CBME China 2024

17-19 July 2024 | National Exhibition and Convention Center (NECC), Shanghai, China

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Don’t call girls girls! | CBME, Shanghai Children Baby Maternity Industry Expo, NECC, Baby market news

Whatever would Miss Jean Brodie have made of it? Teachers at girls’ schools should consider addressing their charges simply as “pupils” or “students” rather than girls, to be more inclusive to transgender children, leading headmistresses have suggested.

Caroline Jordan, president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), said that, in some circumstances, staff should use gender-neutral language.

Some single-sex schools have already adopted more neutral language in situations such as assemblies and others are considering doing so, said Mrs Jordan, who is headmistress of Headington School in Oxford.

The choice of words is an important part of a “complex pastoral issue” increasingly faced by schools, she added.

Her remarks were echoed by Ena Harrop, head of City of London School for Girls, who said that her staff took a similar approach if there were transgender pupils in the audience.

Their intervention came after Gendered Intelligence, a group which runs “trans awareness training” sessions, was invited to address a GSA conference for head teachers. The group recommends avoiding terms such as “young ladies”.

The titular teacher of Muriel Spark’s novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, famously referred to her “gels” throughout.

“The crux of the matter is that schools have a duty of care to all pupils including those who decide to transition,” Mrs Jordon said. “Language is one part of this complex pastoral issue and GSA schools, which have a long history of excellence in pastoral care, are at the forefront of showing best practice in including transgender pupils.” 

She added: “Where relevant to the audience, in assemblies, for example, instead of saying ‘Girls, go to lessons,’ staff should consider saying ‘Pupils, go to lessons’ or ‘Students, go to lessons.’

“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.”

Mrs Harrop said: “We are trying to replace the word girls with students or pupils, when transgender pupils are present and where relevant to the audience.”  

It is understood that the GSA is not suggesting schools stop using the words “girls” or “boys” altogether but should consider different terms in certain circumstances. Jay Stewart, of Gendered Intelligence, told The Sunday Times: “Young people want to feel they belong in their school environment and they are not made to feel ‘other’ or weirdos or freaks.”

resource: telegraph