Teachers' duty to help 'woke pupils fight for beliefs'

The Girls' School Association president will call for relationships and sex education training to be made compulsory for new teachers

Matilda Martin

Samantha Price against a hedge backdrop

School leaders must recognise that "times have changed" and "keep up" with the demands of the "so-called woke generation" to address issues such as climate change and "widespread misogyny", Samantha Price, this year’s president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), will say today.

Ms Price, who is also head at Benenden School in Kent, is set to make her comments when she addresses more than 100 heads of leading independent girls’ schools in the UK at a two-day GSA Conference in Manchester, themed "Girls – The Voice for Positive Change".

She will say: “What has really struck me is that this so-called woke generation is actually simply young people who care about things: about causes, about the planet, about people.

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"It ultimately comes down to something very simple: being kind.

"I am getting a little weary of hearing the older generation say, ‘You can’t say anything anymore.’ The fact is that times have changed, and we simply need to keep up with them," she will add.

The GSA president will also attribute the exacerbation of a "national and international outcry" to the use of social media during lockdown for the "expression of opinion, sharing of ideas and cries for action".

“Black Lives Matter, the revelations of Everyone’s Invited, high-profile violence against women and the sharp focus on ongoing widespread misogyny in society and the workplace – with police forces being the latest example – gender identity and climate change have all featured as the focal points for those we educate to rightly demand that we address.

“It is fair to say that these are themes that our students are genuinely very anxious about, that they feel a responsibility to address and expect us to lead and support them in this. There is a sense, more than ever, that they will be inheriting this world from our generation, and it is their responsibility to fix it.

She will add that this "agenda" of outcry will not "lose momentum".

Despite the support, Ms Price did add that "the younger generation don't always approach their protests in the best way" but that it is up to schools to aid them in their "conduct".

Relationships and sex education training  

In addition, the president will call for relationships and sex education (RSE) to be made a compulsory part of teacher training "as a matter of urgency".

She will say: “As schools increasingly focus on delivering RSE with the degree of expertise required, it is important that our teachers are adequately trained to deliver this.

"To really teach and facilitate these discussions well, teachers need to be prepared and confident to manage this. To date, this important topic is not a component of PGCE training."

Ms Price will finish her speech by saying that heads must empower the young women who she believes will be at the forefront of changes that their generation is calling for.

“It is our job as heads to enable and empower them to [lead the change] in a way that is effective and lasting.

"It is our job to teach them to discuss and debate the most sensitive topics with an active ear, to listen and respect differing opinions and nimbly present their case with strength, passion and conviction.”

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Matilda Martin

Find me on Twitter @Matilda__martin

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