Blackfriars’ female leaders address international conference

An international education conference has heard about the importance of the female voice in all-boys schools – with two Blackfriars staff members leading the discussion.

Head of Primary Emma Begg and Assistant Principal: Religious Identity and Mission (APRIM) Angela Collins were guest speakers at last week’s 2023 International Boys’ School Coalition Conference in Auckland, New Zealand.

Ms Begg and Ms Collins spoke on the importance of female leadership in boys’ schools.

“Statistically, women are less present in leadership in all-boys schools,” Ms Collins said. “How do we authentically include the female voice in the ongoing development of boys and their understanding of self  and their place in society as they navigate a more inclusive future?”

In the lead up to the conference, Ms Collins and Ms Begg chatted to several Blackfriars students about the importance of female role models and which women most inspired them. The students’ thoughts were shared in a video presentation at the conference.

“Both male and female voices prove vital to the development of healthy relationships for young men and boys of all ages,” Ms Collins said.

“We need to have inspirational quotes from women on our walls and images of female leaders or decision makers. We need to immerse our boys in a world that includes both genders. Include female authors and protagonists in the English curriculum. Use female scientists and mathematicians in the STEM curriculum. Bring in female guests who will speak to the boys in a way that does not mirror motherly concern.  Seize the opportunity to embrace moments such as International Women’s Day and celebrate them authentically.” 

Ms Begg told conference delegate that all-male environments could “normalise traditional views of masculinity more readily than gender-diverse groups”.

“What we know in practice is that when you segregate people, they tend to develop stereotypical views of their own group and the excluded group,” Ms Begg told the conference. ”Research and data also indicates that Australian prime ministers and CEOs disproportionally come from a small group of schools, typically elite boys’ schools.

“Aren’t we in a privileged position, therefore, to break further ground as we strive to continue our societal development as humans. With privilege comes great responsibility. We are responsible for shaping our boys and young men into ethical humans who will use the privilege of power to achieve positive outcomes for all.”

Ms Collins interviewed senior students from all-girls school Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College, with that video (below) shared with conference delegates.

Meanwhile, Blackfriars Principal David Ruggiero and Deputy Principal Brett Knowles also presented at the IBSC Conference. The pair spoke about Blackfriars’ Ax Academy in a talk titled “Accelerated Learning for a Future Without Limits”.

“We were honoured to be presenting at such a renowned conference … the first time in our school’s history that we were doing so,” Mr Ruggiero said.

The 2023 IBSC Conference had the theme kia moemoeā, or dream beyond limits.  It aimed to motivate boys’ educators to develop men of the future and encourage boys to feel connected and engaged in their learning and with their community.


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