K Ollerenshaw: The Girls' School

Kathleen Ollerenshaw wrote The Girls' School, a book of 236 pages published in London by Faber and Faber in 1967 at a cost of 30s. The book was reviewed by M Joyce Bishop in the British Journal of Educational Studies in the year following its publication. The full reference is M Joyce Bishop, Review of The Girls' School by Kathleen Ollerenshaw, British Journal of Educational Studies 16 (2) (1968), 210-211. We give a version of this review below.

The Girls' School by Kathleen Ollerenshaw

Review by M Joyce Bishop.

This book is a sincere attempt to survey constructively, and as far as possible without prejudice, the present position of the girls' schools both inside and outside the State system and to suggest lines on which existing schools of various types might be adjusted to the changing pattern of education.

Accepting that the comprehensive school is to be a permanent part of the system, the author examines carefully the six main comprehensive systems outlined in Circular 10/65. Of these the middle school plan which easily makes unnecessary any examination at 11+ seems to her to possess certain advantages though she fears it is unlikely to be widely implemented since in so many areas new school buildings and adapted old ones have been geared to other comprehensive systems.

As to the most appropriate size for a comprehensive school, the important point is made that, in poor areas especially, a very large school with a ten or twelve-stream entry will be essential if a sixth form of 100 or more is to be maintained.

The most valuable section of the book is that which deals with the public and the direct grant schools. Here it is argued that the basic principle must be that of selectivity. For them this is not only an educational but also an economic necessity: the financial position of the girls' independent and direct grant schools makes it impossible for them to provide for the whole range of ability to be found in non-selective schools. This part of the book is based to some extent on the answers received to questionnaires circulated by The Public Schools Commission to Headmasters and Headmistresses of the public and direct grant schools and even more on the author's own experience as Chairman of The Manchester Education Committee and also of The Governing Bodies of Girls' Schools Association. This latter body recently drew up a document which formulated six principles on which the girls' independent schools n-light wish to stand firm in any discussion about integration. These involve, in brief, the retention of an independent autonomous governing body with freedom to control the finances of the school, and the appointment and conditions of service of Head Mistress and Staff; freedom to admit and retain only those pupils capable of benefiting by the education offered and to decide the curriculum and freedom to maintain the religious tradition of the school.

None of these freedoms preclude the possibility of increasing collaboration between the independent and the state schools and some constructive suggestions are made on the ways in which this might be done, one of the best of which is, perhaps, that a few selected schools with outstanding reputations for teaching mathematics or the physical sciences might develop these subjects in new ways for specially talented boys and girls.

The sections on the various types of maintained school are much less fully treated and therefore have less value for the general reader. There is an all too brief section on The Voluntary Aided Grammar schools, some of which are ancient foundations, and have played a very considerable part in girls' education. In many cases their achievements today are equal to those of the best Direct Grant Schools.

The book as a whole, though it leaves no doubt as to the author's own convictions, is a fair-minded presentation of the problem confronting the girls' schools at the present time and of the lines which their solution might be sought.

M Joyce Bishop

Last Updated August 2007