When girls were first introduced to the DCGS Sixth Form in 2016, it was clear that some practical changes would have to be made. For example, girls’ and mixed-gender toilets were installed and the PE curriculum expanded to include options like netball and yoga - which many of the boys were surprised to find themselves enjoying as well!

However, it is impossible to ignore the fact that we still live in a society struggling to overcome its patriarchal heritage - and that the school needs more changes than just practical ones. Statistically speaking, women are at a massive disadvantage. Sometimes this is relatively obvious to see - we all know about the gender pay gap and the domestic abuse rate. But sometimes these sexist behaviours are so ingrained in our society that we fail to see blindingly obvious discrimination. Recent studies have shown that women are about 20% more likely to be killed and over 70% more likely to be injured in a car crash simply because safety equipment is designed to protect men. The society we live in is still one where sexism is regarded as an ordinary part of day-to-day life. The introduction of girls to the Sixth Form made it clear that more needs to be done at Challoner’s at earlier stages in education to prevent the vicious cycles that impact life both inside and outside of school.

One of the first steps in this process was to appoint two Senior Prefects for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). Alongside the staff, they have worked tirelessly to provide a variety of platforms where pupils can explore and discuss these issues. These ranged from assemblies on the importance of DEI to Div group discussions in Year 13 where conversations have started around the harmful behaviours we see in school.

After current Year 13 girls expressed a lack of support in their initial integration last September, the Senior Prefect for Integration initiated a Girls’ Society to provide a safe environment (both online and in person) for female members of the Sixth Form to form relationships and discuss issues they may be less comfortable sharing with male peers. A similar group has been set up for male students new to the school. These campaigns have started to normalise the discussion around sexism in school, with people wanting to talk about their own experiences, ideas and opinions. Whether on the bus, during Form time or by the lockers, conversations about sexism and its consequences are slowly becoming accepted as part of school life.

Although the conversation is still beginning to open up, there will always be more that can be done to tackle this omnipresent problem. In the future, there are plans to lead discussion groups in Years 11 and 12 revolving around harmful sexual behaviours. In addition, Form groups across the school will have access to resources and information to help guide discussions in Form groups. It is impossible to downplay the severity of inequality between genders and it is certainly not an issue to be solved overnight. But a collective effort led by both students and teachers, we can look forward to the time when equality and inclusion have been integrated into the school’s education.