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Have we ever had a single-sex v. co-educational debate?

(50 Posts)
fisil Sat 22-May-04 19:23:41

Leaving state v. private out of it, which is better, single-sex or co-educational?

LadyMuck Sun 23-May-04 09:35:03

Not so sure about the single-sex workplaces. Legally of course not, but in practice...dh works in a 80% male environment, with female contingent being mainly administrative staff. Plays golf with male friends, is part of a band with male friends and one female vocalist.

In practice I spend most of my days with other mums. We do socialise with other couples, but say 2 evenings a week? Even then I would tend to have girls nights out as much as couply evenings IYSWIM. The majority of our time out of our home is with members of our own sex.

Schoolwise my school was a "diamond" school - mixed for primary and 6th form but separate buildings 11-16 though on the same site so you still mixed at breaktime and for school plays, music etc. Did like that model. Am currently debating single-sex v mixed for ds at primary level. As we have several boys-only schools in the area it does mean that the "mixed" schools are biased to girls - I looked at one last week which had a class of 14 girls and 4 boys. Ds1 likes other boys, so I feel a bit uncomfortable placing him somewhere with so few boys. But with the state schools it is just the luck of the draw I guess - everything is done on sibling first, then distance, so there is no check as to the mix of the class.

eddm Sun 23-May-04 10:09:09

I went to co-ed schools up to 14, and then to a girls' school for the rest of my education (until university, obviously). Co-ed was fine until high school but after age 11 boys were a nightmare, disruptive, dominated all the classes by misbehaving, teased the girls (and in quite nasty ways, jabbing rulers at you through the holes in the stools in science). May have been the difference between an allegedly 'top' comprehensive and public (and very academic) school but I was so relieved to get to the girls' school, far better experience, able to concentrate on learning. A third of the sixth form went to Oxbridge and almost all the rest went to Russell Group universities. And everyone who wanted too could excel in science, I think it was about 50/50 between science and arts O- and A-levels. I was quite surprised when I got to university to discover my qualifications were seen as so balanced because I had several science as well as arts O-levels and arts and 'hard' social science A-levels. Don't think the girls at the comprehensive had the same opportunities. And none of us have had problems relating to boys. Everyone I know is married or with a partner – there are a handful who came out afterwards but I don't think single-sex education had much to do with it! No teenage pregnancies either...

hercules Sun 23-May-04 10:16:27

Thinking about it perhaps it does depend on the child as well. DHs neices both went to girls schools and the eldest has gone to a girls only University in Canada - well the part where she is is only girls. She is now 22 and never had a boyfriend and is very straight laced, sesible etc. I would presonally rather my daughter be able to let her hair down a bit and have had boyfriends before this age.
I dont know them that all but I would say they both have very limited experience of boys.
I dont think this is typical though of going to a girls school and dh certainly never had any problems mixing with girls. HE has had lots of girls as friends and still does.

Stargazer Sun 23-May-04 10:37:36

Between the ages of 11 - 16 I attended four senior schools (father in the RAF, hence moved a lot). However, it did mean that I have personal experience of all most types of education. I attended mixed secondary, mixed comp, and single-sex grammer. Without any doubt, I my academic performance was best at the grammer school. Was entered for 9 O levels, but moved 6 months before exams to a mixed comp where the teaching was okay, but not stimulating. I ended up taking 3 O levels and a number of CSEs. The mixed schools were great fun - lots of friends of both sexes, but the boys often made comments about the girls and vice versa. The girls seemed to be in competition for the boys' attention and vice versa. Looking back the most positive experience I had about school was at the girls grammer school - the teachers were all very supportive and encouraged us to work hard, we made good friends (without as much bitchiness) and there were close links with the local boys grammer so we had discos, outings, etc - lots of fun. The worst experience were the mixed comps. There was minimal streaming so that a group of us (who found the lessons easy) were bored, and some of the others (who found the lessons hard) were disruptive. The net result were lessons in which no one really learned.

For me I prefer single sex schools. My DD is only 2½ and will obviously be going to a local primary (all mixed) and my DS, 8, is currently out of education because of behavioural difficulties and is having one to one teaching with a home tutor (only 5 hours a week) but he really likes that.

I don't suppose I'll make a firm decision for my children until it's time for them to be at school. I think I'm sitting on the fence for a while

clary Tue 25-May-04 08:44:26

Fisil, interesting thread, I would agree with jampot and nomdeplume that co-ed is best as feel strongly that school is about preparation for life more than getting great results...but interesting to read adverse comments on co-ed from those with experience.
I went to single-sex selective school (still exists with 11+, oh yes) and my experience was that although the girls did well in terms of results (generally better than single-sex boys grammar across town) the massive preference was for english lit at A-level. Hardly anyone did physics/maths etc. Always felt that boys being there might have encouraged more girls into science side but I may be wrong.
Also we were all fascinated by boys and from age 13-14 spent all our lunchtimes in town ogling them etc, in a way which I have always thought we would not if they had been there every day from age 11. Certainly had lots of boys who were friends at primary - not so at secondary. But then that could just have been the old hormones! Very interested to read comments from teachers. But actually, single-sex is not an option in most places, is it?

bloss Tue 25-May-04 08:58:25

Message withdrawn

Hulababy Tue 25-May-04 08:59:07

Don't have much time right now but from research done at the school I worked at, and other education research I think most findings found that single sex works great for girls, but not as good for boys.

Last school did some experiements with single sex lessons within MFL and science. They all found that girl's still out performed the boys in all settings, but boys grades actually started to fall on average.

As for the preparation for life thing - well, the people I know have have done single sex get on just fine with both sexes, certainly as well as people I know from co-ed. So long as children have outside influences to balance I can't see as it matters.

DD has her name down for a single sex girl's prep school then single sex high school). All but one of the private schools in Sheffield are single sex and all do fantastically well. The schools do intergrate a bit though and things like drama are done together - and therefore encourages children to mix with opposite sex.

webmum Tue 25-May-04 10:41:36

Agree completely with Bloss,

as a v. shy child, it wasn't until I went to a school where boys were a small minority (5vs 15 girls), that I really gained confidence and 'blossomed' academically.

Some of you have said about school being more than just about learning things, well, yeas, maybe, but your results at school might affect the rest of your life, if you're in the wrong environment you might get off studying fort he rest of your life and therefore limiting your possibilities right from the start.

As for primary education, I remember at that age I tended to mix with girls only anyway, even if my school was mixed, so it did not make any difference to me having boys at school, apart from the disruption their behaviour caused!

It is also very important to make sure they get enough interaction with boys outside school, of course.

clary Tue 25-May-04 10:53:06

That's a good point you make there Bloss. The physics teacher at my school was not very good at all and chemistry was less than inspired as well. All different now I'm sure. On a lighter note, when we did school plays (I was very keen) the girls had to dress up as boys, paint on moustaches etc. Not very convincing! How we loved going "over" to the boys' school to be the girls in their plays! (the other way about wasn't "allowed" while I was there - very strict head).

Sonnet Tue 25-May-04 10:56:44

I accept I may change my mind when mt 2 dd's get older... but I currently believe in Co-ed but think it depends on the child.
DD1 goes to a co-ed school which was chosen over a girls only school 5 mins away - the reason being that she has played with boys form an early age ( and still does in yr2)and I didn't like the idea of a girls only eduction from age 3 to 18.
DD2 is due to follow DD1 in Septemeber into the nursery class of a co-ed school. Funnily enough DH and I believe that DD2 would thrive at a girls only school - she activly plays with only girls and shows no desire to play with boys.

That said, I can fully beleive that I may be posting on here in a few years time favoring all girls schools!

Soapbox Tue 25-May-04 11:01:23

Co-ed for me. I have friends who went to girls schools then switched to co-ed for their A-levels. They said the difference was amazing. The girls school was all nicey nice whilst the mixed school was much more competitive. One of my friends said the difference was characterised for her by the single sex school cautioning against taking 5 a-levels as she might find it a little too hard and wouldn't it be better to pass 4 with better grades etc etc, whereas the co-ed schools was much more if thats what you want to do - go for it!

In any case I think there is more to life than academic success - I want my DD to be able to slug it out should she choose to go into a male dominated profession, as I have. I don't want her sitting being all nice and sensible whilst the men brag their way to success leaving her behind!!!!

Hulababy Tue 25-May-04 11:14:21

Soapbox - you last statement is something I can comment on recently. Just from experience of a female friend I have. She went to a girl's school from age 4 to 18, got great results and is a very confident woman now. She went to uni in Scotland - obviously co ed but, actualyl because of ehr course it was mainly a male environment. She thrived and got a First, easily competing againsy and confident enough to work with male (and some females) on even pegging. She is not working for City bank in the IT areas ina totally male environment. She is doing fantastically well and treated as an equal. She certainly doesn't sit around being all nice and girly at all. She is just as competitive, hard working and able to get on as much as all the men there.

marialuisa Tue 25-May-04 11:15:51

Well I had a miserable time at a couple of girls' day schools and boarding schools so there are a lot of bad memories there for me. I was a fully-paid up member of the competitive anorexia gang, whilst in these schools. TBH I found being "too" clever/academic a bad thing in all but one of my 12 schools (exception was a co-ed in South-west Wales).

DH was also unimpressed by his single sex senior school, but for different reasons.

We did make ourselves look round an all-girls' school but I have to confess to being quite relieved when he school wasn't right for other reasons. when DD is 11 we're pretty much limited to single-sex in both state and private sectors so that'll be fun. At the moment I suspect DD will cope with all girls much better than i did, but time will tell.

Soapbox Tue 25-May-04 11:18:40

Hulybaby - I probably was generalising a bit too much. All the girls I am talking about are actually amazingly successful in a male dominated world. But... we all feel that we have to work very hard to keep ourselves at the top of the pile. The single sex girls often seem to think they have to work harder than most!

I suppose what I am saying is that if you are genetically competive etc the nurture might not have too bad an impact. If you are not though it could. So I am taking no chances with my little girl. Though strangely enough the genetics appear to be veering towards the competitive side - wonder where she gets that from...

suedonim Tue 25-May-04 13:42:05

I went to a co-ed primary then a girls grammar which became co-ed part-way through my time there. At the time, we all thought it was marvellous that we were going to be a co-ed school but I think in retrospect that I'd have fared better in a single sex environment. While some girls did very well, others like me, who were shy and lacking in confidence, found it hard going with the boys ebullient behaviour eclipsing us. Mind you, we had some weird rules. Although we were a co-ed school, girls and boys had to walk along different roads to and from school, sit in different carriages on the train and even approached the canteen along different paths!!

I don't think dd1 would appreciate an all girls school. She gets on much better with boys than girls and finds girls a bit tiresome at times, though she has a couple of special girlfriends. I don't know whether it's because she has two older brothers that she gets on with the lads - I also had two bros and it didn't help me! - or whether it's because the atmosphere between girls and boys is very different to my day. When I was her age, if you spoke to a boy or vice versa, then that *had* to mean you were boyfriend/girfriend whereas now, it's seen as pretty normal to just be friends.

PS I think ds1 would have flourished in a girls school. The best summer job he ever had was as a companion to a group of Swedish girls attending summer school in a convent!!!

dinosaur Tue 25-May-04 13:44:41

In theory I agree that single sex schools are probably best for girls, but in fact I went to a mixed (comprehensive) school and it didn't hold me back academically and it was generally the girls who were the worse bullies. (I was raped by a older boy who went to the same school, but not on school premises, so don't know if that's relevant.)

jimmychoos Tue 25-May-04 13:59:12

Dinosaur How awful

I went to a girls grammar. I loved it and still have a group of friends I met there. I hated my last year in primary - all the boys picked on me and another girl who were the most academic in our class - it got to the point where I wouldn't put my hand up in class. It retrospect i think their attitude was it wasn't right for girls to be cleverer than boys or to know the answers. So it was a relief to be with other 'clever girls' IYKWIM.

My feelings now are mixed. I think I came out of single sex ed with a good education but no idea how to talk to or get on with my male peers. My group of friends never socialised with boys our own age from the boys school connected to ours - we found them silly and immature, and few of us had older brothers either. We all went out with much older men (20+) from the age of 14 or so. I think if I'd been at a co-ed I would have had a much healthier attitude to the opposite sex and had some better, more equal teenage relationships too.

hatter Tue 25-May-04 14:05:28

Have only flicked through the other posts but wanted to add my bit. Soapbox - the impact of single sex varies with the school and the individual. I went to an all-girls school (in Sheffield, actually Hulababy) and it certainly didn't turn out any nicey nicey girls. What it did do is turn out girls who had absolutely no gender-related doubts about their abilities and their potential. It never occured to any of us that our gender was even an issue - and I think turning out people like that into universities and the work place is a very good way of tackling the issues, IYSWIM.

However - I also think that it's important for both sexes to interact. I was lucky in having a social circle outside school that involved plenty of boys, as well as brothers, and as well as going co-ed at infants. If I sent my girls to a single sex school I would make a real effort to facilitate that.

On a slightly different angle - I saw/read something about a school where they paired girls and boys in the classroom to sit together and work on projects together and apparently it had really good results. Boys muck about with boys and girls gossip with girls (not that I'm generalising or anything). Also girls and boys sometimes learn in different ways and pairing them in this way cut out the mucking about and gossiping and got them helping each other and playing to each others strengths.

bloss Tue 25-May-04 14:28:07

Message withdrawn

hatter Tue 25-May-04 16:31:24

Bloss - good points - I guess I was drawing on my own positive experience but your similar but different experience just goes to show that it's an issue where you can't make any blanket assumptions - everyone's different, every school's different.

Cam Tue 25-May-04 17:29:36

Yes, I tend to agree with all Bloss's points as to why; plus I went to co-ed grammar and didn't do as well academically as I should have done due to being distracted by boys (as in interested in them)from about age 13. I proved myself later academically though (at A level college and university). Dd1 went to all-girls from 13 -16 and achieved full potential at GCSE. Dd2 aged 7(at private co-ed prep)says that she wants to go to co-ed senior school "or I won't have a boyfriend" (what are today's 7 year olds like? Also, a good reason not to go co-ed IME!) The best private senior school in my area is all-girls, so we will see in a few years time...

AussieSim Tue 25-May-04 17:47:36

I'm with Cam, single sex for girls, co-ed for boys.

I went to all-girls. I think it was better for our self-esteem, less distractions generally, friendships could blossom between the girls without competition for boy attention getting in the way, enabled us to focus on subjects that boys are usually better at, we could be silly without worrying that a boy might see us etc etc etc ad nauseum.

I am reading Hilary Clinton's Autobio at the moment and she went to a co-ed highschool but a single sex college - obviously before our time, but she makes some really good points. Will expand if people are interested.

Hulababy Tue 25-May-04 17:59:37

hatter - can you say which one? Obviously know you may prefer not too. DD is down for Ashdell, followed by Sheffield High (or secondary)

hatter Tue 25-May-04 20:02:52

Hi Hulababy

I was at SHS from 8-18 and I sing its praises (although I am, in principle opposed to private ed but that's another thread). But for some girls I know it wasn't right. It was good if you were bright. But there were some very intelligent girls there who were made to feel very average because the overall standard was high iyswim. I very nearly went off the rails for all sorts of reasons and at the same time my fees didn't get paid - but the head at the time wanted to keep me there so I stayed - even withthe fees situation. Of course such things may have changed since my day.

Hulababy Tue 25-May-04 20:51:27

My friend went to SHS too and was overall pleased with it. I got the impression that it is very academically orientated so have Brantwood as our back up - for secondary phase - if DD doesn't look that wya inclined. It's also one of the reasons we choose Ashdell to start her off at too.

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