Women need to get even – let’s ban men from school names

Is anyone bored of hearing the ways women are disadvantaged in education? I am.

Commentators like me bang on and on about women being relatively less likely to become leaders, less likely to get into Oxbridge, more likely to get low wages. Frankly, it all gets a bit samey.

But that’s because inequality is boring. After a while it starts seeming so inevitable you start believing there must be sensible reasons for it. Maybe women don’t want the stress of leading schools? Maybe they are paid less because they took years off to look after children? Maybe their high-pitched voices are too whiny for Oxbridge tutors’ ears?

Sometimes an inequality is so blatantly unnecessary, though, it reminds that we shouldn’t be bored. What we should do is change it.

Our report this week reveals that multi-academy trusts are six times more likely to be named after men than women. Six. SIX!

Inequality is boring. After a while it starts seeming so inevitable you start believing there must be sensible reasons for it

This can’t be blamed on history. MATs only came into existence in the past 10 years. It’s not effort, either. Schools can be named after anyone, however insignificant to the wider world.

One could argue the disparity is because more men are more famous. But if we keep sticking their names on schools their prominence only gets higher and higher.

There’s no get out for religious names, either. Many schools were named after male saints. But there are more than 600 female saints recognised by religions. Admittedly, few are recognised by the Roman Catholic church, but literally thousands have been beatified, and although the exact number is disputed there are hundreds of women even on the smallest lists.  Point is: there are loads of women to choose from.

Historical imbalance is the last excuse. “These schools were named in an era when men’s achievements were better known,” people say. And they are right. So how about this. How about we simply ban any more schools from naming themselves after men until the women’s numbers even up?

There’s loads of great women to choose from – we’ve devised our own list (see below) – and I’m pretty certain you can find more. Banning things rarely goes down well. But I don’t see the harm in this one. It’s not like someone will lose a limb if instead of naming a future free school after David Beckham we name it after Jessica Ennis-Hill. (You laugh, but there’s a Bobby Moore academy).

Imagine how much less boring inequality would be if it led to schools being named after Doris Lessing, Nancy Astor and Marie Curie.

Should anyone think they can curry favour by suggesting the Laura McInerney free school however, I wouldn’t recommend it.

It’s a nightmare to spell.



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  1. Marc Gravell

    I agree that more balance is hugely desirable, but the suggestion here is absurd and knee jerk. Maybe that is the intent – suggest something completely ridiculous, so a later “compromise” to something that is merely explicitly biased (rather than accidentally biased) seems reasonable. Perhaps a better aim would be to stop naming them after people at all – this also avoids the problem when heroes inevitably fall from grace.

      • What a pathetic article. Taking an authoritarian, dictatorial and negative direction can surely only damage your rightly principled stance. Be more mature. Check your grammar as well. Positivity is always better.