at the Girls’ Schools Association annual conference near Cirencester, Gloucs, Fionnuala Kennedy, headmistress of Wimbledon High School, a private girls’ school in London, said that pupils’ experiences of misogyny had been “exacerbated by characters like [Andrew] Tate”.
She added: “We know that unless we have men as allies, we’re not going to make the progress we need to make.”
Wimbledon High School has launched a charter with King’s College School, a private boys’ school, after testimonials were posted on the Everyone’s Invited website, a site where pupils could anonymously post their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse.
In April, the National Education Union’s conference heard how pupils were submitting essays using coded language and sexist hand gestures they had seen online.
Sexist language ‘commonplace’
The conference heard how it was “commonplace” to hear sexist language in corridors, with teacher Louise Regan reporting that social media influencer Andrew Tate’s “misogynistic views have spread both globally and into our schools”.
Member Caroline Gorscak added of Tate: “He believes that women belong in the home, can’t drive and are a man’s property. He talks about choking women, trashing their belongings. I’m sure that you have overheard this discussed in playgrounds or in your own classrooms. This is deeply worrying.”
Pupils sign a set of ‘rules’
Ms Kennedy said the student-led charter – which includes a set of “rules” about how pupils will treat each other – is signed by every sixth-form student in both schools.
She said: “Their boys come and see our girls from Year 7 all the way to [Year] 11. And we go up the hill and the girls talk to the boys. They play football together. They do debating together.
“We realised... if all you do with your local boys’ school is socialise, what happens is the boys and girls see each other just for that purpose.
“It was really important, I felt, for boys to see our girls in action in the debating chamber and action on the sports pitch, so they knew that there was a holistic friend potentially there who would have similar interest to them but also be impressed by them. Rather than just seeing them as decorative and possibly people to dance with at discos.”
Alex Hutchinson, headmistress of James Allen’s Girls’ School, a private school in London, said it now has “collaboration days” throughout the year with the local boys’ school rather than only having the pupils meet at a disco.
“They are seeing each other in an academic setting, in a curriculum setting, and learning to share ideas from the age of 11.
“These are peers who can support each other in that progress, and we work together again in the sixth-form for co-ed programmes as well so that they have developed a basis of friendship through the years.”
‘Sinister spread of the manosphere’
At the Girls’ Schools Association annual conference this week, school leaders discussed misogyny and the influence of the “incel” culture and the “manosphere” community where they communicate.
Carl Howarth, principal of Jersey College for Girls, a private girls’ school, told the conference he was concerned about the “deeply sinister spread” of the “manosphere” in society.
He said: “I think it’s only by working together that we will be able to combat this. I think the answer must lie in a more collaborative discussion.”
Jersey College for Girls has increased its outreach with neighbouring boys’ school Victoria College following the Everyone’s Invited campaign.