Teachers and parents can ensure low confidence doesn’t limit young women's aspirations

An OECD report released last week showed that self-confidence has a bigger impact on life chances in Britain than in almost any other country. Pupils with low self-belief but who have the capability to excel are falling short of their potential, and society is missing out on the skills they have to offer. In particular, British school girls’ lack of confidence in their own abilities has led them to lag behind boys in maths and science.

The PSHE Association was therefore delighted to welcome the launch of the ‘Your Daughter’s Future’ resource for parents, which we developed on behalf of the Government Equalities Office. This guidance tackles some of these issues directly as it aims to ensure that young women’s career choices are driven by skills and interests, rather than tired gender stereotypes or a lack of confidence.

The guide offers parents information on which GCSEs and A Levels to consider for different careers and includes tips on organising workplace visits, managing exam stress and boosting confidence. Its 8 units address different topics and age groups, including a section on ‘Building Resilience’, which details what support girls and young women have told us they would like from their parents. The guide explains that although low self-esteem can be a major barrier for girls in their career choices its signs can be easily missed by parents, so advice is provided on how to spot these signs and provide appropriate support.

The guide will nicely complement related learning pupils receive through the PSHE curriculum and allow parents and schools to work together to raise girls’ self-esteem, important for its own sake but also because of  its impact on pupils’ academic performance. Our subject expert Pooky has recently blogged about how low self-esteem can lead pupils to limit their choices, participate less in lessons, and avoid expressing their opinions.

That’s why we’ve long argued that there is no ‘zero-sum’ relationship between teaching PSHE education and teaching core subjects like Maths and English. Instead, teaching self-esteem and confidence, and resilience to setbacks is crucial to help pupils achieve their potential in school, and prepare them for life beyond school including the world of work.

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