Girls and boys ‘refuse to sit next to each other’ at top private school

·2 min read
<p>File photo</p> (Getty Images)

File photo

(Getty Images)

Boys and girls at a £30,000-a-year private school will not sit next to each other at meal times, teachers have revealed.

Pupils at Wellington College voluntarily segregate themselves along gender lines at lunchtime despite the school becoming co-educational a decade ago, according to deputy headteacher Cressida Henderson.

Making the claims after the school held a special day on gender equality, she said the “great dining hall divide” exists despite the best efforts of staff who encourage all pupils to mingle.

Girls are apparently more happy to mix, but boys might be mocked for sitting with them, she said.

She told the Times Educational Supplement: “Some of our speakers asked us ‘Do we have an issue with gender equality?’ And I think the answer is, ‘Yes, like the rest of society.’

“Our issues are associated with our context, as we have been a boys’ school for over 150 years and a successful co-ed one for 10 years. So we see ourselves as on a journey and there’s a lot of work to be done.”

The school, where two fifths of pupils are girls, also still has a single-sex house system.

The gender equality day was designed to help pupils question their perceptions about what it means to be “male” or “female.”

The school invited a transgender woman, Rikki Arundel, to speak to pupils.

Ms Henderson said: “For the kids it was an initial shock when she first spoke, because her voice is deep and resonant. Then it gave way to interest, a bit of outrage, a bit of laughter - it was an extremely good and impactful way of getting the ball rolling.”

Ms Arundel, who had never addressed a group of schoolchildren before, told the TES: “When I changed gender, I realised how much discrimination women face on a daily basis. If you’ve always been discriminated against you might not notice it, but I was coming from a position of male privilege.”

She added that it is important to give pupils the chance to debate gender issues.

She said: “When the pupils go out in the workplace they are going to be more fair. They are going to treat everybody for who they are rather than according to some stereotypical views about what they should be.”

Wellington College was set up in the 1850s to educate the sons of army officers. In the 1970s girls were allowed to join the sixth form and in 2005 the decision was made to make the school fully co-educational.

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