Skip to main content

Woman with laptopCareer, relationship, children – can our daughters have it all?

Yes they can (with forward planning and compromise), says the new president of the Girls’ Schools Association

Back in the 1980s legendary Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown said we could. She didn’t have children herself, but she coined the phrase ‘having it all’ in her book: ‘Having It All: Love, Success, Sex, Money... Even if you’re Starting with Nothing’. A decade later, financial high-flyer Nicola Horlick raised the stakes and earned the title ‘superwoman’ by managing a high-profile career in finance with being mother to six children (though she made no secret of the fact that she relied on nannies and housekeepers).

Even now, the reality of maintaining a career of any kind and being home in time to supervise homework and put the children to bed is stressful, exhausting and expensive. And the guilt as you deposit your weeping toddler at nursery or arrive late for parents’ evening, is compounded with a sense that your inability to juggle all this elegantly means that you have somehow let down the sisterhood.

Gwen Byrom, the new president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), has brought this debate into the 21st century. She’s the headmistress of Loughborough High School, the mother of five children aged between two and 19 and reckons that women can absolutely have it all – if they have a stay-at-home partner. Indeed, her husband, also a qualified teacher, has looked after their children for the last 12 years while she has worked full-time.

According to a report in The Sunday Times, she tells girls at her school that they can ‘have it all’ by challenging gender stereotypes, such as the idea that the family breadwinner must be a man. She advises them to talk to their future partners about how they will balance their work and home lives between them.

‘The message is you can have it all to a degree, but there are compromises,’ she says. ‘The compromise we made was that I would be the major breadwinner and my husband would stay at home and look after the children. Girls have that choice and I encourage them to talk to their partners about that balance. I think what is lovely nowadays is that there are options.’

When it comes to options, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, is a case in point. She recently announced that she’s expecting her first child in June and that her partner will be a stay-at-home dad. Or to quote her directly: ‘I’ll be prime minister and a mum, and Clarke will be “first man of fishing” and stay at home dad.’

One thing’s for sure – everyone has to make compromises. And in an ideal world it’s important to discuss the division of childcare well ahead of time. The fly in the ointment is that it’s all very well to discuss it in theory but it’s another matter entirely when the baby arrives. Some women decide they want to stay at home with their children after all and resume their careers later on. Some men renege on their promises to share the childcare or find it’s impossible and perhaps too costly to implement. A study published last year found that less than one per cent of eligible parents took advantage of the shared parental leave system introduced by the coalition government in 2015.

So while Gwen Byrom’s advice makes sense and we agree that women should definitely talk to their partners about how to combine careers and children, we’re not sure if it will make a difference or not. What do you think? We’d love to hear your views so do email us at: [email protected]

Chalk and Chat spring issue

The latest edition of our popular digital magazine, Chalk and Chat, is out now.

Features include:

Going up, going down

Going up

Sporting chances. Recent research has shown that girls start to lose interest in sport around the age of six or seven. One way to keep them active could be to challenge gender stereotypes when offering sport and exercise options. Ruth Holdaway, chief executive of Women in Sport, has suggested that schools should give girls the option to play cricket and football and extend the same choice to boys. ‘Boys should also be given the opportunity to do a Zumba class or whatever,’ she said.

Added extras. Character and resilience are just as important as exam results, the newly appointed education secretary, Damian Hinds, told delegates at the Education World Forum seminar in London. In his first major speech he said that skills developed by extra-curricular activities, ‘sport, public speaking, voluntary work and so on,’ were as important as exam results for young people.

Terms and conditions. More universities than ever are trying to lure students to commit to them by using unconditional offers. Figures from UCAS show that the number of unconditional offers has increased by 40.2 per cent since 2016. But of course, as with free lunches, the deal comes with strings attached – the condition of the unconditional offer is that students make the university in question their first choice.

Going down

Et tu, Richmond? The 17 pupils from Richmond School in North Yorkshire who will sit their Latin GCSE in 2019 are to be the last. The school, ratified by Queen Elizabeth I in 1568, says funding cuts are to blame for its decision to bid ‘vale’ to Latin teaching after 600 years. Steven Hunt, president of the Association for Latin Teaching, told The Guardian that the loss of this provision was particularly disheartening because there was already comparatively little access to Latin teaching for state school pupils in the north of England.

Going underground? City of London School for Girls has caused consternation among its neighbours on the Barbican Estate by proposals to build a prep school in an underground car park. One resident called the scheme ‘harebrained’, another is quoted as saying, ‘they must be out of their minds.’ ‘Plans are still at a very early stage’ according to the Corporation of the City of London which owns the independent school.

New statistics show that four in ten children will have special educational needs at some point in their school career.  A special educational need is anything which makes it harder for a child to learn than his or her peers – so as well as lifelong disabilities, it includes concerns which may be more transient, such as mental health difficulties, or learning difficulties which are mitigated by the right strategic help.

The Good Schools Guide Special Educational Needs newsletter

The Good Schools Guide is launching a dedicated SEN newsletter which will highlight the schools for SEN which have impressed us; SEN school news – expansions, head moves, newly released Ofsted reports and so on; resources for parents of children with SEN; forthcoming events; news; and our own forthright views.

Sign up to receive it here

Most popular Good Schools Guide articles

  • Special educational needs introduction

    Some special needs are easy to spot, others are only determined once a child has experienced considerable difficulties, frustrations or social and emotional problems.  Over the years, diagnosis of and provision for SEN have improved, but both can still be a minefield. Identifying different kinds of special educational needs Few children fit a condition perfectly – if they do, we tend to say they are a ‘classic’ case. Most will not be straightforward: perhaps a dyslexic with dyspraxia and a touch of ADD, or a child with ASD who also has Down’s syndrome. Just as special needs are hard to…

  • The Good Schools Guide online subscription

    Find the best school for your child. One month subscription - £0.49 per day Three month subscription - £0.41 per day Six month subscription - £0.33 per day One year subscription - £0.29 per day Register for instant access to: ☑ Search for more than 30,000 schools in our parent friendly interactive directory. ☑ Create and save lists of schools via My Schools. ☑ Use our comparison grid to get exam results overview of schools you are interested in. ☑ Find comprehensive advice on state and independent schools, tutors and special needs. ☑ Catchment maps for English state schools by…

  • Finding a state grammar school

      There are currently around 164 state funded grammar schools located in 36 English local authorities, with around 167,000 pupils between them. There are a further 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland, but none in Wales or Scotland. Almost half of these are considered 'selective authorities' (eg Kent and Buckinghamshire), where around one in five local children are selected for grammar school entry based on ability. The others are areas such as Barnet or Kingston, with only a few grammar schools. How to find a state grammar school Word of warning: not all selective grammar schools have 'grammar' in their…

  • Schools for children with performing arts talents

    As proud parents, we all know our children are unique. They're smarter than anyone else's, funnier, certainly more attractive, better behaved and above all bursting with the kind of talent that would leave Daniel Radcliffe or Charlotte Church standing. And sometimes, just sometimes, parental pride is justified.

  • State boarding schools

    If you think your child would benefit from a boarding school education, but are put off by the high fees and consequent limited social mix of a typical independent boarding school, you may find that a state boarding school is the answer. Read more... State grammar schools Counties such as Kent or Buckinghamshire are ‘selective authorities’ and most families will have at least one grammar school close to where they live. Elsewhere, for example in Reading or Kingston-on-Thames, there are just one or two grammar schools and competition for places at these is ferocious. Grammar schools are located in 36…

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
 Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
 Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

GSG Blog >    In the news >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

Tired of London schools? There’s plenty of life elsewhere…


For a limited time get one month's Good Schools Guide subscription free with any purchase of The Good Schools Guide London North and London South