The Head's Study

I should have been writing this from Hamburg but, not to be outdone by the train strikes, flights are successfully keeping themselves in the news through on-going cancellations and chaos. It did not matter too much; just as Storm Eunice had us flipping back to Guided Home Learning, so I dusted down my Zoom account and got virtual.

It transpires that German families are highly suspicious of all-girls’ education; separate Gymnasium for boys and girls closed in the 1970s with them all shifting to co-ed within the decade. Whilst we are familiar in the UK with the single sex/co-ed debate, our German families are, frankly, bemused. Unless that is, they have spoken to friends whose daughters have returned home extolling the virtue of their experiences.

Closer to home there was the news this week that Scotland’s last all-girls’ state school has moved to co-ed, and, south of the border we have seen the number of all-girls’ schools in the maintained and independent sectors falling. Are we at risk of becoming obsolescent?

Another article this week, this time in Australia, suggested otherwise. It noted that, of the record number of female MPs elected recently, over half attended all-girls’ schools in a country where these make up just 2% of the total. A statistical anomaly but are the two related?

A good political leader needs, first and foremost, to be confident – confident in themselves and confident in their ability to lead. What girls’ school provide is the space, encouragement, mentoring and role-modelling for girls to learn and to live without limits and to have the confidence to explore these. There is little merit in holding on to girls’ schools for the sake of preservation or any ideal of it is what I enjoyed so you will enjoy it too. However, where a girls’ school is progressive and encourages girls to find their voice, a voice that allows them to lead and to question and disrupt the status quo, in effect to break the stereotypical norms that can define girls, suddenly we realise why all-girls’ schools will not be obsolete. Perhaps, many years from now, we will have genuine gender parity or gender will be a relic of the past but until then we need to keep celebrating the powerful women that are the product of all-girls’ education across the world.

Now, can anyone tell me, was Angela Merkel educated at an all-girls’ Gymnasium? It would complete my argument beautifully if she was.