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Is there a case (again) for single sex schools?

(33 Posts)
MawB Mon 20-Jan-20 09:57:32

I have just read this

MORE than a third of girls say they have been sexually harassed at school, a charity has found, compared with just 6 per cent of their male classmates.
Two thirds of girls have been targeted in public, with thousands complaining of feeling unsafe and being held back by sexism in schools.
More than half of these faced sexual harassment while dressed in their school uniform, the survey by Plan International UK found

I know all the “old”arguments against single sex schools back in the day when a girl’s education was undervalued, often massively inferior to that of her brothers and the “rugger bugger” nature of (many) boys’ schools , especially the independents, was frankly shameful.
I also believe that children need to grow up in a mixed and mutually tolerant society which led in the past to the theory that girls did better at girls’ schools and boys did better in mixed schools.
In over 20 years’ teaching in secondary education, only the first of those in a girls’ school, I have seen the balance in mixed schools change from boys dominating the classroom dynamic especially the maths and the sciences, to a situation where girls dominated the top grades in the GCSE league tables because they were more successful in coursework.
But I also saw my own daughters flourish in a single sex school, in a town 10 miles away with 2 boys’ and 2 girls’ schools, where they had strong female role models in science and maths, not just arts subjects and where their confidence was never dented by the boys. They mixed, all right, ( plenty grin ) on the bus to and from school, in drama productions and in terrifying inter-school hockey and lacrosse matches (the girls were lethal ) and from what I have seen were totally at ease in all social situations including the pub on Saturday nights.
There was a lot that was good and as a teacher in a variety of mixed secondaries I think the girls’ school prepared them better as confident young women.
If mixed education was designed to help our children grow into tolerant and self-confident young adults, does this observation quoted suggest it might have failed?

Humbertbear Mon 20-Jan-20 10:07:30

My own children went to single sex schools (one of each) and grew up to be successful, happy, well adjusted individuals. My daughter was adamant that she would only go to a girls school because ‘boys messed about’. We chose a boys school for our son as we thought he needed a bit more discipline and fewer distractions. They both had mixed gender friendship groups. My GC are all at single sex schools. When my GS asked how he would meet girls I pointed out that there was a girls’ school next door to his and he has two sisters.
I was at a single sex girls’ school and we were not supposed to talk to the boys from the local grammar school when we were in uniform! I achieved high grades in my exams, went onto have an academic career, and always had a boyfriend. It’s interesting that most private schools (at least in my area) are single sex. Perhaps they know a thing or two?

Sara65 Mon 20-Jan-20 10:34:44

One of our daughters spent a year in a single sex school, she mixed with boys through her sport, so we weren’t worried about her not being able to relate to boys.

We chose the school with great care, I thought it was perfect, and felt quite envious of her, their academic standards were very high, and they had a huge range of extra curricular activities.

She hated it, I could see from the first day she wasn’t going to like it, certainly not the schools fault, but she just never seemed to fit.

Moved her to a co educational prep school the next year, and she loved it from day one.

This isn’t a criticism of single sex schools, but I guess they don’t suit everyone.

ladymuck Mon 20-Jan-20 10:37:18

I have moved around a lot so I attended both a girls school and a mixed school.
I definitely felt more comfortable and did better at the girls school.

Americanpie Mon 20-Jan-20 10:51:59

I attended an all girls school and loved it. We mixed with the boys travelling to and from school as we knew them from primary school and I enjoyed it. My niece has also chosen to send her daughter to an all girls school and she is doing really well, as are all of her many girl friends. Perhaps where you are in the UK makes a difference for example leafy Cheshire or the highlands of Scotland versus inner cities. I certainly believe that everyone should be safe whilst at school. It can't help with your education if you feel you have to watch your back. However I might also add that my own school insisted on having long skirts that hit the back of your knees when kneeling and that my great niece has to wear a similar length kilt. When I see some uniform " skirts" I do a double take. Old fashioned maybe but I feel its the right way to dress.

Mommawolf Mon 20-Jan-20 11:02:12

My children all attended single sex schools, we felt the girls had a better chance that way. I have spoken to many mums who have found the important exam years are oftan clouded by the advent of boyfriends and competition between girls to be the perfect image. I am of an age where we had separate entrance doors from the playground in the village school separated cloakrooms and tables at lunch. Now I feel old!

Mommawolf Mon 20-Jan-20 11:17:04

My DD who has just arrived has said she believes that we made the right decision to send them to single sex schools as it gave them a boy free space without competition for male attention,with two brothers she and her sister were confident with boys.

kittylester Mon 20-Jan-20 12:39:17

Ours went to singles sex senior schools after being at mixed juniors. All three schools are on the same campus so there was quite a lot of mixing - especially in the Sixth form.

Ilovecheese Mon 20-Jan-20 12:43:38

My understanding is that single sex education leads to better outcomes for girls a nd worse for boys. As the country is mainly run by men, why would they champion single sex education.

Davidhs Mon 20-Jan-20 13:22:06

We have single sex grammar schools in my town, my daughters went. Both are highly regarded schools, my own view there are no advantages other than economic in mixing the sexes at secondary level.
Thinking back to my own schooldays boys and girls simply did not fraternize and any thought of harassment did not occur.

I hear that we have had progress since then!.

Jane10 Mon 20-Jan-20 13:43:53

My children went to an independent school that was mixed until senior school then single sex until 6th form when it was mixed again. There were plenty of mixed events in senior school too eg drama productions etc.
That seems to work well. Both DGSs are at that school now.

SueDonim Mon 20-Jan-20 13:56:40

Scotland has no single sex state schools so it’s not an option here unless you have money. My boys and my girls have all done well for themselves and I don’t think a single sex school would have made any difference.

However, I started at a girls grammar school which then amalgamated with the boys GS to become coed. I think I might have done better, or at least ended up with more confidence in myself, if it had remained a girls-only school. Although I had two brothers, I found the boys at school very boisterous and overwhelming. And naughty. hmm

However, even though we were a co-Ed school we were strictly segregated outside of the classrooms! We had lunch at separate sittings (boys first, of course hmm), we had to walk to the train station along separate routes and on the train, there were separate carriages, front two for the boys (of course) and girls in the rear two. Madness, eh??

Nannarose Mon 20-Jan-20 14:01:12

The way in which our state education system is currently mis-managed, IMHO leads to a skewing of results.
There seems to be a perception that single sex education leads to better academic outcomes. So in areas (such as my GCs) where there are historical single sex schools, they seem to be over-subscribed (including from out of area) and in a self-fulfilling prophecy, perform better (academically)

Personally I would prefer co-education, properly funded and managed, but it seems as if my GCs will either be 'back door' selected for the 'better' school or sent to the one that is regarded as 'inferior'. They have already picked this up from their school friends' chat. I told them that any school they attended, was, by their very presence, a superior school!

My fortunate children attended a co-ed comprehensive that taught them well and equipped them for life. I am so sad that has been lost (in that area anyway)

Farmor15 Mon 20-Jan-20 14:03:50

I was an only child and went to all girls’ school. I had very little opportunity to mix with boys till I went to university and at that stage felt very lacking in self-confidence in a mixed environment. I know other girls in my school had plenty of opportunities to meet boys socially but somehow I didn’t and it took years after leaving school for my confidence to improve.

As a result, I was very keen not to send children to single sex schools. Local primary schools were single sex - no choice- but we sent all ours to same mixed secondary. In retrospect it may not have suited 1 daughter who was very academic, but she would probably have been a high achiever wherever she went.

I suppose there always should be a choice and the problem for parents is that you have to make a decision and will never know if it was right!

paddyanne Mon 20-Jan-20 14:26:05

I went to a single sex state school in Scotland ,a convent school.Ibelieve the last single sex convent school in Glasgow has just or is about to become mixed sex.Apart from the fact I couldn't wait to leave school I had no issue with no boys and the education we got was as good or better than the private school a few hundred yards away,I would have liked my children to have been able to have that same set up but the cooncil in all its wisdom decided that the boys school should be housed in the same building .For a wee while the classes were still seperate boys and girls but it became mixed classes a number of years later ,around the time there were more teachers who weren't nuns and more men .

Sara65 Mon 20-Jan-20 14:31:19


How very true, we make such massive decisions on our children’s behalf, and we never really know if we’re doing the right thing.

notanan2 Mon 20-Jan-20 14:32:28

A lot if not most of it happens online. It happens just as much between the single sex schools (im in a mostly single sex area)

jura2 Mon 20-Jan-20 14:34:15

That is a very good question - and one I have been pondering, as a mum, a teacher and a gran- for a very long time. I taught in a ss school, my grandchildren are currently in ss schools - and it is a concept that just does not exist where I grew up and where I live now.

Greenfinch Mon 20-Jan-20 15:04:34

My twin grandchildren started off in a mixed comprehensive mainly because it has an autistic unit for the grandson. However my granddaughter was very unhappy there mainly because the ratio of boys to girls was 3to 1 and the boys messed about She transferred at the end of year 8 and is now much happier with just girls. I think girls do better academically in a single sex school while boys thrive in a mixed environment

Ellianne Mon 20-Jan-20 16:03:59

Me, a mixed London comprehensive, DH a posh single sex boarding school in the countryside. I can knock spots of him educationally and in a social setting.

torrylanes Tue 21-Jan-20 12:46:53

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Witzend Tue 21-Jan-20 12:58:47

Our dds went to a girls’ only senior school. Fine for the elder, who was always intensely sociable, but not as good for the less outgoing younger, since there were some nasty little bitches - no apologies for using that word - in her year.

I wished later that we’d sent her to a mixed school, which was slightly less good academically, but at the time she’d wanted to go to the same school as her sister. I do think she’d have been happier at a mixed school, though.

It’s sad that ‘mean girls’ are so often a thing, and I say that as someone who suffered at school from a coven of little bullies with a thoroughly nasty girl as its Queen Bee.

Farmor15 Tue 21-Jan-20 13:04:33

I agree that bullying between girls in all girls schools can be pretty bad. At 25th class re-union it emerged that one of my classmates had been so badly treated by a couple of other girls, that she didn’t want so sit anywhere near them 25 years later.

hillwalker70 Tue 21-Jan-20 13:16:21

How would this work in State Schools. Where I live each town has a Mixed Comprehensive, I believe there are 2 single sex grammar schools away in the east of the county but there is no other choice than, very good comps. for the rest of the population, unless you can afford private education. Building a second school in each town would cost a fortune and finding staff almost impossible. I have never heard of anywhere that has separate schools in the state system. Thankfully the local comp. my children went to and my g.children will attend is not just good academic but also for sport and drama. Girls are held in high regard and taught to be freethinking and confident.

sodapop Tue 21-Jan-20 13:26:33

Bullying happens in most schools whether single sex or mixed. I agree Farmor

I was an only child and went to a single sex school, I was quite naive and not at all 'street wise' when I left school although academically I did quite well. I think its an individual choice now, some children thrive in a single sex school others in a mixed school. I don't think there is any hard and fast rule.