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Aspiegirl: better single-sex or co-ed?

(25 Posts)
ApplesAreNotTheOnlyJam Thu 15-Jan-15 19:46:46

Single-sex is currently first choice - because that was DDs favourite - and because it had a slightly 'sheltered' feel - probably because there is an element of self-selection in the kinds of families that choose single-sex education or prefer co-ed. On paper - there is nothing to choose between the two.

I'm having doubts because Y6 has been a constant stream of friendship issues at DDs current (single sex school). It's very low level cattiness - but it's made me worried that it's a harbinger of what life in a single sex senior school will be like.

DD has many Aspie traits - does not 'get' make up/fashion/gossip - struggles with social complexities (but does great with 'loyal' friends) - is shy and nerdy.

I'd rationalised to myself that the co-ed would have more pressure to mature earlier (the DC there seemed more worldly and cooler than at the single-sex school) - but now I'm starting to view it from the opposite angle - that in a single sex she won't have the opportunity to have male friends - so no escape if the girl-friendships become intense and toxic.

Does anyone have any experience of this?

ApplesAreNotTheOnlyJam Thu 15-Jan-15 20:28:50

<little bump>

Quitethewoodsman Thu 15-Jan-15 20:30:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ApplesAreNotTheOnlyJam Thu 15-Jan-15 20:35:33

You think? I would have thought the opposite - girls and boys mix more freely until the hormones hit in Y9 - and then they separate until they become human again post-16.

badRoly Thu 15-Jan-15 20:36:28

In contrast to Quite's post, my 13yo dd (now yr9) started secondary with her best friend who was a boy.

I suspect she and her mixed sex friendship group are an exception though. Interestingly, ALL of the girls and boys in the group have opposite sexed siblings so perhaps see no mystery in the opposite sex and are comfortable around them?

ApplesAreNotTheOnlyJam Thu 15-Jan-15 20:47:24

I remember Y8 being grim for my (all girl) friendship group when I was in (co-ed) school - lots and lots of eating disorders/anxiety disorders/mystery illnesses - and the first traces of self-harm and risk-taking behaviour. I do remember chatting to boys when the hysteria all became too much - although it wouldn't have been the thing to get too chummy with someone of opposite gender.

However - starting in Y9/Y10 - there were aspects of predatory behaviour - 'hot-or-not' lists, photos circulated etc - that I can only imagine will be worse in the era of social media - although the boys kept their sense of humour much better through GCSE exams.

I see my DD as potentially a bit socially vulnerable - she's already having some pretty epic meltdowns when she feels confused by her friends' behaviour - and I'm braced for teen years being hard for her as she establishes her identity.

TheFirstOfHerName Thu 15-Jan-15 20:48:03

DD has many Aspergic traits (AS runs in our family so not that surprising). We have put a single sex school as first choice. There are a lot of quirky/geeky girls there and they offer activities that fit in with her interests, plus she felt safe there.

We have put mixed schools as second and third choices.

TheFirstOfHerName Thu 15-Jan-15 20:49:28

She has three brothers and attends three different youth groups, so there will be plenty of male company available.

Quitethewoodsman Thu 15-Jan-15 20:54:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ApplesAreNotTheOnlyJam Thu 15-Jan-15 21:03:26

'Safe' is a good description of the feeling of single-sex school.

At the risk of stereotyping - the single-sex school is favoured by Asian parents and generally over-protective parents - and most of the girls look like they have 9pm curfews. The co-ed is on a par academically - but is also known to have several thriving pot distribution businesses - apparently run by stockbrokers sons.

The intensity of the friendship fallings out have thrown me this year - DD has been in tears/meltdown several times most weeks - but maybe the larger community of a secondary school will reduce the co-dependence on toxic friendships.

Quitethewoodsman Thu 15-Jan-15 21:05:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ApplesAreNotTheOnlyJam Thu 15-Jan-15 21:11:39

She does have brothers - and generally has always found it easy to maintain male friendships in and out of school - due to her beguiling combination of wearing the funkiest dress and then climbing the highest tree .

Tzibeleh Thu 15-Jan-15 21:12:09

My experience as an Aspie-traits girl in a single-sex secondary led me to be prejudiced against single-sex secondary for my Aspie-traits dd. Dd and I are very similar to the OP's dd.

I did look at the outstanding girls' comp, and felt like I was back in my old school. I think dd would have the same difficulties I had. Not the least of which was struggling with opposite sex friendships/relationships. Despite having a brother and going to mixed youth groups.

Dd is very happy in Y7 in a mixed comp. She had a rocky start, socially, but was well-supported by the school. She has a female BFF and a small circle of friends, including some boys. None of her friends are the trendy in-crowd; some are geeky, some girlie, some tom-boys.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Thu 15-Jan-15 21:39:07

I don't think single sex/ mixed is as important as the pastoral support the school offers. Either way, you need to know that the safety net is there, provided for her by the school.

seimum Thu 15-Jan-15 22:59:54

DD1 had Aspie traits.
At her mixed secondary school, the friends she made were all (geeky) boys. She would take part in 'boys' activities like chess/computer club
She felt she had no common interests with the girls.
Her uni friends were also all boys (as far as I know)- but then she did study physics!
So I would favour a mixed school, based on my DDs experience.
But I agree with shipwrecked that pastoral care and a general culture in the school of acceptance/being nice is most important.

18yearstooold Fri 16-Jan-15 09:11:49

I picked a co-ed school for dd

She cannot read girls at all and finds all the politics that come with girl friendships completely baffling and sometimes completely overwhelming

Most of her friends now are boys and she regularly is the only girl when then they go out and about

She is no longer friends with any of the girls from primary but has a couple of girl friends who are very similar to her

ApplesAreNotTheOnlyJam Fri 16-Jan-15 10:08:22

Seems a lot of votes for co-ed...? Do the friendships go sour once hormones hit? I can see her not coping AT ALL with even very low level sexual harassment - although of course maybe she'll mature by then.

Pastoral - the single sex has a good reputation locally for getting the best out of every girl - and being surprisingly warm under the formal exterior. I tried to learn more about pastoral care on the open day, though, and came off none the wiser. The upshot seemed to be that they had a form tutor and the form tutor kept an eye out hmm .

The co-ed open day was more frantic - and I didn't get a chance to really speak to any senior staff. Our guide said that teachers were very kind when she had problems - and it was picked up and support was put in place when her grades slipped.

I find it hard to ask the right questions. It's hard to articulate what I expect. Educationally she is very strong - but when she's not comfortable things can escalate quite quickly into hysterical meltdowns and total withdrawal.

She's at her current (small, private all girls) school after basically becoming a school-refuser at her previous (large, state, a bit under-ambitious co-ed) primary. Apart from the recent spate of friendship issues - the move was very successful for her.

She regained her motivation with the academically more demanding curriculum - and the school have worked with her quirks. I know her (very experienced) class teacher met with other adults DD had contact with - and agreed behaviour management strategy (i.e. what is considered OK for DD, and what is not) - and it's really helped DD to feel safe and grow into her own, rather than just be a caricatured collection of tics. But the help she was offered totally depended on a very empathic class teacher taking initiative - and I'm not sure how to identify that in a secondary school .

MyCatsRule Fri 16-Jan-15 10:41:17

I would second the comment to look at the pastoral care of the school rather than whether it is co-ed or single sex. My Aspie dd is in year 7 at a huge co-ed comp, which we chose over a much smaller, selective girls school. Before we looked around the schools, we were dead set on the latter - we thought that it would be cosier, smaller, and she wouldn't be an anonymous face. However, the pastoral care at the co-ed is fantastic. Also the ASD support is much better as there are more kids so more resources. The school is big, but divided up into bands, tutor groups etc so it doesn't feel it. Her friends might be girls, but she enjoys sitting next to and working with boys in lessons. Also, she says 'anything goes' as a big school means so many different styles, personalities etc. She isn't the only quirky one! We felt at the girls only school there was a bigger cohort of cliquey girls and more pressure to fit in.

catslife Fri 16-Jan-15 13:16:31

I would say that given your dds history putting the school where she felt most comfortable was probably the right decision. At the end of the day, the rest of us haven't had a chance to view both of these 2 particular schools, and the most important thing is usually is this the right school for my child rather than whether it is single sex or co-ed.
At the end of the day why not wait until allocation day and see which school she is allocated. Then you can find out how this school will help your daughter settle in and meet her educational and social needs. It sounds as if you would be happy with either school but perhaps your daughter would still feel best about school 1.

Cocolepew Fri 16-Jan-15 13:23:16

DD went to co-ed and found it fine, the boys no more annoyed her than they do DD2 who isn't Aspie. She had friends who were boys from first year, not all of them are annoying!
She has had to move to do her A levels to an all girl school and loves it but I don't think she would have preferred it for her first 5 years.

titchy Fri 16-Jan-15 14:22:22

No experience of an Aspie, however.... ds, year 9, is in a friendship circle of about 10 boys, and an Aspie girl. The boys just accept her as one of their friends - she has the same interests as they do, but doesn't seem to share interests with any girls. So although yes girls and boys generally don't hang around together in years 7-9, it's more due to what they like doing, not due to their gender so much.

And IME as woodsman says, girls and boys tend to mix more as they get older, so year 10 and 11 they're all friends! Girl hormones are pretty rife in years 7 and 8, boys year 8 and 9. Once they';re in year 10 they've both pretty much the same hormone wise!

ZebraGiraffe Sat 17-Jan-15 11:02:23

At DDs all-girls very academic school there was a fairly large (15-20 out of a year group of 100) 'geeky' girls group who weren't bothered about makeup and were very accepting.
I think girls' schools tend to have cliquey year groups but DD liked this - she had a very solid group of friends, she knew that was who she belonged with and was happy to be around (but did have other friends from other 'groups' and there was lots of changes to the groups over the years). Her friends were scarily similar to her - in a good way. All-girls meant there were more girls to choose from and so they made much firmer friendships with girls they really clicked with.
By sixth form the different groups seemed to have paired up with similar groups from the nearby boys school and many of the aspie type girls had lovely similar male friends or boyfriends from the boys school.

Chillaxalready Sat 17-Jan-15 16:03:08

My friend's Aspie DD tends to gravitate toward male friendships outside of school, partly because she is a bit of a tomboy herself, and partly because she attends an all-girls' school! She honestly cares very little about what other people think of her so I don't know whether coed/single sex would really make that much of a difference to her schooling.

Agree that the size of the school and quality of pastoral care is the most important. And the individual Aspie girl!

Annacatdog Sun 18-Jan-15 22:34:49

My 13 year old daughter is in a single sex school and it's so very bitchy, lots of friendship problems which I wasn't expecting. With boys out, I thought they'd be less competition and more solidarity. You can't deny the stats that girls do better in single sex schools, but we're relocating and I've decided to go co-ed..... Eek, hope it's the right thing to do!!

mummytime Mon 19-Jan-15 06:10:30

Just to say hormones are hitting well before year 9. In my experience so far, in year 10 most of the social pressures ease, and it's much nicer in year 11. Of course by then they are often collapsing under exam pressure.
Boys and girls don't mix much until year 9, as girls are far more mature generally.

For our local schools I'd only go single sex if the girl was able to withstand peer pressure or "doesn't notice it"; as the single sex girls schools tend to be pressure cookers of places. The girls are very competitive and have ver high standards, and all seem to be beautiful. However the co-ed schools are only a bit less pressurised.

I'd look for pastoral care, and somewhere your DD feels happy. If it goes wrong then you can try to move.

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