Francis Holland headteacher: ‘I didn’t say girls must choose between career and motherhood’

Francis Holland headteacher Vivienne Durham. Picture: Hugo Burnand/Tatler

Francis Holland headteacher Vivienne Durham. Picture: Hugo Burnand/Tatler - Credit: Hugo Burnand/Tatler

A leading private school headteacher has hit out at the press for “misrepresenting” her views after she was reported saying that girls must choose between a career and motherhood.

Vivienne Durham, of Francis Holland School in Regent’s Park, has been at the centre of a media storm since Sunday after being interviewed for Absolutely Education magazine ahead of her retirement in January.

Mrs Durham, who was voted Tatler’s Best Headteacher of a Public School last year, wrote to the press yesterday to “set the record straight”.

She wrote: “I never have – and never will – say that women have to choose between family and career.

“I have dedicated 33 years of my life to the education of young women in the belief that girls should have the opportunity to do anything that they choose in their future lives.

“At Francis Holland School, Regent’s Park, students learn to relish the opportunities and challenges that life will present to them.”

Mrs Durham, of Belsize Park, told the magazine that girls should not be lied to about the continued existence of a glass ceiling in the workplace.

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She said: “I’m sorry, I’m not a feminist. I believe there is a glass ceiling – if we tell them there isn’t one, we are telling them a lie. Women still have to plan for a biological fact – ie. motherhood.”

Mrs Durham, who is married to former University College School (UCS) headteacher Kenneth Durham, said that she made a conscious decision not to have any children, partly because she felt she could not commit to a family and a full-time job.

She wrote to parents yesterday to say that the decision had been “a matter solely for me and my husband”, and restate that she does not think women have to choose between a career and motherhood.

She told them: “I apologise for any disappointment or anger that has been caused by this press coverage.”

Expanding on her views for The Sunday Telegraph, she explained that girls should make the right decision for their own situation, and should not be criticised for whichever path they take.

She said: “Young girls have massive options these days and some of them will make a decision that they don’t want to combine everything and that is as valid as making the decision that you do want to combine everything,” she said.

“We all have a biological calendar and you have to make decisions about your entire working life, which probably goes up to about 77 now, but you have to make decisions about 40 per cent of your life early on.

“Some of them will and juggle and combine everything and that will be the future for lots of women. I certainly want women to have that choice.”