That modern intelligence might be challenged in biology class.
From The Guardian: Pupils at Eton College need to be more “gender-intelligent” according to the headmaster, who indicated that any student at the all-male boarding school wishing to transition genders would be allowed to stay.
Simon Henderson, who took over the elite public school in 2015, told the Guardian that efforts to prepare its pupils for the modern world now included LGBT-awareness education and talks by the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, Laura Bates.
“I’m very keen that we are very aware that as an all-boys school there’s a responsibility for young men to be gender-intelligent,” he said.
Asked whether this extended to accepting transgender students at the £38,000-a-year school, Henderson said: “With any pastoral situation, we would support them in the best way we thought was appropriate for their particular circumstances.”
Eton College, which was founded by Henry VI in 1440, has educated the sons of the rich and powerful for more than five centuries, including 19 British prime ministers. Unlike many other schools, Eton has not yet been required to accommodate a transgender pupil,” Henderson said. “We have not been faced with that particular situation. Conceivably they would stay if it was felt to be the right thing for them.”
With growing transgender awareness among young people, schools across the country have been trying to adapt, among them Brighton College, an independent co-educational day and boarding school, which has scrapped distinctions between girls’ and boys’ uniforms. Single sex schools have also successfully dealt with young people transitioning.
Arguably, Eton – with its tailcoats, boarding houses and idiosyncratic traditions – may find it harder than others to adapt. In addition to the 1,300-strong all-male student body, just 20 of the 180 teaching staff are women and there are no plans to admit girls.
To that end, Henderson is trying to build more meaningful links with girls’ schools. He wants to increase the number of female teachers, as well as ethnic diversity, and he emphasises the broad diversity of visiting speakers, among them an Old Etonian whose subject was coming out as gay while a pupil at the college.
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In closing, Henderson argues that Eton may appear unaltered with its old-fashioned uniforms, quirky games and bizarre lexicon, but underneath the surface it is changing inexorably. Like any other school, Eton has to deal with the modern challenges of drugs, social media and mental health difficulties.
“I want us to be a modern, forward-thinking, relevant school,” he said. “Eton has always subtly reinvented itself. But you have moments in an institution – and this is one of those moments – when it has to take a step forward.”