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Did I just go round the 3 schools that exhibit this characteristic by pure fluke or is the private prep school system really biased towards boys and the girls are just added as an afterthought?

(31 Posts)
Miggsie Fri 05-Jun-09 11:17:05

After looking at 3 private prep schools locally (co-ed) with a view to entering DD at age 7, I came away with the distinct impression that the schools were geared up towards boys education and the girls were just an add on that they used to keep the numbers up.
One of the schools is so sought after parents put their kids down for recption at age 6 months to get a place!

A friend commented that as the schools had boys up to age 13 and girls to age 11 they always favoured the boys as they had them at the school for longer.
I counted the class numbers and the general class size was 20 with 8 or 9 girls max in each class.
One school admitted they took more boys as they had to make the last 2 years financially viable.

Boys got to play cricket, rugby and football and do martial arts while girls got to do rounders, and in one school they also got netball!
Apparently one girl once was in the cricket team.

And it isn't just me being hyper sensitive, the first thing DH said after we had the tour was "it seems to be set up for boys".
Engineering club: all boys.
Chess club: all boys
School photos showing activities: ones showing boys ratio to those showing girls about 5:1.

Have I just had the misfortune to look at the 3 prep schools who are biased in this way or has anyone else experienced this?

giantkatestacks Fri 05-Jun-09 11:25:21

Why do you want a co-ed school out of interest and not a girls school? she will presumably be going to a girls ind secondary wont she?

Miggsie Fri 05-Jun-09 12:19:05

I did not think going to a girls school from age 7 would be a good idea..however I may be revising that opinion!

My worry was as an only child DD would be better off co-ed for a while.
I'm happy to send her to a girl's school from age 11 as we have a really good one nearby.

Interestingly the education advisor in the co-ed prep sent her daughter to a girl's school so maybe that should give me a clue.

BonsoirAnna Fri 05-Jun-09 12:26:20

I think that properly co-ed prep schools do exist, but that since most prep schools were single-sex once upon a time, many of them have an inbuilt gender bias.

My DD, who is only 4.7, watches her DVD of A Little Princess longingly and says "Mummy, I want to go to a school with no boys". And then, as an afterthought "But with no beds, either!"

Pollyanna Fri 05-Jun-09 12:31:06

where I live there are several all girls schools, but not many co-ed schools (and no all boy schools) this has meant that the co-ed schools do seem to have more boys. I weighed this up, and for my dd decided that a co-ed was best - at least in primary.

pigswithfludontfly Fri 05-Jun-09 12:36:00

Did the schools used to be all boys?
The one I went to admitted girls just a few years before I started and there was certainly a bias towards boys' stuff especially for the first few years of my time there.

aintnomountainhighenough Fri 05-Jun-09 12:37:02

My DDs school isn't like this and the other co-ed we looked at wasn't either. However I am not sure whether they started out co-ed or not. I definitely think that it is important to look for a good balance of girls and boys. I also agree reference the sports, your first school sounds very biaised - whatever happened to hockey!

I would keep looking until you find one that gives the balance you like.

bran Fri 05-Jun-09 12:37:16

I've found that independent schools (I haven't visited any prep schools) are generally more girl-oriented. We had to withdraw DS from his school last October for a number of reasons, but had he been an average girl or a very studious and quiet boy he would have been ok. This was despite the classes being boy-dominated as there is a really weird ratio between the sexes in our area in his age group.

I went to an all-girl primary school and it was better than co-ed IMO because boys tend to shout down the girls [wild generalisation alert]. Mixed secondary is better than single-sex though (again in my personal experience).

happywomble Fri 05-Jun-09 12:42:12

I think it is due partly due to there being more all girls schools as pollyanna says.

Possibly there are also more boys who are less happy at state primaries and get moved to private schools.

The co-ed private schools I have experienced have all had much larger numbers of boys.

Whereas the co-ed state primaries have at least as many girls and possibly more.

CMOTdibbler Fri 05-Jun-09 12:44:48

Certainly in our area there are a few all girls schools, and no all boys schools - so the co-ed are a little boy heavy.

We did look round one newly co-ed school where it was girls plus 5 boys !

ZZZen Fri 05-Jun-09 12:46:39

I would certainly look at all girls schools rather than take any of those 3 you viewed. I attended an all girls primary (two in fact) and they were fine but you need to get the feel ofthe individual school.

giantkatestacks Fri 05-Jun-09 12:46:42

I think the sport issue is always going to be tricky as you would presumably need female sports teachers to take girls for PE and therefore the school would have to double up in the PE dept - the male and female teachers skillsets vary so much in terms of team sports - though the way to get round this would be for the school to play both cricket and hockey and to do athletics - if this wasnt being addressed it would raise warning bells with me.

The girls would still miss out on gymnastics though presumably - something very strong in the girls' school near me.

Miggsie Fri 05-Jun-09 12:56:30

The schools very also very set up to send the girls on to girl's schools and the boys onto boy's schools.
Maybe that's just my bit of West London?

Any recommendations for West London good private school for a girl?...the nearest Girl's School is Lady Eleanor Holles...but I was hoping for co-ed. Being in a single sex environment from 7 - 18...I'm not sure that's the best way to go.

The sports thing really annoyed me as DD is very active. The head teachers response was that once she went on from their school we should look at it then and "Roedean have their own cricket team". Oh, yes of course, DD must go to Roedean!

hedgiemum Fri 05-Jun-09 13:06:12

Go and look at all the girls schools that you can - there is such a "gut feeling" aspect to finding the right school. I thought I'd be choosing the local co-ed independent but instinctively liked the Girls Prep much more, which was surprising but just one of those things, I guess. I'm very happy with our choice. They have a brother school that they do quite a bit with.

Interestingly, looking around again for DS, I was much more attracted to the co-ed independents for him than the all-boys prep, so I think you're probably right in feeling that they are more geared up for boys.

mistlethrush Fri 05-Jun-09 13:06:16

Ds has just started in nursery at Co-ed private. Its only recently gone co-ed, being the two single sex schools merged - although in the senior school all main lessons are taught in single sex lessons. In his class boys defintely outnumber girls, but possibly this is because the state system doesn't do as well for boys as girls?

As for sports - in the junior school they all do them - including martial arts which they can start in year one and seems to have a 50/50 ish mix in. I think probably the only thing that is girl dominated is the ballet lessons - which ds distainfully told me 'was for girls', even though we've never suggested anything along these lines grin

janinlondon Fri 05-Jun-09 13:25:43

Am I right in thinking the three schools you looked at are not academically selective (you mentioned people putting names down at six months)? You may find a different situation in the schools that are?

pagwatch Fri 05-Jun-09 13:32:06

FWIW we pulled Ds1 out of a co ed private school in Surrey because it was great for girls and really really crap for boys (and my son loathed it and wanted to go to a boys school)

Miggsie Fri 05-Jun-09 13:44:58 this was academically selctive at 7.
That's why people fought to get in non selectively at 4.

thedolly Fri 05-Jun-09 13:45:45

I agree with BonsoirAnna about the in-built gender bias. It is highly likely that the schools you visited were 'all boys' at some stage in their history.

The school that my children attend has been co-ed for about 40 years and as far as I can see, that bias has now gone.

Girls do hockey,netball,rounders,swimming,athletics,tennis

Boys do hockey,rugby,cricket,swimming,athletics,tennis

and both play informal basketball at breaktimes.

Given the choice between a co-ed that seemed geared up for boys and an all girls school I would be tempted to go down the all girls route too, even though like you Miggsie I would prefer to leave the all girls option until later.

In our pre-prep mistlethrush both boys and girls do ballet.

Litchick Fri 05-Jun-09 14:29:35

My twins (mixed sex) attend a co-d indie school. It did used to be a boys school and there are still more boys than girls - about 12/8 per class.
Due to the way secondary schools around here operate most of the girls, and I mean 90%, leave at 11. Thus the two top forms are very male orientated.
I have a very active tom boy so it has suited DD as much as DS. There are designated games staff for boys and girls so netball, hockey,lacrosse, rounders, athletics and swimming are all taught to the girls. Plus PE for all. Tennis for all.
You do have to keep an eye on things, though, and remind the school if you feel things are getting out of kilter at all eg sports tours for boys but not girls. They are very aware so usually fall over themselves to redress.
That said, I wouldn't keep DD there after year 6 when there will be so few girls left.

mistlethrush Fri 05-Jun-09 14:37:22

thedolly - that's the way it should be - not sure where ds got his pov from grin

missmem Fri 05-Jun-09 14:40:56

Remember reading statistics once that parents with daughter tend to send their girls to state primaries then independent senior schools compared to parents with boys. Another statistic showed that more people worry about boys and would pay for them to go private rather than daughters.

I am not saying this is right or wrong!

Also most boys schools have become co-ed whereas most girls schools have remained single sex so the co-ed schools will be boy heavy due to numbers.

giantkatestacks Fri 05-Jun-09 15:06:25

Its a practical thing as well though - because most girls indy schools are 11+ entry they can go to state and then transfer - with boys its different because of the 13+ entry...

scienceteacher Fri 05-Jun-09 17:40:02


I don't that prep schools as a whole show a bias, but if you look at individual schools you may see one.

A lot depends on the history of the school (eg if it was boys-only at one time), and the competition (ie if there girls' schools in the area that are scooping up many of the girls, without a corresponding number of boys-only schools).

I think boys may also be better at signing up for clubs than girls (and then go on to put the girls off by their exhuberance), which is why there aren't girls in the chess and engineering clubs.

As for sports teams, some schools will have girls do netball for two terms, but rugby one term and football the other, with cricket/rounders in the summer. This means that boys automatically get an extra major sports team.

fembear Fri 05-Jun-09 17:44:13

I think that the local secondary schools have an influence.
DS went to a mixed prep school. It was fairly even up to Y3, which is when people start to think about senior school. The parents of able kids were happy to leave them there to fight for selective places at 11+. However, the parents of less able girls moved them to the prep of the (further away) all-girls school. There was no equivalent through-school for the boys, so the boys stayed put.

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