Are single-sex schools still relevant?

Do single-sex schools still have a place in our society? (Credit: Luka Kenyon)

Whether single-sex schools still have a place in society today is a much contested issue.

It’s something I’ve thought about a lot since leaving the all-girls secondary school I attended for eight formative years of my life. There’s a valid argument that dividing pupils by gender is an antiquated idea, but I think the system still has merit today.

I honestly believe that I owe all of my self-confidence to being surrounded by kind, wonderful and phenomenally driven women.

Attending an all-girls school meant that I was not impacted by the gender stereotypes I may have been at a mixed school, as all activities and subjects were available to us without question.

I went to an all-girls school for eight years (Credit: Luka Kenyon)

I only realise now how important it was to have this ‘girl power’ rhetoric constantly reinforced. I felt more myself at 18, having been surrounded by the same girls since I was 11, than I perhaps do now after four years at university.

Some research has been done into the benefits of single-sex education, and in exam season there are often articles suggesting that single-sex schools perform better.

Grace Duncan, 21, who attended an all-girls school in London said, “I think going to a girls school made me more confident to follow my own path and helped me recognise that I’m no less competent than a man. It also gave me a strong circle of female friends that I know will weather any storm, because once you’ve survived eight years in an all-girls school together you can survive anything.”

In contrast, some girls feel cheated that they have missed out on a mixed education. Lucy Booth, who was in  a single-sex school from age five says, “I would have liked to experience what school was like with boys. I had problems with girls being cliquey at school and there was no one to go to about it. Girls schools are all about what the girls want and need which is good, but I think we need to learn to be with boys because leaving a girls school when you’ve been there since age five is terrifying.”

Maybe a middle ground needs to be found in single sex education as Rachel Fox, who went to an all-girls boarding school with an all-boys partner school, describes. She said, “We had a diamond structure to our school, where we were mixed for primary, separated for classes from S1 to S5 and then in classes together again in our last year. It was good because we were separated for the most important years when we needed to concentrate on our grades”.

I found my all-girls school a safe and positive environment, but this is not always the case. Major improvements need to be made to how single-sex schools handle their LGBT+ pupils. Single-sex schools will only remain relevant if they learn to handle gender identity appropriately.

Layla Moran MP introduced a bill to the House of Commons on Wednesday arguing that gender neutral school uniforms should be adopted by all schools, something that could definitely stop single-sex schools from gender stereotyping or excluding their LGBT+ pupils. Read more about the bill here.

Virgin Atlantic drops mandatory make-up requirement

Today (March 8th) is International Women’s Day, a focal point in the movement for women’s rights.

Travel giant Virgin Atlantic have removed their mandatory requirement that all female cabin crew must wear make-up whilst on duty. Female cabin crew will now be offered trousers automatically, as opposed to when requested – the uniform currently features a tight, red skirt. The move sees a significant change in the airline industry, which has not been progressive when it comes to uniform.

Newer airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet take a relaxed stance when it comes to uniform and make-up, whereas more established airlines have strict rules on what female members of staff must wear when at work.

Virgin_Atlantic_Boeing_747_G-VAST_(25712969690)

(Credit: MercerMJ)

Virgin Atlantic have said cabin crew could now attend work without wearing make-up, but those who still wish to wear it could do so by following the companies guidelines.

Virgin Atlantic Executive Vice President of Customer Mark Anderson said:

“Our world famous red uniform is something all of us at Virgin Atlantic are incredibly proud of. As an airline, we have always stood out from the crowd and done things differently to the rest of the industry. We want our uniform to truly reflect who we are as individuals while maintaining that famous Virgin Atlantic style. We have been listening to the views of our people and as a result have announced some changes to our styling and grooming policy that support this. Not only do the new guidelines offer an increased level of comfort, they also provide our team with more choice on how they want to express themselves at work. Helping people to be themselves is core to our desire to be the most loved travel company.”

British Airways gave female staff the option to wear trousers in 2016, but still requires them to wear make-up.

The reaction on Twitter has been positive, with many praising Virgin Atlantic for bringing their guidelines into the 21st Century. Journalist Jess Brammar said: “Female cabin crew working for Virgin Atlantic are no longer required to wear make-up, the airline has announced. Which, you know, shouldn’t feel like an exciting step forward as it’s TWENTY NINETEEN, but it does.”

First Minister’s gender equality council release first report

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG) has released its first report.

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Nicola Sturgeon pledged to form the council in 2016

 

The report has made recommendations on how the Scottish Government can act to bring equality between genders in Scotland.

The NACWG gathered data from various businesses and third sector organisations  throughout 2018 to formulate their report.

Chairwoman of the NACWG, Louise MacDonald said: “We know from the growth of global movements such as s #MeToo and #TimesUp that there is a real appetite for radical change for equality for women and girls.

“The First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls’ vision is for Scotland to be recognised as a leading nation in the pursuit of gender equality.”

She added in her statement: “In our first report and set of recommendations to the First Minister we set out the first steps for how that can be achieved. And while our work is primarily focussed on Scotland, I believe our story will resonate with women and girls across the UK and beyond.”

11 key recommendations

 

There were 11 key recommendations made in the report:

  1. Creating a ‘What Works’ institute to alter public attitudes towards gender rights and equality.
  2. Create a quota for a level of female candidates running in 2021 elections.
  3. Carry out a gender review for system analysis and change.
  4. Create a ‘Gender Beacon Collaborative’ including Scottish Government, local authorities, public body, third sector agency and a business to formulate a “holistic” method of tackling gender equality in work.
  5.  Improve female’s access to justice system when experiencing male violence.
  6. Create a body to ensure media are accountable when covering gender issues.
  7. Integrate UN Convention’s laws over discrimination against women into Scottish law.
  8. Create a commission to ensure early learning and primary education incorporate gender equality into learning curriculum.
  9. Provide 50 hours per week of quality, well-funded childcare for children between six months and five years-old.
  10. Create two ‘Daddy months’ of use-it-or-lose-it paid paternity leave.
  11. All new Scottish Government programs are to be created with gender sensitivity in mind.

MacDonald said on the recommendations: “We all have a part to play in creating a more inclusive society and in these recommendations we have focussed on tackling changes in the systems that too often perpetuate inequality.

“We must listen and let the voices of those who experience inequality every day be heard. And we cannot be complacent. Change will only happen if we all step up and call out institutional inequality where we see it – which will benefit everyone in Scottish society.”

 

Thousands rally for pay equality

Glasgow is seeing its biggest equal pay strike in decades as 8,000 march on George Square.

Hundreds of schools, nurseries, and other local government organisations are striking due to a long-running dispute about equal pay for women.

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GMB General Secretary Tim Roache with striking workers at Glasgow City Chambers

Although Glasgow City Council has said the strike is unnecessary, GMB and Unison workers unions note a distinct lack of progress in negotiations over the pay issue.

The problem has arisen from a pay and conditions scheme introduced by Glasgow City Council in 2006. The scheme means that due to differing work conditions, workers in female-dominated industries like teaching, catering and cleaning are receiving up to £3 an hour less than workers in male-dominated industries like refuse collection.

Gary Smith, the Scottish secretary of GMB, spoke to us about the march in Glasgow:

“The Glasgow Women’s strike is the biggest ever strike over sex discrimination and equal pay. 8000 women have downed tools and brought large parts of the city to a halt. This is a magnificent display of solidarity amongst the women of Glasgow.”

Other industries which are unaffected by the pay dispute – or on the other side of it, such as refuse workers – have also been striking to support the female marchers in Glasgow.

GMB European Officer Kathleen Walker Shaw told EN4 News:

“The strike action and demonstration has met with widespread public support in Glasgow, Scotland, the UK and internationally with messages of solidarity pouring in from public service workers across the world.”

These messages included a speech from Rosa Pavanelli, the general Secretary of the 20-million-strong PSI Global union:

Councillors in Glasgow reiterate that there is no need for the strike. Council Leader Susan Aitken spoke to the BBC, stating:

“I’m not entirely sure why this strike is taking place. Negotiations have been continuing. We’ve made considerable progress in a number of areas.”

Over 12,000 claims have been made to the council to alert them of pay issues caused by the 2006 scheme. After pay increases and payouts for backdated claims, the issue could ultimately cost between £500 million and £1 billion.

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