Developing Social Skills In An All Girls School – Jennifer Oaten
As an all girls school, Santa Maria College (SMC) believes there are great benefits in a single-gender environment. Our girls are encouraged to be active learners who take risks in learning, identify, grow and celebrate their passions and develop self-confidence and self-belief. There are many opportunities for personal growth through leadership, in addition to creating a strong sense of belonging and valuing their capabilities and what they have to offer.
I am often asked in an enrolment interview, “Do our girls miss out socially? Are they awkward around boys?” and, “How do they cope with males at University, jobs, or TAFE when males are not present at school?” My response is, they do not miss out socially.
When speaking with our recently graduated Year 12 leaders, they shared with me that they would definitely choose a girls’ school if they had their time again. They felt they were provided with opportunities to develop a voice, confidence, and presence, and other skills needed to socialise effectively.
Our goal is to provide one social activity with a boys’ school for our Years 7 – 12 students each year. School socials are only one part of the socio-emotional development of our girls. Our goal is to provide authentic situations for mixing between genders. Socials are not the best way to achieve this.
What socials do we currently provide?
Each year, unless impacted by COVID-19 or other factors, the College offers one social in each year group. Some of the opportunities offered include:
- Bush Dance
- Silent Disco
- Relay for Life
- Dancing lessons and a Dance
- Year 11 Social
- Year 12 Ball
I receive many requests for additional socials from students and some parents. Logistically, finding activities and venues for 360 plus teenage girls and boys is challenging. These challenges include finding a suitable venue or activity that is age-appropriate. Liaising with other schools to find agreed dates, opportunities, and numbers of participants are all considerations.
A significant concern for schools is the ‘mosh pit’ style of dancing that occurs. The mosh pit is where a massive group (hundreds) of young people dance closely in front of the stage. This provides an environment where inappropriate contact may occur. Supervision is also challenging when high staff ratios are required for compliance and safety.
Regardless of what socials we offer, it is impossible to please all students and parents.
There are many opportunities for students to socialise, interact, negotiate, discuss and compete with the opposite sex both during and after school. Through these interactions, they learn that they are equal to their male peers and capable of contributing to any situation.
As a College, our focus is to provide smaller group activities that offer social interactions in a more natural environment with males and other females with similar interests.
Here are examples of these activities already happening at the College:
- Combined Leaders meetings at Aquinas
- Social Justice Forum
- Young Justice Leaders Forum
- PEAK Study Skills Program – 20 SMC girls and 20 Christian Brothers College (CBC) boys meet for eight workshops after school to improve their academic study habits
- Environmental Summit at Aquinas with other schools
- Italian students went to Fremantle and met Italian students from CBC at Gino’s
- Pizza afternoon with CBC
- Drama Productions at SMC and Aquinas
- Leaderships Forums with groups of schools
- Maths, Economics and Languages workshops for senior students
- Blessing of the Fleet procession with CBC boys
Being socially connected is very important for your child’s psychological development, and in this day and age, the online environment is where they get a lot of this. Social media can provide a way for girls to introduce, follow, or communicate with boys who are introduced through their friends or family’s network. Social media is a great tool to connect with people; however, it is essential to be cyber safe.
How can parents help with encouraging social activities?
Parents can support the development of social skills in their daughters by assisting their daughters in the following ways:
- Family and siblings’ friends are great connections and can provide a base from which girls will meet new friends.
- Sporting, drama, music, art, and faith clubs provide students with opportunities to spend time with young people who have similar interests and passions and should be encouraged.
- Mixed sporting teams and holiday programs provide a great way for girls to meet and interact with boys.
- Small group gatherings at home can be a less intimidating way to connect with boys, but supervision is crucial, particularly for younger students. Large parties can have unexpected outcomes and need to be carefully planned.
- Work is a great way to engage with other young people outside of school, not just boys. Part-time or holiday jobs provide a more natural environment to mix.
One of the College’s goals for 2022, as part of our Strategic Plan, is to consider how else we can develop life skills for socialising. We will be investigating what educational opportunities could be suitable for co-educational activities? One area with great potential is our Service Program.
We ask our parents to partner with us and support our decisions for the format of our social events and to understand the challenges we face. Encourage your daughters to embrace all opportunities offered and know that all decisions we make are with the best interest of our girls in mind.