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I think I might be against any form of single sex education

(32 Posts)
pasturesnew Wed 16-Sep-09 17:53:38

It seems weird to me that round here both state & private school provision, esp. at secondary school level, is separated along gender lines.

You can't separate schools along racial lines, for example, so why is separation on gender lines OK? Is it because in practice both boys and girls appear to do better academically in single sex schools? If girls did worse in girls-only schools I assume these would be illegal by now.

Even where separation is allowed on religious lines in principle (at least in state provision, I think) places have to be available to children who are not of that religion although in practice I appreciate such "spare places" may not be available.

Similar segregation in the workplace would be illegal.

I see a lot of debate and discussion on mumsnet about the religious criteria for various schools but have not seen much debate on gender.

As families are smaller these days and may also be headed by single parents with less extended family involvement, it is less likely that children will have the experience of growing up with both mothers and fathers, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters, male and female cousins etc. So it is possible that children attending single sex schools may not have many opportunities to develop relationships with members of the opposite sex outside school.

I think that various social research has shown that it is good for people's adult relationships to have more experience with the opposite sex. I know that recruitment of male primary school teachers is desirable, for example.

I am not sure it is good for children's social education for them to be segregated in this way even if the academic results might be better.

I wonder if in the future this practice may seem completely weird and old-fashioned and eventually be made illegal.

What do other people think?

janeite Wed 16-Sep-09 18:02:25

I thought I was against it but both dds have ended up in a girls' school and tbh we are really pleased about it now.

It may well mean that they have fewer opportunities to meet boys (in fact the only teenage boys they know are those who were friends at primary school, or the sons of our friends) but actually, we're not worried about that, as it means they are not distracted by the whole 'going out with' thing that friends' children in mixed schools are doing. I must admit it makes me feel a bit 'icky' to hear 13 year old girls talking about their 'boyfriend' etc and I think we're well out of it! There's plenty of time later for all that.

Having said that, as a teacher, if I had to teach in a single sex school, I would far rather teach boys!

KembleTwins Wed 16-Sep-09 18:10:07

I agree with you janeite as far as teaching goes! I have taught in a (state) boys' school in London and really enjoyed it! They started letting girls in when I was there, but there were only a few in Yrs 7, 8 & 9 and none in 10 & 11. I much preferred the all-boy groups. In my first school, we did an experiment with Yr 8 (English dept) to see if it made a difference separating the kids into single sex classes. It did - they all did better, and the girls considerably so. For Yr 8 English, it made the choice of material so much easier, and, to an extent, the activities we did. It was an interesting experiment, but not one which was rolled out across the whole school.

As a teenager, I had friends who went to single sex schools, and thought it was odd. I was much more confident having normal conversations with boys than my girls' school friends were. However, I have daughters (only 3 yrs old at the mo) and would definitely consider it for secondary - we do have a couple of all-girl state schools. That said, I'm not sure I'd want them to be in an all girl school if they turn out to be less than average academically. I've taught girls in the sixth form at a co-ed school who came from an all girls school (all state) and they said it was very bitchy. The local girls' grammar, though, has a nicer reputation. Perhaps naively (um spelling?) I presume they're too busy being academic high fliers to bitch about hairstyles...

pasturesnew Wed 16-Sep-09 18:10:55

Do you think that mixed schools = inappropriately early romantic relationships then?

I was hoping mixed school = mixed group of mates and opportunity to problem-solve in mixed teams in lessons?

What about the "convent girl" phenomenon of single sex ed girls going out and gunning for sex, drink, drugs etc. - does this really exist?

FWIW I enjoyed my mixed comp but had 3 brothers at same school and 3 male cousins we spent a lot of time with at weekends. So not sure my experience of mixed group of schoolfriends reflects mixed school more or family relationships.

pagwatch Wed 16-Sep-09 18:18:42

My DS1 was at a mixed school until he became so unhappy we agreed to move him.
He went for a single sex school. He is much much happier there. He is now 16. He has a girlfriend, loads of female friends. The school mix with local girls school for some languages and drama etc. It works brilliantly.

I have also chosen single sex for my DD.

I suspect that some convent girls go off the rails but I am not sure how many virgins are spilling out of the mixed schools? The notion that children entering a single sex school have no exposure to the opposite sex is nonsense.

I think your premis is based on something you have not experienced and i think my sons happiness is far more important to me than somone elses notion of what is weird.

Hulababy Wed 16-Sep-09 18:29:19

The whole single sex thing meaning no interaction with opposite sex is not IMO true.

Very few children IME only have peers from their school environment alone. Most mix with other children, of differing genders through siblings, family, friends of family, extra curricular clubs, in their neighbourhood, etc.

Also many single sex schools have links wwith ther schools of the opposite sex, and team up for parties, school drama, etc.

My DD is at a single sex primary school and is very likely to go onto single sex secondary. So far we are more than happy. It certainly has no negative affect on her ability to mix with boys on a normal level!

pasturesnew Wed 16-Sep-09 18:36:11

Thanks, useful and informative posts.

I know in practice lots of people like it but I still find the principle odd, mainly because no workplace would be expressly single sex.

Am all for educational choice I suppose so that conflicts with my idea that single sex education might one day become illegal.

It still just confuses me that it seems to be becoming increasingly the norm at school when the old single sex colleges at Oxford and Cambridge etc. are becoming mixed.

primarymum Wed 16-Sep-09 18:37:07

We have no choice! In the town where I live the two grammar schools are single sex as are the two secondary schools. There is no mixing until the 6th Form!

pasturesnew Wed 16-Sep-09 18:39:18

So if you have a DD and DS in secondary school then you have to send them off in diff directions each morning, presumably that is annoying.

pagwatch Wed 16-Sep-09 18:42:10

DS's school is about 200 meters from our house and DDs school is about a 15 minute walk.
And actually DS1 walks DD to school some mornings. He claims that aged 16 he has decided to be helpful but I can't help but observe that it has coincided with his dating a girl at DDs school

pasturesnew Wed 16-Sep-09 18:43:41

That's still nice of him! I suppose a lot of single sex schools are "twinned", thinking about it some more.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Wed 16-Sep-09 18:46:51

I used to think single-sex schooling was Bad, but recent stuff I've read suggests that boys and girls learn differently (and so need different types of learning experience.) Girls in single-sex schools do better at tradionally "male" subjects like maths and science, boys educated with boys are better at English and drama - girly subjects.

However, I don't think they need to be in separate schools to achieve this, just separate classes. They could still mix at break and lunchtimes.

campion Wed 16-Sep-09 18:54:27

Come round to our school any breaktime or lunchtime, pastursenew, and you will find that the carefully segregated sexes ( 2 separate schools but adjacent) interact rather well!wink

It's not directly comparable to the workplace as the pupils are not there for monetary gain. They are there to get the most out of an education for their own good, not something they can repeat. Some parents happen to think that a single sex school will do this well and some parents ( probably the majority) choose a school because it is successful and has much to offer their child.
The fact that that school is single sex may, or may not, be relevant.

It does make girls' schools more civilised though!grin

fircone Wed 16-Sep-09 18:59:51

I went to a girls' school. We were all boy mad. When we had joint events with the boys' school the poor boys were dead meat.

HopeForTheBestExpectTheWorst Wed 16-Sep-09 19:16:32

I went to girls' grammar school, and I think it was absolutely, without any doubt whatsoever, the best thing that ever happened to me.

There was, of course, a certain amount of bitching (as there always will be with girls), and yes, some did get very boy obsessed at a certain age. However, for the most part, not having boys there fostered a very friendly, all-equal and non-judgemental atmosphere which I really benefited from. I am extremely tall, and I would have, I'm sure, had a horrible time at a mixed school. As it was, my height was completely irrelevant during school hours, I was friends with a real mix of girls (including some who I am sure would have been too "popular" for me in a mixed school), and these friendships gave me real confidence so that when we did mix with boys outside of school, it all went rather well wink.

I suppose what I'm really trying to say is that being in an all girls environment just let me be me.

I guess it does depend on the individual school, though.

Oh, and <suddenly realising this may be relevant> we all did ok academically, too wink

piscesmoon Wed 16-Sep-09 19:17:07

I went to both and preferred the mixed-it was much more relaxed and boys were just friends that we grew up with. I changed to all girls at 16yrs and they were all sex mad!

pagwatch Wed 16-Sep-09 19:29:37

I went to a mixed school. All the girls there were sex mad too. I don't know anyone who wentthrough their school years without having relationships with boys at school. Of course some were mates but they were also potential and current and ex boyfriends.
To suggest that at mixed schools all the kids wander round just being cool indifferent mates is a nice yarn but...
It certainly doesn't explain the couple of pregnancies amongst my peers at my school.

My sister were at a convent school. They were not sex mad.
I don't think having maths away from boys miraculously trebles your libido and turns you into a wanton lust bucket. I think that is a much loved tale born of porn. The tend to have pillow fights in their knickers too don't they....

MrsBartlet Wed 16-Sep-09 19:51:03

Dd goes to a girls grammar and I haven't noticed anymore bitchiness there than at the mixed comp which I attended. The girls are generally very supportive of one another with the older girls encouraging the younger ones in a way which I can't imagine them doing if they were worried about looking cool in front of the boys.

She mixes with boys at school discos organised with the boys grammar across the road and also on the bus. She goes to school on a public bus (as opposed to a school bus) and there are a load of them who have all made friends, boys and girls, from the various differnt schools along the bus route (not just the grammars.)

Socially she is fine with boys but crucially from our point of view, they are not in her lessons being a distraction.

bamboobutton Wed 16-Sep-09 19:55:32

i can think of quite a few work places that are predominantly single sex.


oil rigs
deep sea fishing
diamond mining


err.. beauty therapy?


Effjay Wed 16-Sep-09 20:14:41

I would not send my kids to a single sex school. I know of a family locally where all three boys will have been sent to an all boys school from the age of 3 until they are 18. The only female they will have any meaningful experience with will be their mother, until they perhaps have a girlfriend in their teenage years. I think they are missing out on a whole area of their social development. No matter what the academic standards, we've still got to learn to relate to each other. Men and women relate differently to each other than men to men, or women to women. I would hate to be in a all female work environment and, I must admit, would have hated an all girls school. However, having read all these posts you've changed my mind a bit as I can see it is a positive experience for some.

pasturesnew Wed 16-Sep-09 20:18:01

I know a lot of workplaces are single sex in practice but there is not the legal exclusivity. Is it ever legal to only employ a woman or a man - I don't know now, I thought it wasn't but now I am wondering if that assumption is correct.

I don't believe that mixed schools = no sex interest as secondary schools are after all full of teenagers, just that's not the only context in which the other sex is viewed. But pagwatch you make a good point about male mates in a girls' school being potential boyfs etc.

I am not sure if the fact that the children are not in school to make money is relevant. Golf clubs, for example, are arguably leisure clubs rather than business clubs so again not for profit by members, but before various equality legislation was introduced many such clubs did exclude members on the basis of race. So why is sex different?

It is the principle I think I am struggling with more than the practice.

pasturesnew Wed 16-Sep-09 20:28:50

Also interesting to read about different sexes possibly learning in different ways so the best educational provision for girls in science and boys in English might be single sex.

Maybe it is OK in principle so long as there are equal no.s of single sex educational establishments for boys and girls so the balance is maintained?

Also I am learning from this thread that boys & girls schools mix formally more than I realised was the norm, I suppose my ideas of single sex schools have been somewhat influenced by the idea of boarding schools but that is obviously a different debate entirely.

Georgimama Wed 16-Sep-09 20:37:29

I went to a girls' school and I loved it. Didn't stop any of us having (inappropriate? maybe) romantic relationships with boys. On the other hand I completely reject the idea that separating boys and girls means they only view each other as potential love interests. I had brothers, plenty of my friends had brothers, boys at boys' schools had sisters, all bringing their friends home - plenty of perfectly normal interaction going on. I do think that 1) girls and boys learn differently 2) being separated for lessons focusses children on lessons during those lessons.

The (private) school we are considering sending DS to has a "diamond" shape approach - co-ed prep school, separate lessons from year 7 to 11 and co-ed sixth form. Sounds pretty good to me.

hercules1 Wed 16-Sep-09 20:40:06

I would only send mine to a single sex secondary school and I speak as a secondary teacher. Ds (13) has stacks of friends who are girls who he sees on a weekly basis socially.

Georgimama Wed 16-Sep-09 20:44:06

Oh yes, I did go to co-ed primaries.

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