Initiatives and Considerations to promote positive wellbeing of girls
One of the comments and concerns raised often by parents of girls during tours of the school is ‘there seem to be fewer girls than boys’. This is true. At The Moat School we have never had our ‘head in the sand’, and rather than ignore the issue we continue to look at ways to create a positive space where girls feel nurtured and supported despite being a little outnumbered!
Over the past few years we have made a conscious effort to make the Moat School more appealing to girls and this seems to be paying off… our current Year 7 cohort for 2017-18 is for the first time has an equal mix of boys and girls!
Why are there fewer girls than boys at The Moat School? Each year statistical surveys of numbers of pupils with SEN are released, and whilst there are fluctuations year on year (depending on which study you read) typically the percentage of girls with identified with SEN in schools sits at between 20%-30% of all pupils identified as having SEN. There are a number of possible reasons often debated for there being fewer girls identified with SEN, and a number of contributing factors. Of which the cause is hotly debated, both at The Moat School and in universities.
What are the challenges for girls at The Moat School? The Moat School is already very small community, and therefore with fewer girls than boys the community of girls within the school can sometimes seem small. As such girls often feel the need to ‘stick together’ and often strong friendships form between girls in different year groups. This is of course encouraged with initiatives such as SFL, Enrichment’s and KS3 PE where different year groups are put together so pupils can widen their community. With any small community it is very typical to have pockets of friendship groups, and the Moat School is no exception. Putting gender to one side, there are number of friendship groups within the school and whilst (like in the sitcom ‘Cheers’) the Moat School prides itself as being a place ‘where everybody knows your name’, we also acknowledge that not everybody will be best friends with everybody else.
With a smaller community of girls, sometimes initially it might feel to new girls to the school that they must all be friends with each other, but as is the case in life, it is more natural for smaller pockets of friendships to naturally form. As such, when planning ‘girls only’ provision to help promote social and emotional welfare of girls within the school our staff are mindful of selecting the right ‘mix’ of girls. It would be counterproductive, for example, to create a ‘girls only’ social group and invite girls with very different interests and personalities. We don’t want to give the impression that pupils have to be friends with each other just because they share a gender!
No two pupils at The Moat School are the same and that is what makes it such an exciting and energetic place to learn (if you are a pupil) and work (if you are a teacher)! The pupils at The Moat School have a complex range of specific learning difficulties, including Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ASD, AD(H)D, Dyscalculia, Speech and Language Difficulties, Social Communication Difficulties and Mental Health Difficulties. Pupils at the Moat School all have two things in common, they find some aspect of learning difficult and in a large mainstream school they would be vulnerable (either socially or academically).
The spread and complexity of needs within the cohort of girls at the Moat School is no different, and the key to setting up ‘girls only’ provision is to acknowledge that not all initiatives are appropriate for all girls. By way of example, we have girls social groups which target socially vulnerable girls who need a quiet space to meet other girls with similar social communication needs, but equally we must make space for girls for whom socialising may come more naturally but who require support in other aspects of learning.
What is in place at the Moat School to promote positive social and mental wellbeing for girls at The Moat School? As mentioned above, at The Moat School we pride ourselves in not hiding away from the fact there are fewer girls than boys. Therefore we tackle the issue head on!
Holding ‘Girl friendly’ initiatives has been a great success throughout the school. Enrichment activities geared towards ‘girls only’ have been a great success and have included; Table Tennis, Nail Painting, and ‘Chatting over Magazines’ a programme centred around social skills allowing girls to enjoy each other’s company with the format of a book club like setting.
The Moat school prides itself on creating a safe and stimulating environment for all pupils. This continued success with our female students, and initiatives to nurture them. Will pave a way for future learning and integration in their future endeavours. Which as always we wish them only the best in.
CP – LH