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gender differential in access to private schools

(21 Posts)
margerykemp Sun 25-Sep-11 12:07:08

I've noticed, on MN and through other sites, that there seems to be more boys in private schools, especially boarding schools than girls. In terms of scholarships/bursaries available there seems to be even more of a skew in favour of boys.

I have heard the 'urban myth' that some parents value the education of their sons more than that of their daughters but this seems to be more widespread than a handful of mysogynists.

In particular with regrads to boarding schools, are parents less likely to want to send their DDs 'away'? Given the general debate over the pros and cons of boarding school I dont suppose there will be agreement over whether this is 'good' or 'bad'.

meditrina Sun 25-Sep-11 12:18:14

I'd be interested in data about gendered bursaries. Obviously there are single sex schools where awards have to be made to children of the eligible sex, and I suppose their could be some specific bequests with conditions, but I've never come across one with a sex criteria. Are there really a large number?

There are certainly still organisations like GDST, whose fees tend to be at the low end of the scale, which go against the trend you've seen.

Many schools are now co-ed too, has this impacted more on former girls only schools than on boys only?

TrillianAstra Sun 25-Sep-11 12:34:36

If it's true that there are more boys at private school, is this not largely a historical issue? There are more boys' schools, because once upon a time there were only boys' schools.

So when considering whether to send your children to private school, if you have boys it is more likely that there will be a "good" private school nearby that will admit your children.

LRDTheFeministDragon Sun 25-Sep-11 16:40:26

There are huge numbers more scholarships/bursaries for boys. It may be historical, but it's also fucking annoying. In the area where my parents live, there are three large towns nearby with private boys/girls schools - the girls' schools between them have fewer scholarships/exhibitions/bursaries available than any single one of the boys' schools.

There have been girls' schools for longer than there have been universities other than Oxford and Cambridge. It seems pretty poor to me to suggest that we can just accept it's a historical issue, TBH. It's a historical issue, but also one society didn't care to correct - unlike the lack of universities.

Something I wonder about - purely anecdotally from the people I know - is that lots of people seem to send/have been sent to private school not because the parents always wanted to do that, but because the parents felt the state system wasn't working. I know 20-30 boys for whom that was true. No girls. The girls, if they were sent, were sent because it 'seemed fair as we were sending her brother'. I don't want to draw any conclusions from anecdotal stuff and it's probable I know a funny set of reluctant, leftie-but-not-that-leftie families who sent their children to private schools. But I do wonder how much society expects girls to be more emotionally mature and better at coping, so girls don't seem to struggle or to excel? My parents certainly say I'm the only one (two brothers) who didn't 'need' private school, because I wasn't struggling emotionally/socially at state schools.

blackcurrants Sun 25-Sep-11 16:56:09

I wonder if (musing on Virigina Woolf's ideas in A Room of One's Own about why women had to scrip to open women's colleges at oxbridge when the men's colleges own half of the land in the south).. I wonder if men go to these schools, get rich, then leave a bit of cash to them... so they just HAVE more money to spread around? I certainly think it's an issue society doesn't care to correct.

My DB went to a boarding school because my grandfather offered to pay for it, because all the boys in the family went to that school. Not for my Dsis or me. My parents knew it was unfair but didn't think they could turn it down. They also 'knew' that Dsis and I would 'do just fine' ....

I didn't particularly want to go to a boarding school but as a 'bookish' and 'clever little girl' I was dead jealous that he was somewhere more academically rigorous than I was.

LRDTheFeministDragon Sun 25-Sep-11 18:23:52

black -yes, I'm pretty sure that's so.

sad for you though. I always feel odd about that sort of situation where one child is sent and the others aren't - my mum and her brother were like you and yours, with the sad-but-predictable result that my mum assumed her parents didn't value her educationally and her brother felt he'd been sent away because he was less loved.

blackcurrants Sun 25-Sep-11 19:32:49

yeah. . . actually my brother had a whale of a time and made most of his closest lifelong friends (I noticed that his best man and all his ushers had gone to that school with him, for eg) BUT at the same time - it was an English Prep school, so he was there between 8 and 13. and he was very young going in, I think he might have even started as 7-nearly-8. I don't know how DM did it, and told her so - specially now I have DS. She said "I cried and cried and cried. And knew that he was happy and it was the best we could offer him. God it was awful"
... not sure I would have wanted boarding school, but even at that age the assumption that it mattered to educate him but not us really rankled with me. Specially as I'm the one who's taken the whole education thing a bit far grin

LRDTheFeministDragon Sun 25-Sep-11 21:18:09

grin Yes, interesting that!

I do think it is such a strange system, the idea you educate boys best by sending them away even if they and you hate it. It's good we're getting beyond that idea now, I reckon.

Do you think you pushed yourself at school because of their decision, or was it just natural to you? (Don't answer if you don't want, I'm being nosy, just curious).

TeddyBare Sun 25-Sep-11 21:46:49

I think a lot of the old public boys schools have gone co-ed now. Obviously there are still some which are single sex, but I think mixed is probably the majority now.
I grew up in Reading, Berkshire, and I think that area has more girls' private schools than boys'. My knowledge of it might be slightly skewed because most of my friends were girls.

blackcurrants Mon 26-Sep-11 00:39:40

ach, I didn't push myself at school. I was just interested, and stubborn. smile

Teddy Yes, you might be right there. But do they offer the same cash scholarships to boys and girls? And the boys schools that are still single-sex, do they have more cash to offer on bursaries, etc?

(I don't expect you to know the answer or do my googling for me, btw, I'm just saying the OP is interested in why there are more boys in private schools than girls, and why boys' private schools have more money)...

ok I'm knackered, not making sense - more MN for me tonight!

ThePosieParker Mon 26-Sep-11 11:42:06

Where I live which has a population of over 400, 000 has loads of private schools. Out of the nine secondary I can think of
1 is boys
3 are girls schools
6 are Co ed. (one co ed has just accepted boys and one has recently merged.)

This may not representative of elsewhere.

ThePosieParker Mon 26-Sep-11 11:42:29

Oh and there is only one academy that is single sex and that is also for girls.

SardineQueen Mon 26-Sep-11 11:54:07

I think that boys schools are more expensive than girls schools as well. And that really does say something (people are prepared to pay more to get their boys educated).

I went to a private girls school with a private boys school next door (Habs for those familiar with north london/herts!) and teh boys school was twice the price of the girls school. Similar facilities, sports and results... Most odd.

LRDTheFeministDragon Mon 26-Sep-11 12:07:18

I just looked on the net and a private girls' boarding school website claims that there are hugely more girls' boarding schools than boys, which is interesting.

I couldn't find stats for how many boys' private schools there are versus girls, or how many students in each there are - someone else may be better at googling.

The thing is, the really posh boys' schools are still, well, boys' schools. If you look, for example, at which schools send most pupils to Oxbridge (who then go on and be politicians), a lot are single-sex and public schools like Eton etc. make a big showing, as do boys' ex-grammar schools like Nottingham Boys' High.

Something that bothers me about education is that I think if you are privately educated in some circumstances, you may be very unaware of the privileges you got, especially if you're part of the older generation and deciding how to use your money for children/grandchildren (cf. all those threads about 'my parents want to pay to send DS to private school but not DD').

SardineQueen Mon 26-Sep-11 12:10:20

"Something that bothers me about education is that I think if you are privately educated in some circumstances, you may be very unaware of the privileges you got, especially if you're part of the older generation and deciding how to use your money for children/grandchildren (cf. all those threads about 'my parents want to pay to send DS to private school but not DD')."

Do you think LRD?

I would think that the fact the GPs want to pay for private schools for GCs shows that there are well aware of how much of an advantage it confers.

SardineQueen Mon 26-Sep-11 12:11:59

Oh misread your post, sorry. I didn't see the bit about GPs wanting to pay for boys but not girls - does that really happen a lot shock

I'm not sure why it shows they don't understand the privilege though? More that they are sexist and think that the boy needs/deserves a good education while a female doesn't need/deserve it and anyway her husband will provide.

LRDTheFeministDragon Mon 26-Sep-11 12:25:43

I think some people don't realize why it's an issue they want to pay for a son/grandson not a daughter/granddaughter, SQ. If they thought it was horribly, intrinsically unfair, I'm sure they wouldn't do it.

When I've seen people express that view, it's usually because 'it's the family school' or 'I loved it there' or 'DH loved it there'. The implication is that the advantage is limited to the time at school - and it's merely an unfortunate coincidence that there's no such pleasant family tradition for the DD.

I suppose what I'm thinking of is my dad's generation, lots of whom I've discussed this stuff with, or with their children. My dad has no idea that his private schooling conferred extensive advantages that far exceeded his time at the school. He passed the 11+ and will always say he had a normal state education (which for his day it was - his time at what is now a private school was funded by the state). That school, however, being a long-established boys' school, had closed scholarships to Oxbridge, so he also got 6 years at university on a closed scholarship. That means that the university had to give a place to someone from his school - or not fill the place at all. And look at how many people from Oxbridge even now end up in politics/high powered jobs.

Because my dad doesn't realize that his education conferred any special privileges that were gender-specific (though patently it did), he has no problem with the idea of sending a boy to private school, even if that school is better funded than a girls' school, gets higher results, is more expensive, and has more scholarships on offer to its pupils. He just assumes that this is the sort of school where he 'thrived'. But he thrived in large part because the school conferred large advantages on its (male) pupils. OTOH, many women of the same generation did not find their private school stood them in especially good stead. Certainly today, although girls' schools send many pupils to good universities, they also by and large prepare those girls to struggle at university, because the qualities universities reward are not IMO those girls' schools often teach. I am dead biased here, I know, so this last portion is just my view! smile

I think there is something in it though - that people don't examine why they found private school so good or important for boys but less so for girls.

pommedechocolat Mon 26-Sep-11 12:34:35

I've never heard of this before. How appalling.

Both dbro and I were sent to private schools by my parents from 11 and we both aware of the sacrifices that entailed.

Dh was sent on a bursary to a private school after primary school teachers recognised he was gifted and pushed him forward. BIL went to local state a year later. Difference between them is enormous from career and earnings to confidence. I cannot imagine how PILS must have felt watching that develop.

alexpolismum Mon 26-Sep-11 14:40:45

How awful to be the sister of a boy who is sent to private school while you are not.

I was offered the chance to go to private school (a free place) when I was about 10 years old. My mother turned it down as she felt it would have been unfair on my siblings, and she could not afford to send them as well.

Funnily enough, one of the flats in the block where I live has an elderly couple living there. They sent their son to private education, while their daughter went to state school. The son is now unemployed and has always struggled to find a job, while the daughter has a great career...

azazello Mon 26-Sep-11 16:43:23

Interesting. I think I'm probably the other way round - I feel much more strongly that DD should go to a single sex school so she can really get into science and maths if that is where her interest lies and actually focus on school while she is there and then do mixed extra-curricular stuff.

It doesn't seem fair to send DD and not DS unless we can't afford to.

Round here (Oxford) there are more girls/ co-ed private schools than boys only.

On Oxford and Cambridge, I believe many of the colleges had large bequests from former students which they used to buy land many years ago e.g. Cambridge colleges owning large swathes of East Anglia. As the women's colleges have been founded more recently and haven't had the same background of wealthy students, they have struggled far more for money.

TrillianAstra Mon 26-Sep-11 21:00:58

How awful to be the sister of a boy who is sent to private school while you are not.

Well personally I find single sex schools to be weird and I would be happier not to to be sent to one. I'd be pissed off at the perceived lesser importance of my education, but still glad that I didn't have to go to a ridiculous school.

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