Academic warns that girls are coming under pressure to be perfect at everything

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Whether they're acquiring a string of A*s at GCSE or passing grade 8 piano, some high-achieving girls are coming under intense pressure to be "perfect at everything".

That’s the view of Carrie Paechter, professor of education at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Speaking at the Girls’ Schools Association conference in Liverpool last week, Prof Paechter said many girls were being turned into “projects” by their parents. 

As well as achieving good academic grades, some are expected to learn musical instruments to a high standard, excel at sport and take part in a host of extra-curricular activities too.

She also warned that the resulting pressures can lead to young women suffering from eating disorders.

After the conference, Prof Paechter told SecEd that even though pressure is put on boys too, girls probably experience it more.

“There is enormous pressure to succeed, particularly from parents, but from schools and young people themselves as well,” she said. 

“Some schools perpetuate the view that the more young people do, the better it looks on their CV or personal statement and the more likely they are to get into an elite university. We need to give girls the confidence to feel that they can be who they want to be and that if they aren’t totally successful in every direction they are still great people and can have successful lives.”

Prof Paechter also criticised media images of girls jumping for joy on A level and GCSE results day.

“I am always saddened in the summer when you see all these photographs of girls jumping around with 15 A*s,” she said. 

“What about the ones who worked really hard and put themselves through loads of stress and have got five Cs? It’s a real achievement and yet we don’t celebrate it at all.”


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