St Mary's School

Empowering Girls: In Conversation with Jane Lunnon

On Thursday 25th January, St Mary’s School in Hampstead hosted their inaugural “In Conversation with…” event, this time welcoming Jane Lunnon, the Head of Alleyn’s School, Dulwich. The event explored the advantages of creating the right education environment for girls, with a focus on fostering academic achievement, a culture of care, and encouraging girls to pursue STEM subjects. Mrs Lunnon is currently the Head of Alleyn’s, a co-ed school, and has formerly been Head of Wimbledon High, an all-girls’ school. She has experience of working in other roles in both single-sex and co-ed schools and she spoke about the benefits of both models.

Mrs. Lunnon’s insights shed light on the significance of creating an environment where each girl can discover her identity. She emphasised that different settings suit different children: “Above all, you’re looking for a space for each girl to find out who they are. For some girls, finding their voice comes more easily in a girls’ prep environment.” Whatever the setting, Mrs. Lunnon highlighted the empowering nature of being heard, asserting that it is critical for schools, whether they are co-ed or single-sex to provide students with the space to develop and express their voices confidently.

Addressing the question of how education can foster a culture of care and collaboration for girls, Mrs. Lunnon reflected that, “In my experience, girls are naturally collaborative. I do see a genuine tendency to support and nurture. Girls also need to be able to be provocative and take risks.” Her emphasis on creating an atmosphere where girls feel free to explore and express themselves echoes the ethos of St Mary’s.

Discussing the pursuit of STEM subjects, Mrs. Lunnon expressed concern about the national shortage of girls studying these subjects but explained that this pattern does not follow at her own school, Alleyn’s, where many girls are studying Maths A-level. Mrs. Lunnon attributed the disparity in STEM interest to the lack of diverse role models and pervasive unconscious bias. She stressed the need for educators to actively celebrate women’s achievements and challenge stereotypes, stating, “We need to be much more active as educators at shining a light on the great things that are happening.”

Reflecting on the importance of empowering girls during their early formative years, Mrs. Lunnon emphasised, “At Alleyn’s, we like all girls to feel empowered. What happens in your early formative years matters hugely, and you remember it. We all have profound memories of this time.” This sentiment aligns with St Mary’s commitment to creating an environment where every girl can build lasting memories and a strong sense of empowerment.

Joining Mrs. Lunnon at the event were Charlotte Owen, the new Headmistress at St Mary’s, having previously served as Head of Lower School at Woldingham School since 2016, and Martin Otter, Director of Studies. Together, they contributed to a dynamic discussion that underscored the transformative power of independent, single-sex prep education in shaping confident, empowered, and collaborative young women. The event was attended by current and prospective parents, keen to join the single-sex education debate, and reinforced the school’s commitment to providing an environment where girls can thrive academically, collaboratively, and confidently, setting the stage for a future generation of empowered female leaders.