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View from the Top: Emma McKendrick on the values of a single-sex boarding education

By Talk Education
23 March 2022

Our latest instalment of View from the Top comes from Emma McKendrick, the head of Downe House. Below, Mrs McKendrick explains how an education specifically tailored to girls' needs empowers them to make a significant contribution to society – and in turn helps them build a better world.

There is no doubt that the world in which our young people are growing up is fast-changing. It is also fragile, unpredictable, and uncertain. The ongoing technological revolution which continues to drive change combined with the impact of the pandemic and the altering political climate can make it feel a very worrying place. However, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that it is also a place full of opportunities, a place where our young people can make a difference and shape it to become a better place providing they are equipped to do so.

For young women to take their place alongside their (male) colleagues, a sense of self-worth and confidence will be essential. This is not to be confused with arrogance or entitlement, but our leavers should expect to be able to make an equal contribution in the world and they should expect to be treated with respect. An education tailored to girls’ needs where there is no pressure to grow up too early, where they have outstanding alumnae role models to inspire and practically support them and where they can connect with other young women across the globe (Downe House has an extensive Global School’s Exchange programme) make a significant difference in enabling confidence to grow.

Providing a single-sex education within a boarding structure means that our young women will have the time and space to enjoy a rich and varied life with countless opportunities to step outside their comfort zone inside and outside the classroom. They will see that all subjects and activities can be equally accessed without stereotyping and through our strong partnership with Radley College have frequent opportunities to work, socialise and develop respectful and meaningful friendships with boys whilst retaining the benefits of an all-girls’ setting.

Through boarding, girls of all types learn to live successfully together. They learn the value of kindness and the importance of appreciating and embracing individuality and diversity. They will have the skills to work with anyone anywhere in the world. Perhaps most importantly, they will leave with a strong, lifelong group of friends who, because they have lived together, know them, value and appreciate them for who they are. There can scarcely be a better way to build confidence and engender strong values than through a girls’ boarding education. These young women are empowered to make a significant contribution to society and build a better world.