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To think mixed sex schools a PITA for we poor undeserving Mums?

(61 Posts)
valhala Wed 16-Sep-09 23:43:01

The thread on the 11+ and selective education has made my mind turn to the subject of mixed sex schools.

My own was a single sex school and although there was the inevitable cattiness that often goes with large groups of teenaged girls and a certain amount of competition about clothes, shoes and the like, despite a very strict and fiercly enforced uniform policy, I can't help feeling that we studied harder and benefitted from not having the distraction of boys.

My own DDs go to a mixed sex school. Here too they wear traditional uniform although the rules are overlooked depending on which teacher passes by the girls with the extra short skirts or spidery mascara. I confess that this drives me nuts and I'm a harridan, coming down on DDs like a ton of bricks when they try to sneak out of the door with anything other than the "natural looking" make-up allowed by the school, despite their protests that everyone else wears it.

It seems to me that the need to impress the boys, the constant talk of who fancies who and who has been dumped by whom, or who is fit is far more prevelent in the conversations which my DDs and their female peers have than about their homework or lessons. Call me an old fogey but it wasn't like that in my day!

I know that they need to have fun as well as learn but I am convinced that they would learn more without the distraction of the boys. I guess I had the best of both worlds as from the Lower 6th we took some consortium lessons with boys from the local lads' grammar and two mixed comprehensives. My only defence is to say that by this time we'd got 5 years of uncomplicated study under our (navy blue, regulation) belts!

Am I right? Are mixed schools a PITA, did you go to a single sex school and feel that your own DC in a mixed sex environment are not learning as much as they could because of their determination to play up to the opposite sex?

Or am I just an old so and so who needs to get with the times?!

pinkteddy Wed 16-Sep-09 23:49:29

I think you are maybe worrying unnecessarily. There probably is a lot of flirtation going on but if they are easily distracted they will probably find something! I went to a mixed sex school but there was a large girls school near to us and it always struck me that the girls who went there seemed to be totally obsessed with boys and it was like they were something from outer space!

FWIW I am so glad I went to a mixed school, it taught me a lot about the opposite sex which has stood me well in life and I made some very good male friends some of whom I am friends with to this day. dd is not yet secondary age but when she is I will certainly be looking for a mixed school.

Firawla Wed 16-Sep-09 23:53:26

Yanbu i would prefer single sex schools for mine in secondary, and glad there are still a few about

LadyGlencoraPalliser Wed 16-Sep-09 23:55:04

How old are your DDs? My eldest is Yr8 and finds boys annoying rather than intriguing as yet. She and her friends work hard and rather despise those boys who they know to be bright but who don't bother with schoolwork.
I think a mixed school is good for her actually, because it ensures that she does interact with boys in day-to-day life. And good for the boys too.
I grew up in Ireland where, in my day, most secondaries were single sex. At university, the boys particularly were very uncomfortable with girls at first.

valhala Wed 16-Sep-09 23:59:11

Yeah but no, but...!

Mixing with the lads via the consortium lessons gave me the chance to learn about the opposite sex too and make good friends, so much so that my oldest and closest pal is one of the "lads" from one of those mixed comprehensives - we have been best of buddies for 30 years (and whats more his partner of many years and I get on very well, she understands that we are just good friends and when he is not in good spirits tells him to visit me in order to cheer him up - aren't I lucky? ).

I'm not really worried - DD1 is a flirt but works hard and is ambitious, DD2 a tomboy who can hold her own but I still feel that their main focus in school is gorgeous Nat or lovely Isaac and not English or History!

valhala Thu 17-Sep-09 00:03:18

LadyGP, you have a point. My DP went to a single sex independent and, as he once put it, I wouldn't have been interested in him before he went to Uni as he had no idea of how to deal with girls. (This prompted my question as to why he thought I was interested now... cue a big, cheeky grin and the response, "I got you into bed, didn't I?"! The smartass!).

DDs, btw, are 12 and 14. Nightmare all round!

RustyBear Thu 17-Sep-09 00:27:40

DD went to a single sex school till GCSE & then to mixed sixth form college - the fact that there were no boys actually at the school didn't stop them wearing skirts as short as they could get away with & endlessly discussing who dumped who - the only time I heard them discussing lessons or homework would be a frantic phone call when they'd forgotten to write down the homework.

There was certainly no shortage of lads in DD's life - she probably has as many male friends as female, at least judging by her facebook photos - and she's just about to go off to her second year at university where she'll be sharing a house with 4 guys & one other girl - so I think her single sex education hasn't harmed her ability to interact in day to day life with them. grin

LadyGlencoraPalliser Thu 17-Sep-09 00:31:42

I think it depends on the personality RB. DD2 will find boys to interact with wherever she goes grin - DD1 I think needs a bit more help.
Anyway, makes no odds for us, our town has only two schools, both mixed.

lilolilmanchester Thu 17-Sep-09 00:37:42

I think there is research which shows that girls do better academically in single sex schools whilst boys do better in mixed sex. not that difficult to believe, really. But education (in my book at least) is not just about getting the best academic results, it's about preparing you for life. You can protect you DD from boys all the way through school but you won't find a university or workplace which will shelter her from the other sex. Depends what you want for you daughter really. Would like to know how old you are - I am in my late 40s and was at a mixed sex comp - we talked about boys FAR more than work stuff, but I have a degree and a very good career. I know boys distracted me from my work, but I also know I am far better placed to deal with my male colleagues having grown up with male peers.

thirtypence Thu 17-Sep-09 00:45:07

Research just come out in NZ that shows that boys do best in single sex (ie better than the girls in either type of school) and do worst in mixed (ie worse than any girls and the boys at single sex).

Sadly the article in the paper did not tell me which sort of school girls performed best in, but I deduce that it was single sex.

Then again in my city at least single sex school tend to be in the more affluent areas of town so I think that may have something to do with the results (unless that was factored in - which wasn't stated).

Ds is at a single sex primary which is quite unusual here (despite the fascination with single sex at high school age). The main difference is that 3 choirs are chocka block full of boys, rather than the mixed schools which have 10-20% boys. That's an awful lot of extra boys singing.

valhala Thu 17-Sep-09 00:45:42

Lilo, I'm 44 and as I said went to a single sex school. I guess that personality has a lot of influence - despite my lack of involvement with boys from the end of primary school until I was in the Lower Sixth I went on to work in a male-dominated environment and am confident enough (or is that outspoken and assy enough?) hold my own in it.

valhala Thu 17-Sep-09 00:50:24

Blimey Thirtypence! I don't know of any single sex primaries outside of the independent sector here in the UK although I guess there may be some Muslim/Jewish etc of the kind. I wonder if any of my fellow UK residents do, out of interest?

lilolilmanchester Thu 17-Sep-09 00:53:04

given your agressive response to my post, and actually an OP I don't understand "To think mixed sex schools a PITA for we poor undeserving Mums?" will just agree that you and I live on different planets and am out of here.

ErikaMaye Thu 17-Sep-09 00:53:15

I went to a mixed state secondary then an all girls sixth form. Both were as bitchy, although there wasn't as much physical bullying at the sixth form, simply because it was not tolorated. People wore just as much make up and rolled their skirts up at the sixth form as they did at my secondary school.

thirtypence Thu 17-Sep-09 00:55:59

It's a private school. Many of the parents sole reason given for sending their ds was that it was single sex. I chose it despite it being single sex. After an initial "where are all the girls?" conversation from ds it has not been an issue.

valhala Thu 17-Sep-09 01:05:48

Lilo, I apologise. I didn't mean to offend in the least, nor did I intend to come across as aggressive. I'm sorry that you took it otherwise.

I was trying to say that despite my misgivings about mixed sex education nowadays, which is such a far cry from my own schooling, in fact I think that you have a point that it isn't necessarily the school environment but who you are, what your personality is like and what you make of it that counts.

Again, I'm sorry for inadvertantly making you feel that I was being aggressive to you. My question is a lighthearted one and was made purely because I wondered what others felt, especially if they could compare their own education to that of their DC as I can.

I hope that you will come back and add your opinions to this thread and assure you that I find them interesting and valid, although we have different opinions and experiences.

Clary Thu 17-Sep-09 01:08:37

I went to a single sex school as did DH.

Our kids are not at secondary yet (which I assume you mean in general, though of course there are single sex primary schools) but we both feel strongly that mixed is the way for them (not that there are any state alternatives here anyway).

For me school was/is less about acquiring qualifications and more about learning how to live. When I was 14 "boys" were an alien and other species (yy pinkteddy, outer space is right). This feeling persisted for many years.

Yet at my mixed primary I had a group of boy and girl friends. That's something I have never had since and never will again.

valhala Thu 17-Sep-09 01:09:57

Thirtypence, thank you for explaining, sorry for being a dumb blonde.

nooka Thu 17-Sep-09 05:30:47

Both me and my dh went to single sex schools, and our children (currently at primary) will very definitely not. Actually where we live it's not an option, as all schools are mixed, but where used to live all the local secondaries were single sex for some reason (one of the reasons I was happy to move).

The girls at my girls school spent a lot of time talking about boys and getting around the school rules of no makeup/no short skirts/interesting hair etc. As we knew very few boys, those that we interacted with (usually brothers and friends of brothers) got a lot of attention, despite the fact that many of them were really pretty arrogant and unpleasant. I think (hope!) that we might have been a bit more discerning if we had had more choice!

sunnydelight Thu 17-Sep-09 06:22:43

I went to an all girls school all the way through primary and secondary, and although I really enjoyed the comaraderie of an all girls environment it definitely didn't do me any favours in learning how to make friends with boys.

Here in Sydney there are a lot of single sex schools but I would never choose them for my kids. They all go to a very friendly mixed school, it is very strict so although there is some boyfriend/girlfriend stuff going on in the high school the staff keep a very close eye on it (they are big on "appropriate relationships" within the school) and it doesn't seem to distract from the kids getting on with their education. A few girls tried it on with extra short skirts recently and got a lunchtime sewing lesson in how to let down hems grin

camaleon Thu 17-Sep-09 06:34:45

When you are,like me, from other parts of Europe this single school business is really bizarre, no matter how many studies shows better academic performance.

It sounds a bit like Eva tempting Adam with the apple... The image of the other sex as a 'distraction' to be avoided to be better focused in life (well, in one very particular facet of life)

Is there any other study linking the rate of pregancies among teenagers (disproportionate in the UK) with this single school business?

How can you bring up your kid sin the equality between sexes making clear that the best option is to separate?

I believe it is a very cultural think and that this is my perception because I am not used to this at all. But honestly, in my opinion, the PITA is the existence of this kind of schools.

cory Thu 17-Sep-09 08:11:15

I briefly attended a girls boarding school and the girls talked all the time about the boys at the neighbouring boys school; couldn't see what the attraction was myself

but assuming that the OP is correct and that girls at single sex schools are not distracted by boys, where is the advantage of deferring this all-excited-by-having-discovered-the-opposite-sex until they get to university? aren't they supposed to work hard there?

I'd rather my dd had a few years of flirting and giggling and trying to impress the boys before she gets thrown into the serious world of adult sex

Fruitbeard Thu 17-Sep-09 08:18:10

This is an interesting one - possibly I'm a very late developer (DH thinks so...) but when I was at my mixed comp, the boys were a pain in the arse and my friends and I tended to view them as idiots. Even the (very) few who were attractive couldn't hold a candle to John Taylor or Nick Rhodes <saddo 80's smiley>!

The only time it ever got 'ooh, boys' was at the school disco, where all the boys would stand on one side and all girls on the other and if a slowie got played it got very embarrassing...

I then met some girls at FE college who had been to the single sex schools in the borough and without exception they were all mildly insane around men, giggling incoherently and blushing.

Of course this very much depends on the personalities involved.

I'm just a bit for DD because both the local comps and grammars are single sex and the only decent mixed schools nearby are actually private! (well, there's one excellent mixed Catholic state school but it has a catchment of about 3 roads on which the cheapest house costs £700k, so that's us out!)

MillyMollyMoo Thu 17-Sep-09 09:09:03

It strikes me it's a bloody minefield which ever way you go, who said it gets easer as they get older, they lied

curiositykilled Thu 17-Sep-09 09:34:41

I don't think you are right at all. We have one single sex boys school and one single sex girls school in our town. Lets just say when I was at high school the boys and girls from the separated sex schools were much, much more interested in sex and relationships than the girls and boys who had to put up with the grim realities of each other day in day out.

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