I like spending time with girls. I enjoy girls. I enjoy the company of girls. There's no way to say it without sounding like a fat, sweaty businessman justifying to his idiot friends why he's spent £680 in a strip club on a Tuesday night. But, in the cleanest of senses, I really like hanging around with girls.
I hope that through this expansion, young girls will develop a strong belief in self. They will determine their own sense of beauty and reach beyond the things that traditionally may have been available to them. I hope they will see the possibilities and set a course to achieve whatever possibilities they seek.
Often we speak of 'children' with no one child in mind. Statistics reduce them to no more than data to be used in policymaking, academic discussion or press statements. But, of course, every child has a unique experience, and while 'big data' is important for understanding trends and patterns, we mustn't forget the need to take the time to understand children's lives in more depth.
But in a world where we constantly ask why it is that women don't 'reach higher' in their careers and with their ambitions, it may be worth thinking about more examples of what successful women look like - what they do. It would be uplifting to see more women say 'if she has done that, maybe I can too.'
Calling us the worst doesn't help us. Telling girls in our area you are more likely to fall pregnant, be poor and fail in school doesn't help us. I know plenty of girls from Middlesbrough and the surrounding areas who are at Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and plenty of other russell group universities. I also know girls who are doing amazing well on apprenticeships in a wide variety of fields inside our amazing local industries and businesses.