Girls can’t be girls, private schools told

23 June 2016

John Reynolds, The Times, UK, 20 June 2016

Some of the country’s top single-sex private schools have been told not to use the word “girls” in case it upsets and discriminates against pupils who question their gender identity.

The phrases “young ladies” and even “young women” should also be dropped, according to advice issued last week, which also recommends creating unisex lavatories in a drive to be more sensitive to transgender pupils.

Head teachers belonging to the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) were told they should use the gender neutral words “pupils”, “people” or “students” instead.

“In assemblies, instead of saying ‘Girls, go to lessons’, staff should consider saying ‘Pupils, go to lessons’ or ‘Students, go to lessons’,” confirmed Caroline Jordan, president of the GSA and headmistress of Headington School in Oxford. “That is something our schools are thinking about and some are already doing.

“I feel that every year there are more and more young people posing questions around their gender identity. I do not want anyone to think that girls’ or boys’ schools are invested in one way of being a girl or one way of being a boy. My view is that where you can use gender-neutral language about people that is a good thing.”

Some single-sex schools have already started following the advice, delivered to the GSA by Gendered Intelligence, which is helping head teachers conform with new equalities legislation on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues brought in by the education secretary, Nicky Morgan. The advice on stamping out discriminatory language also applies to single-sex schools for boys such as Eton College.

Diversity campaigners have warned schools that current policies and language risk upsetting and discriminating against LGBT pupils. Jay Stewart, chairman of Gendered Intelligence, said about 1% of the population were transgender and could start to feel they were the wrong sex from as young as four.

“Young people want to feel they belong in their school environment and they are not made to feel ‘other’ or weirdos or freaks,” said Stewart.

He said the phrase “young ladies” was sexist as well as transphobic because it implied a certain kind of behaviour.

Ena Harrop, headmistress of City of London School for Girls, confirmed most staff had stopped using the word “girls”. The school has had pupils who decided they wanted to become boys.

Harrop said: “We are trying to replace the word girls with students or pupils.”

Pupils who change gender cannot be asked to leave a single-sex school and heads often decide not to tell parents that they have transgender pupils.

Last week The Sunday Times revealed 80 schools across England allowed boys to wear skirts and girls trousers. The same schools have been asked to introduce unisex lavatories.