London News & Search
Boys are under just as much pressure as girls and should be encouraged to talk rather than “man up”, one of London’s leading head teachers has said.
Sarah Fletcher, the first female head of the £16,000-a-year City of London School for boys, said today’s teenagers are under more stress than any generation before — and it is both boys and girls who are feeling the strain.
Mrs Fletcher will become the new High Mistress of the £23,000-a-year St Paul’s Girls’ School in September.
She was also head of the co-educational Kingston Grammar School and is thought to be the only person to have led all three types of school, giving her a unique insight into the differences between the sexes. She said boys struggled in the same way as girls with low self-worth, body image and the pressure of social media.
“People in the past assumed boys are a lot more robust and will get through it all and man up and it will all be fine. That’s very far from the truth. What they really need is to be able to talk about it,” she said.
During her three years at City of London School Mrs Fletcher overhauled the pastoral system, created more offices where boys can talk to their tutors about problems, and increased counselling services from three days a week to five. A feminist society and an LGBT society were also set up.
She said: “I am very keen on the connection between wellbeing and academic happiness. You can’t succeed academically if you are feeling miserable.”
She described overhauling the pastoral system at the all-boys school as “like opening a gate”. She said: “One of the things some parents said is having a woman as a head produced a softer feel to the school that ‘permissioned’ the boys to talk.” She said her approach to pastoral care was the same at any school because both male and female teenagers were under more pressure than ever. Many youngsters had “real issues” with self-worth and self-harm.
She said: “There isn’t a huge difference in the sort of issues boys and girls are concerned about. There are different manifestations, such as how they view body image. For boys there is an issue of masculinity and the expectation on them as men. Especially for LGBT boys it can be quite a burden.
“For women it’s different but the same. Anxieties and feelings of inadequacy and lack of self-worth are common threads and huge concerns.”
Part of the reason for the stress on young people was the pressure from social media, Mrs Fletcher said.
She added: “We used to be able to retreat into our house but it’s not a protection any more. All the pressures you feel at school come into home.”
Her comments come amid a growing acceptance of the importance of men to speak about their feelings. This week, Princes William and Harry told of grief they experienced over the death of their mother.
London News & Search