Whitgift's mission as a boys'-only school

My thanks to the School Vice-Captain for filling this space last week so ably: fittingly this week’s education press also ran stories about Oxbridge numbers and the growing attraction of US universities, something which surely has a very positive side - certainly we are seeing more interest at Whitgift in universities abroad, and (Brexit apart) a jolly good thing that is.

What this week’s press has also highlighted is problems in schools around attitudes too - specifically boys’ attitudes to women, as evidenced by a growing number of websites. And it’s tempting to draw a parallel between poor attitudes and single-sex schools, something  Clarissa Farr doesn’t quite do in her piece for this week’s Spectator, but hints at.

Well, one obvious point is that single-sex schooling is now so rare that if it were really the cause, then ‘toxic masculinity’ would be very rare too. But it isn’t. 

I’m asked about Whitgift’s mission as a boys’-only school quite seldom, but when I am, I say

  • there is a place for single sex schools, who know what they are trying to do, are expert at it, and understand their pupils
  • that in a boys’ school, boys can be creative and artistic, whereas in many co-ed schools these ‘roles’ are taken by the girls
  • that in a boys’ schools they can learn together to be good men, they do not have to play the role of ‘traditional man’

So I think we have an important - a vital - purpose. I admire hugely the Canadian boys’ school St George’s Vancouver, whose strap line is ‘building fine young men, one boy at a time’. I wish I’d thought of it myself.  Because that’s what we want to do: we want our boys’ values to be good and thoughtful, critical and respectful, imaginative and world-beating, and that is achieved ‘one boy at a time’. How we do this across the curriculum, inside and outside the classroom, and in partnership with parents, is something we regularly discuss, and quite rightly, as the end of education is not just results, it's character. 

On Friday, I was delighted to congratulate our Upper Sixth IB cohort on finishing their coursework and the first part of their journey. For the rest of the Upper Sixth the journey is more complex, but soon over. For all, the longer and more important journey is that which will lead them as good young men to change the society they live in for the better. 

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