Expert voices

As we head towards half term my attention turns to how my week away from school might look. Weather permitting, long dog walks will occur, as will playing and listening to music. Another activity that school holidays afford me is the chance to read. I find during term time I haven’t the time to get lost in a book, as there are just not enough hours in the day – poor time management on my behalf perhaps!

Anyway, a bit of literary escapism is very much looked forward to. That is not to say I don’t read at all during term time, but the reading matter tends to be things I can easily pick up and put down, not requiring the ability to retain plot lines and intricacies of characters. My latest term time read is a book I acquired at the GDST Summit in the Autumn of 2019. It is a book by journalist and TV broadcaster Mishal Husain. Mishal spoke at the Summit and I found what she had to say very thought-provoking. Her book evokes the same feelings as it seeks to inspire, champion and encourage women to make their ambitions a reality, by focusing on practical skills that make a difference.

The first couple of chapters centre around the representation of women, stereotyping and imagery. It made me think about the misconceptions that we have seen recently. The ‘Black lives matter’ movement sprung to mind and how some decided that the message was trying in some way to say that black lives were more important than those of others. The fight for better female representation in positions of power is much the same. It is of course not about trying to be ‘ better than’ or ‘get ahead’ of men, all that is sought is equality. That is something everyone should have the right to surely.

As a Primary practitioner, I was particularly interested in the chapter of Mishal’s book which explored our sense of self and the age at which our view of our potential is influenced by gender. She shares that US researchers suggested that at the age of 6, impressions about the different potential of boys and girls start to set in. In the study, groups of children were told a story about someone described as ‘really, really clever’. The children were shown a picture with two men and two women in it and then asked who they thought the story was about. Among five-year-olds, boys were most likely to pick men and the girls women, but when the same process was repeated on six and seven-year-olds, the girls in that age group were less likely than boys to associate brilliance with their own gender. The boys, on the other hand, hadn’t changed their tendency to relate the story to men!

If this sort of perception takes hold at such a young age, we must seek surely to focus on helping girls realise their worth and potential from an early age. The GDST is a beacon in leading the way with this. Removing artificial glass ceilings and helping the girls to see the sky is the limit. Embracing passions and enthusiasms, nurturing dreams and breaking down stereotypes, has to be the way forward. We have had some wonderful role models of late. Watching the likes of New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden’s handling of the Covid 19 crisis has been an inspiration. Striving for equality and not just in gender matters, but also in the economic divide, has to remain a driver as we move out of this crisis. A moment for reflection if ever there has been one.

Mrs Claire Lilley, Head of Prep