St Mary’s School in Hampstead hosted its inaugural “In Conversation with…” event, welcoming Jane Lunnon, the head of Alleyn’s School, Dulwich.
The event explored the advantages of creating the right education environment for girls, with a focus on fostering academic achievement, a culture of care, and encouraging girls to pursue STEM subjects.
Mrs Lunnon’s current school is co-ed but she was formerly head of Wimbledon High, an all-girls’ school.
Her insights shed light on the significance of creating an environment where each girl can discover her identity. She emphasised that different settings suit different children: “Above all, you’re looking for a space for each girl to find out who they are. For some girls, finding their voice comes more easily in a girls’ prep environment,” she said.
“I do see a genuine tendency to support and nurture.”
Whatever the setting, Mrs Lunnon stressed the empowering nature of being heard, saying that it is critical for schools, whether they are co-ed or single-sex, to provide students with the space to develop and express their voices confidently.
Addressing the question of how education can foster a culture of care and collaboration for girls, Mrs Lunnon said: “In my experience, girls are naturally collaborative. I do see a genuine tendency to support and nurture. Girls also need to be able to be provocative and take risks.” Her emphasis on creating an atmosphere where girls feel free to explore and express themselves echoes the ethos of St Mary’s.
Mrs Lunnon expressed concern about the national shortage of girls studying STEM subjects but explained that this pattern does not follow at her own school, Alleyn’s, where many girls are studying maths A-level.
“Girls also need to be able to be provocative and take risks.”
She attributed the disparity in STEM interest to the lack of diverse role models and pervasive unconscious bias. She stressed the need for educators to actively celebrate women’s achievements and challenge stereotypes. She said: “We need to be much more active as educators at shining a light on the great things that are happening.”
Reflecting on the importance of empowering girls during their early formative years, Mrs Lunnon said: “At Alleyn’s, we like all girls to feel empowered. What happens in your early formative years matters hugely, and you remember it. We all have profound memories of this time.”
Joining Mrs Lunnon at the event were Charlotte Owen, the new headmistress at St Mary’s, who previously served as head of Lower School at Woldingham and Martin Otter, director of studies.
Together, they contributed to a dynamic discussion that underscored the transformative power of independent, single-sex prep education in shaping confident, empowered, and collaborative young women.