Schools Ditching Head Boy, Head Girl Roles in Ongoing War on Gender

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A number of Schools in Britain have started ditched positions like head boy and head girl in a bid to fight gender stereotypes because the surging numbers of young people claiming to be transgender “make the roles difficult to sustain”.

The Grammar School in Guernsey replaced its head boy and head girl with a five-person leadership team led by a “chairperson” and a “vice-chairperson” while moves have been made to swap the titles for the gender-neutral “school captain” at George Watson’s College in Edinburgh.

Head of the Channel Island grammar, Liz Coffey, said she hopes the change will help do away with stereotypes and encourage youths to see jobs as “not gender specific”.

“That gives the students the experience of what it actually might be like when they enter the workplace,” she told the BBC, adding that it is the responsibility of teachers “to ensure young people are educated and made ready for that world”.

“This is another way to try and ensure stereotypes disappear,” Coffey said of the change, describing it as “important” because “People will still draw a nurse as a woman when asked.”

Stating she wants the move to teach children that positions are being assigned “not because of [their] gender but because [they] are the best person for the position”, she compared it to the rebranding of job titles like policeman and fireman with gender-neutral versions.

“I am not a headmistress, I am a head teacher,” she said. “It is important because of job credibility.”

Commenting on the Guernsey school’s decision to scrap the titles of head boy and head girl, education writer Laura McInerney said scrapping gendered roles “makes sense”, asserting that it is “simply unfair that one must fit into a neat binary box to attain your school’s top accolades”.

“But, before we start burning our head girl badges, beware the downside,” she writes in The Guardian, warning: “If schools allow pupils to vote for [school] captains, and gender balance is not baked into the system, there is a strong possibility boys will dominate.”

The idea of ditching gendered terms in schools is one that has been backed by Natasha Devon, the government’s former mental health tsar who says the history curriculum must teach that Britain has always been multiracial and multicultural so as to “ combat the myth that immigration is a threat”.

According to the activist and writer, references to “boys” and “girls” in the classroom should be replaced with gender-neutral terminology such as “students” for a number of reasons including the possible presence of transgender-identifying pupils who deny belonging to either sex.

In addition, the term “girls” can “create a lot of anxiety” in young females, said Ms. Devon, adding that referring to males as “boys” is also problematic because the word connotes “being macho, not talking about your feelings, being told to man up”.


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