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Encouraging respect and gender equality

In this blog, Matt Shroff, our Director of Wellbeing, considers equality and the importance of boys questioning accepted norms and becoming ambassadors for change.  

I listened to a powerful and telling piece on the radio on Monday 17 January, entitled Night Watch.  It was very emotive, being a mixture of poetry and personal experiences. All the speakers were young women, giving a personal account of sexual harassment on the streets of Britain. 

Lived experience is a powerful tool.  People talking about their own lives, their own experiences.  It is an important part of education, because meaningful stories have a much greater impact than the theoretical. 

So, the radio piece was full of lived experience. Thus, its impact on me was more profound. 

Behind all the stories were some current, relevant and important themes.  For so long we have educated girls to look after themselves, to be safe, to, as it says in the piece, 'walk only in the light'.  But the big question is what are we doing to educate boys about how they behave? 

Everyone's invited is a movement which focuses on the inequality between what is expected of women or men.  For a long time, in certain places, it has been okay for young men to behave in unacceptable ways.  This perception that girls can be treated in this way is WRONG. 

Surely we want a society where everyone can express themselves freely and be who they want to be without fear, not only that something bad might happen, but in some way, it is their fault? 

Our boys at Pilgrims' are respectful and they do understand that difference is good and to be celebrated.  We emphasise and work on this; whatever that difference is. Despite being a single sex school our boys appreciate gender.  Our boys are questioning the accepted norms and what it means to be 'male' or 'a man'.  There are lessons for all our community still to learn, but we are listening. Dr Essex and I, and all the teachers, want our boys to be ambassadors when they leave us, to go out into their next schools and the wider society and be an advocate for respect, equality and change.  That's real leadership.  And like a lot of things, it is the next generation that will make a difference. 

Matt Shroff 
Director of Wellbeing 

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