Single-sex versus co-education – which is best?
Once again there have been a flurry of articles in the media about single-sex education versus co-ed, partly sparked by the new President of the Girls’ School Association Alun Jones, headmaster of St Gabriel’s, comment that the diamond system of co-ed primary and sixth form and separated lessons between 11-16 is the best model. It is of no surprise that Mr Jones made this remark as his own school has fairly recently moved towards this model.
I read a few of the various missives but I have to say I tire of some of the same old argument. An anonymous writer in the Telegraph, described as an English teacher at a top boarding school, pretended to put both sides of the debate but in reality his opinion was truly in the co-ed camp. I was irritated, in particular, because he claimed without any evidence whatsoever that “There is also some evidence that, once teenagers from single-sex school move on to university, a totally co-ed environment, they overcompensate for previous restrictions and veer out of control: in the shape of excessive partying and, sometimes, over-promiscuous behaviour as undergraduates”. There is no concrete evidence to support this wild claim and in fact my own experience gathered from years of teaching at single-sex schools and keeping in touch with former pupils is that students educated in a single-sex school tend to be the absolute opposite; their self-belief and confidence means
they do not need to prove themselves by excessive partying or loose morals. This same teacher rather dismisses the excellent academic achievements of single-sex schools and says that grades “a notch or two” lower in co-ed environments are worth it. I suppose it depends on the definition of a notch or two but if he means grades then I would find that rather concerning if my daughter was in his school.
The truth of the matter is that it is hard to measure, other than through examination results, whether one system is better than another. What I do know, however, is that the girls at PHS and schools like this make friends for life which was rather grudgingly acknowledged by one journalist who admitted her closest friends were made at her all-girls school. Furthermore our girls enjoy their school days very much. They also do exceptionally well academically and develop a confidence and poise that means they cope very well in life. Those who criticise single-sex schools muddle the fact that just because girls and boys may be schooled separately they have not entered a parallel universe where they never socialise with the opposite sex or exist outside of the school day.