The headteacher at Headington School in Oxford has said that she does not believe girls should be called “girls” in an effort to avoid upsetting anyone who may be reconsidering which gender they identify with.
Headteacher Caroline Jordan noted that teachers should refer to female students as either “students” or “pupils” rather than “girls” or “young ladies.”
“It’s about showing sensitivity in how we deal with young people. It’s not discourteous to the pupils to refer to them as “students” but it might help that one person,” said Rachael Warwick, headteacher at Didcot Girl’s School in Oxfordshire.
The comments were made at the same time the Girl’s School Associaion (GSA) suggested that private, single-sex schools should no longer refer to girls by using that term because it may bring offense to students who are struggling with gender identity. Instead, they say teachers should only use gender-neutral terms like “students” or “pupils,” writes Megan Archer for The Oxford Mail.
“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,” said Jordan, who is also president of the GSA.
While the GSA is not suggesting a complete end to the use of the terms “boys” and “girls,” it states that different terms should be considered under certain circumstances. The group states that it should be left up to individual schools to determine when to use the advice offered.
Jay Stewart of Gendered Intelligence said that young people want to feel they belong and do not want to be considered “weirdos” or “freaks,” writes John Bingham for The Telegraph. Stewart noted that around 1% of the population are transgender and that people as young as four years old can begin to feel that they were born the wrong biological sex.
A number of single-sex schools have already adopted the use of gender-neutral language when referring to their students in certain situations such as during assemblies, and many more have said they are considering doing so.
Ena Harrop, head of City of London School for Girls, has discussed similar language use, saying her staff uses such language when there is a transgender student in the audience.
Responding to Jordan’s comments, John Marston, head of the all-boys school St. Birinus School in Didcot, said they call all who attend the school “students.” He added that the school considers itself to be a community looking to educate each student as a whole and which values each individual student.
“They are our students and all our efforts at St Birinus are focused on them fulfilling their potential within the context of an all-round education,” he added.
The use of such language came about after Gendered Intelligence, a group which runs “trans awareness training” sessions, spoke to head teachers at the annual GSA Summer Briefing for Heads, which offers the latest information pertaining to advice, guidelines, and practices on a variety of issues. The group suggested that the use of terms such as “young ladies” no longer be used, saying that schools have a duty to take care of all their students, including “those who decide to transition [their gender],” writes Emma Henderson for The Independent.
In an even larger effort to be sensitive to all genders, it has been suggested that bathrooms be made unisex at schools. While there are no current plans for this to be done at the Didcot Girl’s School, Warwick said that the school would comply “if the need arose.”