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What do you all think about single sex education?

(75 Posts)
IsItStupid Wed 08-Jul-15 15:58:22

I was thinking about future schools for DC, and I started thinking about single sex education. My apologies if there are lots of threads about this, I didn't find many in a quick search.

I am conflicted, because I whole-heartededly disapprove of single sex workplaces etc and I think that your sex shouldn't really impact your education. I want an equal society and I guess that I think single sex is perhaps against that?

On the other hand, I was educated in a single sex environment between the ages of five and eighteen and I loved it. I think it played a real role in my confidence and my choice to study three sciences in sixth form. I know that each science had forty girls enrolled (there were about sixty in my year group) and mathematics was higher still, about fifty girls. Only four or five girls didn't do any form of science or maths.

I went to a school that was very much a "blue-stockings" school and there was a message of "women can do anything" but it was somewhat hidden in the background- I don't think many of us truly realised the need for such a message until we finished school. It just never occurred to many of us that other people didn't think that women were equally capable.

I suppose I'm trying to figure out how I feel about single sex education by comparing how I think it's ultimately inimical to how I think the future should look against the fact I had such a positive experience that made me into the feminist I am today!

What do you all think?

Also, if this thread has been done to death, I apologise! Please point me in the direction of good previous threads about this topic.

SirVixofVixHall Wed 08-Jul-15 16:02:18

I went to a single sex school, and it was true then that girls were encouraged into science in a way that perhaps was less true of mixed sex schools at the time (70s/80s) . I think that is less of an issue now. But I did also find the all girls environment quite a relief, once people started getting boyfriends. It was nice to go into school and not have to deal with sexual politics or attention/lack of attention from boys. I remember reading somewhere that single sex ed suits girls but not boys, I don't know if that is in line with the most recent researc though.

0x530x610x750x630x79 Wed 08-Jul-15 17:22:23

I went to a single sex school, and it was true then that girls were encouraged into science in a way that perhaps was less true of mixed sex schools at the time (70s/80s) . I think that is less of an issue now.

stats do not show this, girls doing science in mixed schools shockingly low, at work so don't have time to hunt them down.

laurierf Wed 08-Jul-15 17:34:53

Don't have the stats but went to a lecture by an education specialist at an event a couple of years ago who was saying that research suggested that mixed environment better for boys, single sex better for girls.

EBearhug Thu 09-Jul-15 23:22:57

I did single sex at secondary, and if I had daughters, I definitely would send them to a single sex secondary if possible, particularly because of the STEM subjects.

I think being mixed up till then is good, and even at secondary, we saw the boys at swimming club and DofE and various other activities, plus it was a small town, so we just saw them around anyway. The 6th form was shared for some subjects, so I had half my A-level lessons at the boys school.

BarbarianMum Fri 10-Jul-15 00:09:07

I went to a single sex school from ages 13-18 and it was the making of me education and career wise. Really doubt I'd have had the self confidence to study science in a mixed setting.

I think I am also somewhat unusual as I'd strongly consider a boys only secondary school for my sons if that were possible here (it isn't). They are already getting the message that boys do maths, science and technology whilst languages, music and the arts are for girls and I hate that.

IsItStupid Fri 10-Jul-15 00:54:06

Barbarian sad

I think it trickles over into so many things. I went and saw a production at a mixed secondary school recently with a friend to support her daughter- on stage it was a nice mix of boys and girls singing and dancing (although the chorus was girl heavy) but all the set changes/lighting/curtain movement etc were done by boys and all the make up and costume changes were done by girls (found this out from the daughter later- obviously I wasn't backstage!). Apparently this is very typical. She said the sign up sheets for Hair and Makeup, and for Costume Sewing even have slogans saying things like "girls, get involved in the production, you don't have to sing, dance or act to play a part," "Get out mum's old sewing machine and do your bit for the school production," etc etc although technically that second one didn't deliberately call for girls I think it was somehow worse!

On the other hand I saw a university play that same week and that seemed to be a very even split in all roles. I.e. I saw young women do set changes, and on the lighting crew (though I have no idea if any young men were involved in hair/makeup/costume sewing etc). Maybe people grow out of it? I'm not sure.

I will definitely be at least looking into single sex education in the future, but then I have a tricky situation where I live very rurally, so I may have limited options!

CollatalieSisters Fri 10-Jul-15 06:13:45

Some stats on physics here: www.iop.org/education/teacher/support/girls_physics/different/page_61620.html
Girls' school girls are much more likely to study physics than coed.girls.

messyisthenewtidy Fri 10-Jul-15 06:57:30

I used to work in a girls' school and would absolutely really recommend it for the reasons above.

People like to assume that girls are bitchy (whatever that means) but I found it to be a supportive atmosphere. If I had a daughter she would be going to a girls' school.

BellsaRinging Fri 10-Jul-15 07:09:04

I went to a single sex school from 10-16. It was highly academic, aand had it's down points. However, it was only later that I began to appreciate the massive advantages. I think if you're in an environment where everyone who is studying sciences, and everyone you see doing A-level sciences, for example is female then you don't ever get the 'it's just for boys' message. Also assisted by the fact that we were taught by some brilliant women teachers.
I also think it gave me self-confidence-I was never worried about speaking up in class, or seeming 'geeky' in front of boys. By the time I moved into mixed education I had the confidence to engage on equal terms, because it simply didn't occur to me that I wouldn't.
So, I think I would send a daughter to single sex schools. However, I am not so sure about my sons, as I think the stats may show that it is beneficial for boys to be in a mixed environment (presumably as they are benefitting from male privilege).

WhirlpoolGalaxyM51 Fri 10-Jul-15 08:55:49

OP your idea about equality are great but in an unequal society stats show that single sex schools are generally a good thing for girls so I wouldn't rule it out if I were you.

I also went to a single sex school until A-Level and until I got mixed in it literally never crossed my mind that some subject were "for boys" and some for girls IYSWIM. I think there are quite a lot on FWR who were single sex education and maybe there's a reason we are here - that coming from that background it's much more noticeable the sexism when you come out of it.

Anyway I was talking to a friend the other day and she said she'd send her girls mixed so they "knew how to talk to men in the workplace" and then we had an interesting conversation whereby I was saying "they're just people" and she was saying "no they have a different way of communicating" and in the end after toing anf froing I said "so teach the girls young that blokes can be right bastards and they have to put up with it" and she said "hmm something like that I guess" so there we have it grin

From a feminist perspective I have no problem with female only (or male only!) spaces as long as they are not preventing eg access to power, opportunity etc which of course in the case of make only spaces including schools that is often exactly what is going on. (And with class, race, money etc as well as sex obv).

WhirlpoolGalaxyM51 Fri 10-Jul-15 08:57:45

PLus some awful threads on here about girls being subject to sexual bullying / attack / coercion etc and even just treated as sex objects and havign stuff said to them by the boys is enough to put you off.

Mintyy Fri 10-Jul-15 09:07:13

I am very happy indeed that my dd is in a single sex secondary school. I don't feel she is missing out on anything at all. I love going to musical evenings and seeing the girls playing the biggest steel pans, drums and bass guitars. You can bet your bottom dollar those instruments would be dominated by boys in a mixed school. That is just one small example.

I don't think girls at an all girls school are any more bitchy than they are at a mixed school and at least they don't get into arguments over boys!

Finally - eating disorders. I know three teens with anorexia. Two are at a mixed sex school, one is at an all girls school. That doesn't prove anything of course and nor is it meant to.

Mintyy Fri 10-Jul-15 09:08:03

If only I could find some threads which are equally positive about boys being educated in single sex schools then I would feel happy!

ppeatfruit Fri 10-Jul-15 09:11:32

This is an interesting thread because our ex dil lives opposite a girls school with our GD and she has closed her mind to sending her there. I'm in 2 minds because GD is an only child, she has plenty of friends and goes to a mixed primary atm.

I suppose it depends on the school and the child. I just wish dil (who'd heard gossip about lesbian bullying or some such) had a more open mind. I did say you can get bullying in all schools.

ThatBloodyWoman Fri 10-Jul-15 09:12:13

I went to a single sex school for a while,then changed to mixed sex.
There's no way I would want my daughters at a same sex school.
I had no brothers,and as a result of being segregated from boys I really struggled in how to relate to them later on.

FungusTheBogeymam Fri 10-Jul-15 09:19:15

Dh went to an all-boys school, and had terrible difficulties relating to women after he left school.

How old is your daughter? In the end, the choice of school is as much down to her as it is to you - we thought about the local girls school for our dd, but she hated it when we went for a visit and in the end she was desperate not to be in an all-girl environment.

She has just made her choices for GCSEs and is doing sciences, computer science, engineering and product design - there are a small number of girls who have chosen those options but by the same token the engineering and product design courses are not overly popular with the boys, either. The teaching at her school is excellent, and I doubt she will be taught any less well than the boys, or than if she were at a girls school.

WhirlpoolGalaxyM51 Fri 10-Jul-15 09:22:25

Interestingly dd who is 7 told me the other day that she wanted to go to a big school with only girls!

So children's opinions and how they are should probably be included in the thought process.

laurierf Fri 10-Jul-15 09:37:56

Finally - eating disorders. I know three teens with anorexia. Two are at a mixed sex school, one is at an all girls school. That doesn't prove anything of course and nor is it meant to

Eating disorders were rife at my all girls school. It was a serious problem.

IsItStupid Fri 10-Jul-15 09:47:44

Fungus only two at the moment! And because of where we live now and limited schooling options single sex vs co-ed is not an issue that will come up for her for a few years- there is one mixed state primary in the area and that's it.

In my case it was my father who insisted I went to a single sex school! Both he and my mother went to co-ed schools. When my sister and I were little they toured a whole bunch of pre-schools and nurseries together- one was attached to a girls' school and whilst my mother was in the bathroom he registered us on the spot! She was none too pleased as the deposit he paid on the open day was earmarked for the final mortgage payment but he looked back on his own school days and felt very firmly that single sex was better! But then again he was at school some 50 years ago so must have had a very different experience, still had the cane and all that.

I didn't know this story until this week actually, when I was on the phone to my mum. smile

But yes, I do wonder about whether it's truly better? If there is a social trade off? But although I was awkward around boys in my teenage years I didn't have any trouble after I left school or in the workplace, and looking back on it I think many teenagers are awkward around the opposite sex.

Maybe single sex education is right for some children and not others? But does it send a message to society that boys and girls are mentally very different?

IsItStupid Fri 10-Jul-15 09:48:35

Mintyy raises an interesting point- is there any research or even anecdotal evidence that single sex education is good for boys?

IsItStupid Fri 10-Jul-15 09:49:04

Because I have heard that they do better in mixed as well.

FungusTheBogeymam Fri 10-Jul-15 09:49:36

WhirlpoolGalaxyM51: my daughter wanted to go to a single-sex school when she was 7 too. By 11 she had changed her mind and now, at 14, I am certain that the girls school would have been the wrong decision for her.

Their opinions should very definitely be included in the thought process, but they will change as they get older. Their priorities at 7 are very different to their priorities at 11!

IsItStupid Fri 10-Jul-15 09:49:41

Thanks for the stats Collatalie

FungusTheBogeymam Fri 10-Jul-15 09:51:17

If she's only two then I'd not worry about it just yet. You need to take into consideration her character, her preferences, her personality as well as how academic she is and what subjects she enjoys.

She will be very different at 11 ;)

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