Girls still seen as homemakers - Girls' Schools Association head

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

Related Stories

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".


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    If working is so great, can I expect my former bosses to care for me in old age? Will they come and visit and tell me stories about back in the day, when we did things for each other?

    Or should I look to my children and PRAY they will choose to do it, because I have tried my best to be a good parent?

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.


    56. John Paul Anderson

    Please don't make sweeping statements about single parents being 'harmful'. In some cases it may have been much more harmful for a woman to have stayed in an abusive relationship!!

    I think you may be confusing me with someone else, I have never commented on single parents being 'harmful'. Also I agree with you on your last statement regarding abusive partners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Either parent should feel able to nurture a child. They will know which would be better at it.Worse are parents who expect grandparents to step into the breach after years of hard graft because they want to earn two incomes rather than bring up the children themselves. It's typical British selfishness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Raising children responsibly, teaching them right from wrong and giving them a loving & supporting environment : possibly the most important JOB in the world. Yes it is unpaid, but remember that some long-term rewards don't come in the form of money...

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    The media, and society in general, should stop brainwashing everyone that having children is the most important thing in life. What would infertile people think or do then? Commit suicide because they are not worthy of living?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    72. Huxley-Orwell "Forgive me, but why can raising children not itself BE an ambition"

    It can, if that is the girl's own ambition and not that forced upon her by her parents. She should be brought up to know that if she chooses not to have children, then that is an equally valid point of view.
    As soon as you give a little girl a pushchair and a doll, what do you think you are telling her to do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Should a girl wish to be a home make and devote herself to her children that's fine.Should a girl wish to have a career that's also fine.
    When girls then in wish to reverse roles, the home maker starts a career and the career maker breaks to start a family that's o.k.
    It needn't be one thing or the other

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    There are problems associated with all types of families; career parents, non working parents, stay at home mothers, stay at home fathers single mams, single dads etc but that's because life is full of problems. Just the same all are capable of providing a loving, caring, healthy environment for a child also. All families are unique and different and no one should be judged based on another

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    The media seems intent on creating so many pressures on Women to conform to this, do that.

    Come on, pick on us blokes for a change:)

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    What could be more important and honorable than raising children you love?

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Could not agree with you more.
    We now live in a society where both parents have to work just to pay the bills. There should be a parent at home, parenting is a SKILL in itself which cannot be surpassed by any other career on earth, it doesn't matter which parent. WE share the responsibility....children need the mother or father during their learning years not a nanny or childminder !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    In the western world that we live in, this is one of the best times to be alive with freedoms that few generations have ever seen. Both sexes need to be given skills in the work place and to be homemakers. None of us knows what is around the corner and what skills we will need, so its about time individual prejudices were put to one side and prepare this generation to face the world of the future

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Our children are the future of our country. No matter a 'good' a nursery is, these tiny mites deserve the love, understanding and compassion of a mother, or a father. Someone, no matter who, should stay at home at least during their formative years to help guide and nurture. It iis probably the most important job in the world.But pc propaganda has today made it the least respected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    "...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,"

    Perhaps the shock was, quite rightly, that a PARENT had put their business before their child, regardless of whether this was the mother or father.

    Frankly Mrs French seems to have some very dubious views about young people, given the position she holds

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    I work with Lads and lasses in various Youth Clubs and Scouts

    Girls just don't have enough role models and I'm afraid some of the ones they do have are ''Celebrities'' with very little ''achievement to celebrate''!

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Isn't raising children the most important job you can ever do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Surely the point being debated is not whether it is worthwhile bringing up children but whether it should be left entirely up to the women, leaving them chiefly responsible for the way they turn out. Women should be able to have children and work if they so wish the way that men are. Motherhood is a wonderful thing but if I had to sit at home all day with my child my brain would melt out my ears.

  • Comment number 85.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Bringing up children IS the most important job anyone can do and we now have a lost generation that have lots of things but never see their parents!
    Childminders do that job so that nobody else is bringing up their children!

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    I'm a child of the 50s; one of 4; 2 of each sex. Its true that the girls helped Mum & the boys Dad. But when it came to education & work all were treated the same & told to do our best & not to accept 2nd best.

    Parents need to give their children equal chances - forget schools, they'd have found me a nice little job for a girl.


Page 8 of 13


More Education & Family stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.