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Come and tell me what you think of girls schools...

(87 Posts)
worriedsister30 Fri 07-Mar-14 12:40:51

My ex wants out dd to go to a girls secondary school. In fairness it is a lot better than the coed school that is our other choice.

But the feminist in me is saying no... I can't quite pin point why but it seems dangerous to segregate like that. If dd is to receive the message that we are equal, it makes no sense to send her to a girls school.

Am I reading too much in to it? Is this not a feminist issue?

MrsJoeHart Fri 07-Mar-14 12:46:02

My dd's go to a girls school, there are often times when I wonder if they'd be having the same assemblies/discussions if it were co-ed. There's a lot of emphasis on the girls being self sufficient and independent. They have assemblies about things like feminism, being breast aware, abusive relationships etc. The school they go to is especially strong in science so it hasn't even crossed their minds that science let alone any subject might be a 'male thing'. If I were choosing a school purely on it's stance on feminism and equality I'd go for a girls school without a doubt.

tethersend Fri 07-Mar-14 12:53:41

As a teacher, I was very anti- girls' schools... And then I had two girls.

I think I've completely changed my mind. I wouldn't actively seek out a girls' school, but I think there is a lot to be said for female-only spaces at a time when children are learning about their role in society. I agree with all the points MrsJoeHart makes.

Having said that, I think there is a lot of work to be done by teachers on promoting feminist issues to both genders in mixed and single sex schools

worriedsister30 Fri 07-Mar-14 13:00:27

I hadn't thought if it like that but yes, I suppose if you take males out of the equation, they aren't really going to get a sense that anything is a "boys subject"

Something else that has occurred to me is the sexual bullying that goes on at dsds school which is mixed. I'd like her to not have to put up with that.

Maybe it is a feminist issue... But I've been thinking of it the wrong way.

Middleagedmotheroftwo Fri 07-Mar-14 13:02:41

If I'd had the option I would have chosen a girls' school like a shot. The sexes are equal, yes, without a doubt. But they are also different. There is loads and loads of research which shows that girls and boys both do better in single sex schools.

scallopsrgreat Fri 07-Mar-14 13:03:57

If dd is to receive the message that we are equal, it makes no sense to send her to a girls school. Of course we are equal, but we aren't treated equal.

I think girls schools can be very beneficial for girls. It is a well researched fact that boys/men take over conversations in mixed group situations. In addition according to recent findings by the Girl Guides something like 74% of girls experience sexual harassment at school. That would obviously be reduced at an all girls school.

Not sure why you would think women only (or girl only) spaces are not feminist.

evertonmint Fri 07-Mar-14 13:05:38

I went to a girls' school. It was a wonderful education for me. It was great being able to study whatever subject you wanted without worrying about being the only girl - half of the year did maths A level. It gave us lots of opportunities to explore things without assumptions of gender coming into play. You could be clever and say bright things without fretting whether boys would fancy you or not. Basically it removed a huge source if angst for teenage girls, allowing them the space to get on and go what suited them.

However, I do worry that this doesn't actually do anything to address the issue of girls and boys being pigeonholed by gender - it just avoids it, or delays it until they're a bit older (but hopefully mature enough to then deal with it).

Plus whereas we had assemblies on feminism I suspect the boys school across the road never did anything on gender inequality so being segregated didn't help with building equality.

I would very much consider single sex education for my DD. I would want my DS to be educated with girls. I'm sure there's a ludicrous contradiction there.

SidandAndyssextoy Fri 07-Mar-14 13:07:30

My all-girls school was stuffed with feminist teaching staff. It was a space where the expectation was that girls would succeed academically at the highest level in every subject. Mind you, I have no idea how that compares to mixed schools!

Nocomet Fri 07-Mar-14 13:14:31

DD1's BFs go to a private girls school and I agree with MrsJoe up to a point, it does seem to be a positive confidence giving environment.

My DD2's mixed comp. peer group waste far too much time worying about boys (and they are only Y8) and there seems to be no provision for single sex PHSE which would be very valuable to disguss what gies on around them.

My real problem with single sex education is when, like DD1's DFs it continues post 16.

I think at that age there are problems, perhaps more for boys than girls, in deveoping a rounded, mature and confident outlook on the opposite sex if you don't do ordinary things together.

worriedsister30 Fri 07-Mar-14 13:15:06

Scallopsrgreat I'm not sure really... I guess because it's making it clear and obvious that "girls are different" but, we are different, and that doesn't mean we can't be equal. So your comments make a lot of sense.

Obviously the reason I couldn't put in to words why it is anti feminist is because I was wrong and it isn't grin

trufflehunterthebadger Fri 07-Mar-14 13:20:13

I went to a girls school. I would choose it for DD in a hearbeat.

TunipTheUnconquerable Fri 07-Mar-14 13:25:42

This is my theory as to why you thought it was antifeminist.

The tradition of educating girls and boys separately arises from the belief that they are different and need to learn different things (needlework versus Latin, or more recently, metalwork and rugby versus home ec and dance). In a utopia with no sexism you probably wouldn't need separate schools.

The feminist argument for doing it now, though, is based on a different reason - the fact that as things stand, girls often do better or have an easier time of it in single sex environments.

I think your instinct to question it is probably quite right and definitely feminist, though I agree with the other posters that ultimately there is nothing inherently unfeminist about girls' schools.

mumofthemonsters808 Fri 07-Mar-14 13:26:14

I went to an all girls school which resulted in me being very shy, insecure and generally uncomfortable with males. It did not help that I had no brothers, male relations or male friends. My OH went to an all boys school and he also remembers feeling very uneasy with the opposite sex. That is why we wanted DD at a mixed school. Before I am pounced on with lots of posters telling me how confident their DD is around males I am not saying this will happen to every girl who attends an all girls school, I'm just sharing my experience.

bigTillyMint Fri 07-Mar-14 13:29:07

I went to an all girlsgrammar school in the 1970's/80's which was stuck in the 1950's. It was what put me off all girls schools for DD. Luckily she got a mixed comp and has no intentions of being downtrodden by males!

scallopsrgreat Fri 07-Mar-14 13:31:23

I think Tunip has been much more articulate. In an ideal world yes mixed sex schools wouldn't be an issue. In an ideal world there wouldn't be this perception that girls and boys need to be taught in different manners. because gender stereotypes wouldn't be inexistence.

evertonmint Fri 07-Mar-14 13:33:19

Mum - I had a similar experience to to you, and it took me a while to settle into relationships (platonic and otherwise) with men when I went to a mixed university.

But now in my 30s, I actually realise that the education first, boys later approach was absolutely the best thing for me. I was very strong and sure of myself and what I wanted, and though it took a while to find good male friends and get a boyfriend, I went into those relationships honestly and as myself, rather than as a naive teenager trying to change myself for boys.

cottoncandy Fri 07-Mar-14 13:33:55

Evertonmint - that reminds me of something I heard a girls' school headmistress say when asked if the 6th form would go co-ed:
"I am perfectly happy for my sons to be educated with other people's daughters, but there is no way my daughters will be educated with other people's sons. Does that answer your question?"
I think I agree with her -I think it is good for boys to have girls around but better for girls not to have boys around!

Parliamo Fri 07-Mar-14 13:34:51

Some pretty strong arguments in favour here!

I don't have a lot of experience of all girls schools. But I do know a few women who did go, and the high achieving element and competitiveness amongst the girls seemed add to the likelihood of eating disorders etc. clearly, that is anecdotal, but it's something I would worry about.

SconeRhymesWithGone Fri 07-Mar-14 13:35:41

I went to a girls' school many years ago (in the US where it is much less common). I also went to a women's college within a coed university. These were very positive experiences and helped make me a strong feminist early in my life.

NotCitrus Fri 07-Mar-14 13:40:03

I went to two girls' schools and it wasn't a bad thing - young teenagers have so much crap coming at them and out of their mouths that removing direct sexism probably helps. I certainly didn't feel I'd missed anything when I got to know young men for the first time age 17 (and most of them said they were little shits age 13-15 and I wouldn't have wanted to know them!)

I would have a concern that the school didn't have indirect sexist beliefs - mine was hot on you can have any career you want, but no suggestion on how to earn enough to support a family, poor CDT and IT facilities, and maths was deemed vital but not interesting and not encouraged. Unless you were Chinese or Asian.

But none of that is down to being a single-sex school, just happened to be the case.

evertonmint Fri 07-Mar-14 13:40:18

Cottoncandy - it feels wrong/hypocritical to me to effectively want other people's DDs to be educated with my DS when I don't want my DD educated with other people's DSes. But then I try to remind myself that other people prefer their DDs to be in a mixed environment and I'm providing the boy to do that smile

LurcioLovesFrankie Fri 07-Mar-14 13:44:38

Everything Everton said - I too went to a girls' school. The liberation in knowing that I would be taken seriously, in not having to think about whether a given subject was "feminine" or not... it was brilliant. Ended up at a women's college, which again was brilliant in terms of being a wonderfully supportive atmosphere for learning... so I did single sex ed from 11 to 21 (with a few exceptions...)!

I did have one very interesting experience. 4 boys from the school next door joined our A level physics class (due to timetabling difficulties at their school). They didn't show till week 2. Week 1 - nice relaxed atmosphere with all the girls round the front bench of the lab. Week 2 and the rest of the sixth form - 4 boys have co-opted the front bench, spread themselves out in such a way that no-one else could sit there. Girls sit at back for rest of time. Now, I knew already that I wanted to do physics at university (in fact I still do it for a living!) I also knew that our teacher, who was a good physicist and good at communicating her subject, but hopeless at discipline (not so much of an issue in sixth form) and the managerial skills of running a group, would struggle to get through the syllabus, so to some extent I was going to have to "organise" the class - i.e. make sure we got through topics at the right speed. Which meant I had to be the one dealing with the boys' tendencies (because they weren't the sharpest tools in the box) to muck around, derail, get lessons off topic. And I remember being aware at the time that it was bloody lucky I found the physics straightforward, because if I'd had to put mental energy into the subject matter, I wouldn't have had it left over to do the "managerial" stuff too.

JuliaScurr Fri 07-Mar-14 13:45:33

that, for a start

JuliaScurr Fri 07-Mar-14 13:46:09

Daykin Fri 07-Mar-14 13:59:15

I would choose single sex for dd if we could afford it but all out state schools are co-ed. She is definitely under the impression that the boys in her class have the right to dominate the space. She can't play football at playtime, she is often bullied into going inside, she defers to boys over and over . Even the reading scheme is boy-centric and pushed by oup as 'boy friendly'. I went to a girls school and it was by no means perfect but I wasn't made to feel self conscious about being good at physics and chemistry and maths.

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