Can Prep Schools Shield Girls From WAG Culture?

Despite being a phenomenon of only recent years, ‘the WAG effect’ has become a household term to refer to those women who, while not strictly wives-and-girlfriends of sports stars (especially footballers), may aspire to their lifestyles. Perfectly coiffured locks, immaculate makeup, more-than-revealing wardrobes and some suspiciously silicone-enhanced bodies characterise this recent image of femininity.
But while adult women may actively choose to have this look and particular lifestyle, it seems as though young pre- and teenage girls are feeling the effects of WAG culture without necessarily wishing to be a part of it. The growing trend is for parents, fearful of the effect WAG culture may have on their daughter, to send their children to prep, or private, schools. But can single-sex prep schools really deter young women from succumbing to the WAG effect?

Many would argue that single-sex prep schools automatically have the advantage over mixed schools when looking at the likelihood of young girls taking up WAG-style makeup and hair. After all, the assumption is that WAGs dress in such a way as to be attractive and valued by their boyfriends, husbands, or potential male suitors; mixed sex schools mean more competition for girls to look their best for the boys in the class, resulting in lots of makeup and shorter skirts. However, single-sex schools, while getting rid of the problem of impressing the boys, still have the problem of impressing and fitting in with other girls. If the girls in the popular clique at the prep school dress like WAGs then, despite the absence of boys, some young women will still feel pressured into dressing in that way in order to make friends and become popular.
From an educational perspective, single-sex prep schools, arguably, have more time and resources to ensure that students concentrate on their studies, not on looking glamorous. Greater teacher-to-pupil ratios and strictly enforced homework means that girls at prep schools are more often than not focusing on examinations and good grades, rather than lipstick and hair dye. Many single-sex prep schools also have a commitment to ensuring their pupils do the best they can and are aware of their potential; rather than letting them believe they are only destined to be a wife or girlfriend, single-sex prep schools can ensure that young women realise their full abilities and their potential to achieve in life, over and above simply being the companion to a football star.
The difficulty with single-sex prep schools, however, is that they do not provide a realistic imitation of life outside of school. Rarely in life do we have single-sex situations – except swimming pool changing rooms – and therefore young women attending these schools often find, when in a mixed sex, real world environment, that they aren’t as confident, popular, or strong-willed as they were in the safe, controlled prep school situation. The responsibility, then, lies with parents to ensure that prep school pupils mix with children of their own age of both genders outside of school, so they are able to cope successfully when they emerge from their single-sex education.
Single-sex prep schools do offer an excellent way for parents to protect daughters from some of the more harmful and immediate pressures of WAG culture, and are therefore to be applauded. However, WAGs still exist, and any young woman interested in fashion or celebrities will soon be exposed to them. Instead of hiding them away from this particular appearance-driven path of womanhood, young girls need to be educated that a WAG lifestyle is a choice, not a necessity, and that attributes like intelligence, humour, and determination are often more important in adult life than having the right shade of bottle-blonde hair.
Written by Kat Kreatzer, a blogger with work experience in independent schools