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St Paul’s Girls’ School

Into battle with a swish of glossy hair

You’d hope St Paul’s Girls’ School would be the first to stand up for the female sex, says Allison Pearson in The Daily Telegraph. Instead, the “daft bints” have decided to axe the role of head girl because it’s too “binary”. From September, one of the best girls’ schools in the country will replace the role with “head of school”. Seven of the 778 pupils at the £26,000-a-year London private school identify as non-binary, and senior pupils feel the gender-neutral title is “more modern, age-appropriate and inclusive”. Give me strength. At least former pupils have quickly rallied. “As an Old Paulina” I find it tragic, tweeted Petronella Wyatt. SPGS was once proud “to produce females who revelled in being the superior sex”.

I’d laugh if it wasn’t so serious, says Sarah Vine in The Mail on Sunday. The school “is CANCELLING girlhood”. An institution that for more than a century has championed the education of young women is “now trying to pretend that the condition of being female does not even exist”. On a staff training webinar, a campaigner spoke about her transition from male to female and told teachers that youngsters are now identifying with more than 150 genders: “Don’t be afraid to ask [a pupil], ‘That’s a new term to me. What does it mean to you?’” But biological sex isn’t something you can swap “as often as you change your socks”. Not only are kids being taught the opposite, they’re being told it’s trendy.

My issue with the title head girl is not that it’s binary, says writer Harriet Marsden on Twitter. “The problem is that it’s s***.” When I was at St Paul’s more than 10 years ago lots of students “couldn’t stand the term head girl because it was equal parts infantilising and insufferable” – and because “guys made oral sex jokes about it”. The school says the change is only partly down to “non-binary inclusion”; it was mainly because many of the students felt that they are young women rather than girls. Don’t forget that the senior pupil was known as head of school for decades after St Paul’s Girls was founded in 1904, so it’s hardly a revolution.

Well, I think it’s hilarious, says Giles Coren in The Times. The denizens of St Paul’s Girls’ School have muscled their way into the “culture war”, with “a great swish of their glossy hair and a flash of their angry teeth”. How brave. No doubt the young multi-gendered people of SPGS will insist on removing the word “girl” from the name of the school, which would be “absolutely spiffing” – if a little confusing for prospective parents. They won’t know whether to send their expensive sprogs here or to the other St Paul’s, over the river in Barnes, which “has traditionally made the possession of a tiny, hairless willy a principal condition of entry”.