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Pupils at single-sex schools encouraged to mix more after sexual abuse campaign

Single-sex schools have introduced more opportunities for boys to mix with girls in academic settings following calls to tackle misogyny and sexual harassment.

A number of girls’ schools have increased their collaboration with local boys’ schools to ensure their pupils are not solely coming together at discos.

It comes after the Everyone’s Invited movement – a campaign on sexual harassment and abuse launched in 2021 – saw some pupils accuse their schools of not tackling a “rape culture”.

Earlier this year, teachers raised concerns that misogynistic views are spreading into schools as a result of social media influencers like Andrew Tate.

Fionnuala Kennedy, headteacher of Wimbledon High School, a private girls’ school in London, said she believes girls’ experience of misogyny has been “exacerbated by characters like Tate”.

Ms Kennedy told the PA news agency: “We know that unless we have men as allies, we’re not going to make the progress we need to make.”

The school has launched a charter with King’s College School, a local private boys’ school, after testimonials were posted on the Everyone’s Invited website.

Ms Kennedy said the student-led charter – which includes a set of “rules” about how they are going to treat each other – is signed by every sixth-form student in both schools.

She said: “Their boys come and see our girls from Year 7 all the way to [Year] 11. And we go up the hill and the girls talk to the boys. They play football together. They do debating together.

“We realised… if all you do with your local boys’ school is socialise, what happens is the boys and girls see each other just for that purpose.

“It was really important, I felt, for boys to see our girls in action in the debating chamber and action on the sports pitch, so they knew that there was a holistic friend potentially there who would have similar interest to them but also be impressed by them.

“Rather than just seeing them as decorative and possibly people to dance with at discos.”

Alex Hutchinson, headmistress of James Allen’s Girls’ School, a private school in London, said it now has “collaboration days” throughout the year with the local boys’ school rather than only having the pupils meet at a disco.

She told PA: “They are seeing each other in an academic setting, in a curriculum setting, and learning to share ideas from the age of 11.

“These are peers who can support each other in that progress, and we work together again in the sixth-form for co-ed programmes as well so that they have developed a basis of friendship through the years.”

At the Girls’ Schools Association annual conference near Cirencester in the Cotswolds this week, school leaders discussed misogyny and the influence of the “incel” culture and the “manosphere” community where they communicate.

Carl Howarth, principal of Jersey College for Girls, a private girls’ school on the island, told the conference he was concerned about the “deeply sinister spread” of the “manosphere” in society.

He said: “I think it’s only by working together that we will be able to combat this. I think the answer must lie in a more collaborative discussion.”

Jersey College for Girls has increased its outreach with neighbouring boys’ school Victoria College following the Everyone’s Invited campaign.

Mr Howarth said younger pupils at the schools now come together for personal, social, health and economic, and art lessons.

He told PA: “We needed to make the meeting of boys and girls normal and not an issue – a non-event.”