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Girls schools - good for grades, terrible for mental health?

(64 Posts)
JustHope Thu 05-Oct-17 09:08:34

We have started looking at secondary schools for our Y5 DD. One of the options is an all girls school the other is an equally good co-ed Academy.

Apparently studies have shown that girls perform better at all girls schools but I am also aware of tales of bitchiness and increased risks of self harm and eating disorders. DH and I both went to co-ed so really we cannot draw from personal experience.

I would appreciate the thoughts and experiences of you wise MN folk.


Peanutbuttercheese Thu 05-Oct-17 09:28:43

Studies do show girls perform better in single sex schools. The problems any child experiences at school will be a mixture of their home life, cohort, mental health, social skills and very importantly the schools attitude to pastoral care.

One thing you need to consider is how much pressure do you want your DD to experience? DH and I could have easily educated our DS privately but chose not to. I know they give an advantage, I worked in higher education for a couple of decades and saw end product. I also know my own child and knew it wouldn't be for him. He attended a local comp that is very bog standard. It's a bit dodge to quote my son but the school deal with issues really well and he has just got brilliant gcse results.

DH and I experienced a crappy comp and a public school that has been the number one school in the country between us.Look as to what suits your child as well as your own ethos.

Personally I'm not a fan of single sex education because society isn't single sex.

relaxitllbeok Thu 05-Oct-17 09:32:55

I don't have research to point at (and I'd be cautious about what there is, because it would be ferociously difficult to get robust conclusions - you can't randomly allocate children to schools and there are many variables!) but I've got more positive about single sex education in adolescence over the years.

It's true all-girl communities can be bitchy - but the bitchiness isn't necessarily any less just because there are boys around, and on the down side you add in the frankly dysfunctional teenage dating dynamics and the much greater exposure to gender stereotyping at an age when that can be really influential.

I used to think it was a disadvantage for girls to arrive at university having known few boys, but now I think it's more likely an advantage to skip the teenage stuff. Certainly looking at my female university friends, I don't see a tendency for those from single sex schools to have any difficulty forming relationships; maybe the reverse.

Seeline Thu 05-Oct-17 09:35:00

I went to a girls grammar over 30 years ago and loved it. Didn't notice any real bitchiness (no more than I am sure happens in other schools) and no mental health issues at all.

My DD is now at an indy girls and loving it. Again, the odd friendship issue, but nothing serious. I think schools are far more aware of mental health issues now, and the good ones put in place good support/pastoral systems and help the girls deal with pressure etc.

chocdog Thu 05-Oct-17 09:38:36

I think girls who go to single sex schools are more confident. I've noticed that a disproportionate number of "successful" women went to girls schools.
Maybe because boys dominate and hog all the attention?

Caulkheadupnorf Thu 05-Oct-17 09:42:26

I went to a coed comp and had an eating disorder and self harmed. If you’re an unhappy kid then you’re an unhappy kid regardless of what school you’re at.

chocdog Thu 05-Oct-17 09:44:15

Where I live there are no single sex state schools so my Dd goes to a mixed comp. It's OK, but the boys get the funny parts in the plays and cause trouble in class and dominate debates etc etc. There's also a bit of slut shaming. I'm sure there are advantages too!

loopsdefruit Thu 05-Oct-17 09:46:48

I went to both a mixed and an all-girls school for secondary. I found that while there was bitchiness in years 7 and 8 at the girls school, it was mostly done with by higher years, whereas it sort of stuck around a`bit longer among the girls at the co-ed.

There were problems with mental health at both schools, and I think that's an issue with most secondary schools now. I think due to the nature of certain mental illnesses being more prevalent in women there may be 'more' in the girls-school because there are more girls.

OuchBollocks Thu 05-Oct-17 09:51:38

Arguably girls can be bitchier in a mixed environment due to playing up for the boys. There's also the risk of low level (or high level) sexual harassment from the boys, and being sidelined in the more traditionally male dominated classes. Yes society isn't single sex but school isn't the same as life, and I genuinely believe that single sex education gives girls the best possible chance to get a good education and prepare themselves for later life.

Anecdote: i went to a girls school. Did A Level biology. On the field trip the staff at the outward bound centre observed that my class were happy to throw on waders and waterproofs whereas the girls in a lot of the mixed groups were too worried about looking daft in front of the boys, and therefore couldn't participate in the fieldwork properly.

moonlight1705 Thu 05-Oct-17 09:55:37

I did both - went to a mixed comp for secondary and an all girls indy for sixth form.

I was amazed how much less bitching there was at the all girls school - as a another poster mentioned, there is less competition about who was going out with who etc.

If given a choice I would have gone to the all girls again in a heartbeat.

itsbetterthanabox Thu 05-Oct-17 09:55:52

Boys bully just as much and also much more sexual harassment.
Being around women doesn't cause poor mental health people just like to put down female only pursuits.

Allthebestnamesareused Thu 05-Oct-17 10:03:50

If I had the choice where I live my boys would be at a single sex school too. However whereas there are single sex girls schools round here (fully subscribed to) there are no single sex boys schools so I can't.

I firmly believe in single sex ed and went to a girls' grammar and then a mixed sixth form (due to a house move). I'd recommend single sex all the way.

I found the mixed school had more bitchiness - perhaps as someone said above where SOME girls felt they needed to show off to the boys!
There was much more a heads down and work ethos at the single sex school and building each other up.

user1469682920 Thu 05-Oct-17 10:05:13

I agree, advantages and disadvantages of both and it depends more on the particular school and how they deal with such things. My DDs went to a mixture of both mixed and single sex due to the nature of the local schools and 'fit' for them at the time - look at the individual school and best fit for your DD

cakeisalwaystheanswer Thu 05-Oct-17 10:30:06

I went single sex as did lots of my friends and ridiculously all these years on we still do not feel as at ease in mixed groups as others our age who attended co-eds. DD started in single sex because I thought things must have changed but she moved to a co-ed at 11+ at her own choice and I was pleased because the girls senior school felt just like my old school. The world has changed so much in the last 30 years and DD is a very modern girl.
DD still has lots of friends at the very big girls school and there is more drama and upsets there in one week than there is at her co-ed in a whole year. A few of her friends also left and went to co-eds, a mix of small Indy and large state comps, and say exactly the same thing. I don't think its the presence of boys that makes the difference I think its the reduced number of girls.
DD's current school has better results than the girls school, it has the best teaching of any school I have ever encountered and I do not believe that attending a co-ed will have any negative impact on her results.

AshleySilver Thu 05-Oct-17 11:02:52

Being single sex or mixed sex isn't the only characteristic of the school. You need to look at the whole picture and which school is the best fit for your child.

My dd went to a girls school that had very good pastoral care and a postitive environment. I attribute this to good managment including an excellent head.

cakeisalwaystheanswer Thu 05-Oct-17 11:03:14

And just to add it isn't just a girls problem, DS1's boys school takes in girls for 6th form. The fallout amongst some of the boys who have been friends since they started at 7 years old has been crazy and its all down to trying to ingratiate themselves with the girls. Some of them have no more idea how to communicate with a girl than they would know how to communicate with a different species. I apreciate they have 2 years to practice before going into the world but in some cases I don't think it will be anywhere near enough.

user1469682920 Thu 05-Oct-17 11:10:26

Agree with that statement too - I know its a very big generalisation but my DD s have found fewer sexist attitudes among guys from co ed schools

minipie Thu 05-Oct-17 11:12:34

I went to an all girls secondary.

There was a little bitchiness in 6th form but it was restricted to one group and they were easily avoided. One person with an eating disorder out of 100 of us.

The benefits of not having boys there were massive with hindsight. No worrying about how you looked (much less anyway). No reapplying of make up in the loos. We were all very unglamorous smile despite this being in London. No having to have an ex in your class or deal with the fallout from a breakup. No competition over who's been asked out by whom. No being "rated" on your looks by the boys (ugh).

And far more girls taking STEM subjects (I did maths and physics A levels - don't know if I would have at a mixed school knowing my class would be mostly male)

minipie Thu 05-Oct-17 11:14:20

DS1's boys school takes in girls for 6th form

This is IMO the worst of all possible worlds. It puts the focus onto boy/girl relationships at just the worst time.

Arseface Thu 05-Oct-17 11:20:26

Was just talking about this earlier. DD is very bright and her school have suggested she try for the local girls grammar, there is also a highly rated girls comp and two co eds, again very good, which we are in the catchment area for.

The grammar is very high pressure, she loves learning and enjoys school. I don't want her to lose that.

Over the years, I've heard worrying things about how the girls comp handles bullying. Obv these are anecdotal and it's been interesting to hear the positive aspects of single sex ed.

The co-eds are good but have very variable catchment areas and some resulting issues. Not sure if she'll be encouraged to reach her potential.

As to the negative aspects of boys in the classroom, DD has three brothers so is used to holding her own. Also, much as I wish this was untrue, she'll have to learn to deal with men in the big wide world. Is it not better to learn to handle the negative stuff with the support of school and home, rather than at uni?

Malbecfan Thu 05-Oct-17 11:22:54

I went to a single sex girls' school and loathed it. There was an Indy here that we could have sent our daughters to but they went instead to a co-ed state grammar as DH and I both wanted that (and we couldn't afford the Indy).

Their relationships with boys are so much healthier than mine were. Their friendship groups are wide and mixed gender Both have studied science A levels and both doing/have done really well. There is a little bit of bitchiness but not really in their groups and I have no regrets at all. I have done bits of work in the Indy girls' school and hated the bitching and flirting with the sole male teacher (poor chap was not remotely interested but these little slappers would not relent)

TheSecondOfHerName Thu 05-Oct-17 11:29:06

these little slappers

Nice way to talk about children. hmm

peppalongstocking Thu 05-Oct-17 11:29:53

Agree with PP, depends on the school and child.

I also agree with this statement:

FanDabbyFloozy Thu 05-Oct-17 11:32:24

I have heard an ed. psychologist say that eating disorders stem more frequently from the family background/unresolved MH than schools. It just happens that girls who are pushed very hard to succeed during childhood by parents end up at highly academic girls schools, whether it suits them or not.

I am a fan of girls schools only because the pressure to look good is less but I would encourage these girls to do mixed activities outside school.

Gini99 Thu 05-Oct-17 11:35:09

We're going through similar decisions at the moment and I have to say that this BBC article today here makes single sex sound attractive...

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