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Single sex debate ... again

(59 Posts)
MN164 Tue 02-Dec-14 17:08:43

Gut feeling, single sex feels wrong and co-ed is "natural".

It's a topic of hot debate and strong feelings. It's also a choice that isn't available to many students anyway so is only relevant to about 10%-15% of parents/students.

All that said today, yet another piece in the press causes me to ask again - given the levels of misogyny in society but also amongst teenage boys wouldn't you choose single sex education for your daughter if you had such a choice available?

Here's today's piece in the Guardian

"Up to 60% of girls and young women aged 13 to 21 report sexual harassment at school or college, according to the Girls’ Attitudes survey."

There is also quite well established research that shows that not only do girls perform better academically in a single sex school environment, they are also more likely to choose maths and science more freely plus there appears to be no damage to their ability to form relationships with men later in life. On top of that they tend to earn more.

Then there is also the perhaps self-perpetuating dominance of single sex schools in the league table, but that's even more narrow a focus.

(leaves the door open and waits for various posters - TP? wink)

TalkinPeace Tue 02-Dec-14 17:51:22

There are lies, damned lies and statistics.

LOTS of girls do Biology and Chemistry and Maths.
Physics is, for some reason, different.

And I'd like to see the data that compared like with like - except there won't be any
because ALL the single sex schools are selective by god, wallet or 11+

18yearstooold Tue 02-Dec-14 18:01:31

Girls can be horrible to each other

Personally I prefer there being boys there to dilute the bitchyness

minipie Tue 02-Dec-14 18:02:17

YY to the data not comparing like with like. I think the data on academic performance and especially on later earnings is unreliable for that reason.

However, based on personal experience, I do think there is a lot less sexual and appearance related pressure/harassment/distraction at a single sex school.

sunnyfrostyday Tue 02-Dec-14 18:09:38

I have boys, and prefer the co-ed route so that they do mix with girls. I might be thinking differently if I had girls.

TalkinPeace Tue 02-Dec-14 20:17:43

I have a child of each.
They are reacting very differently to exactly the same schooling.
Its interesting.

I have several siblings all of whom went to single sex schools, as did I.

Subject choices for girls are a lot more to do with parental expectation than the IoP want to admit.

Sexual harassment at school : have they also studies the harassment of boys, gays, gingers and any other clearly identifiable group?

Teens are nasty bullying smelly things - if you jog their memories they will remember being harassed.

MN164 Tue 02-Dec-14 20:56:23

The data has been normalised. It's worth looking at.

"The dataset used in the current study has important advantages in addressing these
questions. First of all, it allows us to address the issue of comparing like with like.
Single-sex schooling was quite common for this cohort, rather than being the
preserve of a particular social or religious group. In addition, our rich longitudinal data
allows us to control for a wide range of characteristics of the children prior to their
entry to secondary school. Furthermore, rather than just examining attainment within
compulsory schooling, we are able to examine educational attainment at later ages,
in a variety of subject disciplines."

MN164 Tue 02-Dec-14 21:02:14

TP. I have not seen research into other identifiable groups. Given that females are 50% of the population it is worthynof research. On top of that I'm not sure the causes of sexual harassment are likely to focus in "being ginger".

I can't understand why you are flipant and dismissive of the effects of widespread misogyny on adolescent girls. It's real. It happens and it is damaging. Society should be that way but it is.

TalkinPeace Tue 02-Dec-14 21:12:21

the data has been normalised
Yeah right

The two groups studied are now 66 and 44 years old
so not exactly representative of what is happening in school education since 1988

In fact neither group went anywhere what we now consider to be a normal co-ed comp

Page 17 of the report : the participants in the study were asked to remember what they thought of school - recollection is a wonderfully inaccurate method I know, because I post on a lot of diet threads

Page 22 mentions that in the older cohort, many of the women became housewives and many occupations were highly sex segregated - both less likely nowadays

And actually they admit that the different nature of single sex (selective) and co ed (less selective) schools may be the primary driver.

I'll wait for some up to date data.

MN164 Tue 02-Dec-14 21:17:57

See you back here in 40 years then. Its longitudinal data. Depends whether you think much has changed that would affect the results or not. I don't think so much has really changed. Yes there are some mild liberal improvement but nothing major.

TalkinPeace Tue 02-Dec-14 21:24:55

If you look at the proportions attending single sex schools and the assumed outcomes after marriage from the first cohort then yes, lots and lots and lots has changed.

The second cohort were a few years behind me at school - when state co ed schools had not yet adopted setting and streaming and professional teaching qualifications

Neither cohort went through school in the days of live exam data and comparable information about schools let alone blerdy mumsnet

The impressions of school were based on interviews at the age of 42 rather than contemporary research.

I assume that later cohorts are currently being studied :
ideally the 1970 set will be compared with the 1990 birth year who are just finishing University at the moment ...

MN164 Tue 02-Dec-14 22:03:17

I like your rigour.

How many of the changes you cite would affect males and females differentially comparing today to the time of the cohort used?

TalkinPeace Tue 02-Dec-14 22:11:50

--did they warn you I'm an internal controls auditor / numbers pedant in real life--grin

Changes I would anticipate rolling through by the time of the 1990 cohort :

- girls growing up in houses where working mothers are the norm
- sexist attitudes of the 1970's becoming dated and therefore girls being expected to do well
- pedagogy leaping forwards in leaps and bounds to allow different learning styles to benefit
- more state co ed schools bringing uniforms back in which reduce the 'fashion parade' aspect
- greater multimedia and internet exposure to different lifestyles and approaches so children are less constrained by their parents' views

PatriciaHolm Tue 02-Dec-14 22:21:59

We have state, non selective, single sex schools here (epsom) and they both achieve exceptionally well. No idea if anyone has done any long term analysis on them; they have been non-grammar for 40 years.

WellingtonWomble Tue 02-Dec-14 22:24:41

"And I'd like to see the data that compared like with like - except there won't be any
because ALL the single sex schools are selective by god, wallet or 11+"

Oh really? Get your facts right before you spout rubbish like that. Plenty of single sex comprehensives in my area (SW London)

TalkinPeace Tue 02-Dec-14 22:29:39

You have grammar schools in SW London, therefore all schools are NOT comprehensive
not far off it, but where kids are taking the 11+ then there is selection

WellingtonWomble Tue 02-Dec-14 22:37:23

Super selective grammar schools in neighbouring boroughs - which take a handful of kids from my borough. That doesn't make my local schools secondary moderns!

cingolimama Wed 03-Dec-14 09:43:58

TP, I'm afraid Wellington has a point. In my area of Hackney/Islington, there are TWO state non-religious comprehensive girls schools.

MN164 Wed 03-Dec-14 09:50:30


You know I like to kick the tyres ... smile

- girls growing up in houses where working mothers are the norm

Yes, but women continue to be a) paid less, b) work in nurture professions, not "power" professions and c) work considerably more part time.

If there are two parents in the house, it will be mostly clear that the man's work is both more valued and more absorbing and therefore (incorrectly) more "important". This is backed up by the continuing debate and stats on housework amongst working couples (BBC Women's Hour and MN).

- sexist attitudes of the 1970's becoming dated and therefore girls being expected to do well

Yes there has been a lot of positives including legislation, but Everyday Sexism is real, statistically, anecdotally and from personal experience. Men and boys are merely aware of feminism, they are not (except for a minority), feminists at all. Misogyny may be less, but it's still rife in life, including schools.

- pedagogy leaping forwards in leaps and bounds to allow different learning styles to benefit

Show me some stats on rates of uptake of STEM subjects for males/females in co-ed schools vs stats in single sex schools. Then we can discuss this.

- more state co ed schools bringing uniforms back in which reduce the 'fashion parade' aspect

The pressures on boys and girls to conform to consumerist fashions have never been greater. Good news to keep it out of school, but really things have got a lot worse on this front. Check the news and stats on adolescent depression.

- greater multimedia and internet exposure to different lifestyles and approaches so children are less constrained by their parents' views

One word answer to this: Porn.

minipie Wed 03-Dec-14 09:57:12

Talkin Grammar schools in SW London? Nope. Grammars in Surrey, yes (open to a very very few SW london residents who live in selected postcodes and who get in - but we're talking a handful each year).

barcoda Wed 03-Dec-14 10:34:31

i went to a non-selective, comprehensive single sex school in a very non leafy area! It is still there - so not all are selective!

I liked it - I am now paying for my children to have single sex education - my own gut feeling is that it is very beneficial from year 9 onwards.

sunnydaylucy Wed 03-Dec-14 10:36:38

Talkinpeace - with your specified job role you really would think you would check your facts.
Single sex, non-selective, comprehensive is the norm in this town. (But we are "up north" perhaps that is outside your research area).

...and very happy with I am with it too.

TheWordFactory Wed 03-Dec-14 11:16:38

I have a school visit planned tomorrow as part of my work. Single sex, no selective, non faith. Not London.

MN164 Wed 03-Dec-14 11:33:26

I did a quick look at the data on the DoE website.

At the KS4 England level there is a list of about 5,500 schools.

754 are listed as single sex.

Take out "independents" and 440 single sex state schools are left.

Take out "selective admission policy" and 319 are left.

The data set didn't have a "faith" field but a quick look shows probably about 50% are obviously St Faith schools - but that doesn't mean they are necessarily only accepting pupils of their faith.

The boroughs of the schools are listed. It is clear is that vast majority of the state, single sex schools are in London and the Home Counties. Yes, there are a significant number of exceptions but they are in the minority (by some way).

I have some fun poking holes in TP's posts, but I think the claim that single sex schools are the domain of private, faith and the South East is largely valid (in England). Apologies to Scotland, Wales and NI. The data wasn't included.

moonbells Wed 03-Dec-14 13:22:01

As a (deep breath) 40-something 1980s comprehensive state-educated senior (PhD) physicist (who had two years at a mixed secondary school then five at a girls', with neither school religious, selective, in the SE or London) I am fascinated by this discussion.

I can honestly say that when I was at the mixed school, I had nothing but hassle from boys about the fact that I was the only girl who dared speak in science classes or maths, and that they expected me to stop being interested (or a know-it-all, which seems to be the pejorative term for a female who is just doing what the boys did) and sit at the back where all the other girls were. Where to sit in my lessons was a tactical decision most days.

When I transferred at 13, it was a bloody relief. But a double-edged sword nonetheless, as the competition element from the mixed school was gone. I was ferociously competitive at that age, but largely had it knocked out of me at the girls' school since naice young gels didn't do that sort of thing.

Hopefully that aspect has changed now!

Sadly neither of my old schools still exists. The town council had been trying for years to get rid of the pair of single-sex schools in town and finally managed it a couple of years after I left. Thought it elitist! (Lab council). Ironically, when I got to (RG) uni, I discovered that it wasn't nearly as good as I'd believed and most grammar pupils were streets ahead of me even on day 1 (I'm not even going near the indy pupils.). So there's schools and there's schools, regardless of type.

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