Education & Family

Girls still seen as homemakers - Girls' Schools Association head

Girls studying
Image caption Girls should be aware they have choices, says Mrs French

Girls are still being brought up to believe that raising children is more important than their own ambitions, the president of the Girls' Schools Association has said.

They should be told that they have freedom to make different choices if they want to, says Hilary French.

Despite women's educational achievements, they are still expected to be the homemaker, she says.

Women are now more likely than men to go to university in the UK.

Mrs French, who is also the headmistress of Central Newcastle High School, told the Press Association news agency the school sometimes invited business leaders and entrepreneurs in to talk to students.

"One of the young entrepreneurs, a lady, dared to say that she had probably put her business ahead of her son, and the sharp intake of breath from all of the girls was audible," she said.

"They were all absolutely shocked, so yes, we are still creating a generation of girls who think that the whole idea of looking after children is really the most important thing, once you have a child."

The GSA leader said that was an issue for ethical and moral debate - and a very personal decision.

"But, what's maybe less personal, and maybe more incumbent on us as leaders in girls' schools, is to try and get girls to see that it is a decision, and that there are options, and that it's not wrong, and that's where society needs to come into play as well," she said.

"It's not wrong to make a particular decision, whatever it is."

'Caring men'

Mrs French added that it was "probably still the assumption" that women would deal with childcare.

"We do still expect women to be at the core of the relationship, the homemaker, the person who brings up children and thinks about what everyone's going to eat every day. It's still, I think, unusual to find a man doing that."

However, Mrs French said she was also "quite struck" that today's young men were "very caring and do want to have children and do have an affinity with children".

Commenting on planned changes to England's exams system, Mrs French said she supported the principles of the plans "to make the system more rigorous and fit for purpose".

But she raised concerns about the idea of scrapping GCSEs in core academic subjects and replacing them with new English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs).

EBCs in English, maths and science are due to be introduced in autumn 2015, with the first exams being taken in 2017. EBCs in history, geography and foreign languages are due to be brought in later.

Mrs French said EBCs could "make a failing system more complicated and possibly more prone to absolute collapse in the end".

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