By Amanda Hardie, Acting Head, Newcastle High School for Girls
This month we were delighted to host GDST’s Director of Innovation and Learning, Dr Kevin Stannard who, as the author of multiple research reports, presented and spoke passionately to parents about the positive, life-changing consequences of an all-girl education and particularly an all-girl education in a GDST school such as Newcastle High School for Girls.
Naturally, this is something we consistently bang the drum for at NHSG, as we know that being in an all-girl learning environment nurtures confidence, happiness and success. What Kevin was able to relay in his presentation was the indisputable evidence with regards to this and I wanted to use this blog to both reflect on and to reiterate some of his most powerful messages.
First of all, I think it’s important to remind ourselves about the history of the GDST. In 1872 four radical women, fighting for the right of girls to have an education, not only set up a group of girls’ schools, including ours, they transformed the educational landscape for girls in an era when it was virtually unheard of for any girls to have a formal education after the age of 11, let alone go to university.
Fast forward 150 years and much has changed. Kevin therefore posed the question, “Is there still a place and a role for girls only education in the 21st Century?”
Echoing Kevin’s answer to his own question, I passionately believe that not only is there a place for girls only education, but it’s only in schools like ours that we can truly tackle issues relating to gender equality and drive societal change.
The simple and sad fact is that gender inequality still exists in the UK in all walks of life – in society, careers, leadership and pay. We read about inequality in our national media almost every day.
At NHSG, and in all GDST Schools, we remain as focused on bringing about equal opportunities for girls as our founders were in the 1870s, and what’s more, Kevin shared clear evidence of the significant impact an education at a GDST school is having on girls and young women today. We CAN and DO make a difference.
The astonishing findings from the GDST’s Futures Report 2022 evidences pervasive inequality.
Focusing on just some aspects of the overall report, which surveyed 1358 nationally representative children from across the country, Kevin explained that the survey found significant gender differences in confidence. In fact, boys scored much more highly than girls in every single statement made about how they feel about the future. For example, feeling optimistic about getting their desired job, or generally being positive about the future.
The vast majority of girls in this survey attended coeducational schools, and the findings reflect the wider societal landscape and the gender gap we know exists.
What was fascinating, however, is that when 3000 GDST girls from across the country, including from the two academies within the GDST family, were asked the same questions,
the survey showed GDST girls to be…
- more confident, more self-assured, more politically aware, more empowered, better able to pursue their ambitions, and feel unhindered by their gender.
- more comfortable taking risks.
- more willing to embrace flexible careers…
when compared to girls at other schools. Indeed, GDST girls’ scores were much more closely aligned to the boys, and in some cases scores were better than the boys.
Kevin then went on to share further findings from the report, with equally concerning results for boys as well as girls, flagging the inequalities that exist at both Primary and Sixth Form stage.
When faced with the statement “I avoid some activities, subjects and hobbies because of my gender”, at the tender age of 9, 37% of girls and 31% of boys agreed with this statement. I find that heart-breaking. Its telling that only 6% of GDST girls agreed with this statement. The significance of the GDST scores cannot be underestimated.
Is there a place for girls only schools in the 21st century? Too right there is!
Does an all-girl education support gender equality? Without a doubt.
As Kevin explained in his presentation, when touching on the reasons for the GDST difference, GDST schools are girls’ schools by design. I couldn’t agree more. NHSG is an all-girl school by design. Everything we do is focused on ensuring our girls have every opportunity for future success by building their confidence, encouraging them to take risks, providing them with the space to develop and learn, preventing them from being drowned out in the classroom, and ensuring they know that nothing is off limits in terms of their future career choices. This is how we deliver on our vision to empower girls to be the next generation of leaders and trailblazers and to understand they have an equal and important role in shaping our world for a better future.
Girls need to know that they have a fair and equal chance, they deserve to be in leadership positions, to be paid as much as their male counterparts and to have their voices heard.
Once they understand their own potential, and truly believe in it, there’s really no stopping them from being the girl they want to be. And our world will be a better place as a result.