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DD's school going co-ed - I'm really annoyed

(330 Posts)
SomewhereOutThere Wed 18-Jan-17 10:25:01

Am I allowed to talk about a private school issue in FC? I know that can be polarising in and of itself, but my particular issue here is about something I feel strongly about as a feminist so I hope this is okay.

We heard yesterday that DD2's prep school is going fully co-ed. (Currently there are a small number of boys up to year 2, a relatively recent change which came alongside an assurance that the school would be staying single sex to 11.) It won't directly affect DD's lessons - boys are being phased in so her year group will remain all girls until she leaves in 3 years. (Though there will be younger boys in her playground which will change the atmosphere I suspect.)

But I'm annoyed that:
- There was no consultation with existing parents or (seemingly) staff, who were surprised.
- A four page booklet about the change continually refers to adding extra facilities to be able to absorb two 'genders'.
- The four page booklet also explains that staff will get extra training to refresh their prior experience/training in teaching co-ed to encompass 'the different ways in which girls and boys learn and their differing interests, strengths and weaknesses'. Makes me feel like there will be lots of the 'boys like science/girls like stories' bollocks which is bad for girls and boys.
- Most of all, in the whole 4 pages the fact that many girls learn better in an all girl environment, and are more likely to pursue STEM subjects, is not addressed! Nor is the fact that there will now be 3 co-ed prep schools in the town the school is in, an all boys school, and no all-girls school.

We chose this school back when my elder daughter was a toddler because I wanted an all girl environment. DD1 was able to be her zany self at this school - she's maths mad and that was massively encouraged, as was sport - she got into one there that she now plays at a county level. She moved on to an all girls senior school in a nearby city brimming with confidence and loves being just with girls. It makes me sad that the governors don't seem to give any weight to the fact that for over 100 years this school has offered that to girls.

Oh, and as they say themselves, they have an all time high of pupils enrolled. So they are 'doing it from a position of strength'. So I have no idea - despite the 4 pages - why they feel it necessary. Something about the needs of our future demographic after engaging consultants to research the strategic future. It must be right then, since a consultant says so. hmm Nice to know that's what fees have been being spent on. (I say that knowing all about consultancy bullshitting to justify a high fee, since I work in a similar field myself!)

I feel like moving DD2 into the nearby city, since it is clear the new (male) chair of governors at her school doesn't believe in and support the importance of an all-girl education, which is my primary reason for paying private school fees. I've contacted the girl's schools this morning. But it'll mean a massively long journey for her on public transport, and might just be too disruptive at this stage - something the school is counting on, I suspect. Gah!

midcenturymodern Wed 18-Jan-17 10:32:23

I would be annoyed too, but in reality it might not happen. If you were looking for a prep school for your ds which would you choose? One of the established co-ed schools, the boys school or the ex girls school that can't give you any idea if your ds will be the only boy in the class or not.

EdithWeston Wed 18-Jan-17 10:35:30

The boys prep near us started to admit girls and provoked the same reaction from parents who had specifically chosen single sex.

It happens, I'm afraid, and it's usually because of the basic reality of attracting enough pupils to the school. Better a change than a closure.

Cosmia Wed 18-Jan-17 10:44:11

I (think) that we got the same email yesterday too and feel equally unsettled by it as I think it goes against the whole ethos and USP of the school. But, honestly, I wouldn't worry about it. Am pretty sure that it going to take a while to take effect, if indeed it does, as I can't see the attraction for parents to keep their sons there (speaking as one who has a son there who will definitely be leaving in year 2). It simply doesn't make sense to have boys there after a point, and I totally agree with the lack of awareness of the impact that boys have on girls' education.
Certainly doesn't inspire confidence, particularly with the new head coming in....

If we aren't talking about the same school then it must be the day for schools making big announcements!

SomewhereOutThere Wed 18-Jan-17 10:52:08

If it was to combat low pupil numbers I could understand it, totally.

But the school is almost at capacity in terms of current pupils. They have a policy of stopping actively recruiting numbers for a year group once classes hit 16, and that no class can go over 20. This results in 2 class-year groups apart from occasional bulge year groups when they need 3, and they also go to 3 smaller classes for year 5 and 6.
Year 3 and 4 have 2 classes of 18ish each, currently. So next Sep year 3 will be going to a 3 class intake, they assure us. I suspect they might end up with 3 v small classes! But they obviously feel that with the school bank balance so healthy at the moment, they can afford to absorb the extra staff and building costs until sufficient boys are attending.

The school has a large site so it seems to be about finding enough pupils to enable it to grow massively (there is a strategic building plan alongside it which appears to show space for future 4 class intakes).

I didn't sign up for a large mixed prep school. That's on offer elsewhere and not what I wanted. I chose a smallish all-girl school and it saddens me this now won't be on offer in the whole southern half of my county.

SomewhereOutThere Wed 18-Jan-17 10:55:02

Cosmia we must know each other!
I name changed for this as I knew it would be very evident which the school is. Have you looked at the strategic building plan they announced a few months ago? That now makes sense. I wondered where they would find the extra numbers from - should have guessed.

I think that even a small number of boys will massively change the feel of the prep department, and I do think there will be a small number even right from the start.

SomewhereOutThere Wed 18-Jan-17 11:03:05

And YY to losing their USP. What will it distinguish them from CM? Nothing, except that CM have more experience of co-ed, and nicer grounds!

qwerty232 Wed 18-Jan-17 11:13:31

We chose this school back when my elder daughter was a toddler because I wanted an all girl environment.

Can I ask why? I would have thought a feminist would object to an 'all girl environment'? confused

qwerty232 Wed 18-Jan-17 11:16:22

Do think that you should have been consulted though.

SpeakNoWords Wed 18-Jan-17 11:19:49

I think I'd want clarification about this "boys and girls learning style" stuff, and ask for assurances that this isn't going to mean sexist stereotypes are going to be referred to.

qwerty why do you think feminists would object to girls only schools?

qwerty232 Wed 18-Jan-17 11:21:52

qwerty why do you think feminists would object to girls only schools?

Because they object to the gendered divisions of society? If you were in favour of racial equality you probably wouldn't be advocating culturally or ethnically segregational schools.

AndNoneForGretchenWieners Wed 18-Jan-17 11:24:23

Perhaps it's the first step in the school expanding an potentially putting in a bid to open a free school, or finding that they need to either increase their income or restructure their staff. It sounds like a financial decision rather than an ideological one.

qwerty232 Wed 18-Jan-17 11:26:24

meant: gendered division of society

JaxingJump Wed 18-Jan-17 11:35:17

I don't agree with single sex schools. I think the onus on schools is to make sure that every child is treated equally. Not to separate them out like they are a blight on the other sex.

FreddoFrog Wed 18-Jan-17 11:38:33

Does the school have a constitution or some other founding document that commits to being an all-girls school? It's a stretch but it does seem that the school has misrepresented to you that this was an all-girls school. It seems very odd that they would change such a fundamental element of the school without consulting the parents. I would be very annoyed too.

SpeakNoWords Wed 18-Jan-17 11:38:49

Having the option of a girls school is not the same as supporting the gendered division of education for all. I think single sex girls schools can have some benefits for girls compared to the environment that can exist in co-ed schools. I'm not sure what I'd choose to do if I had daughters.

FreddoFrog Wed 18-Jan-17 11:39:42

Do you have a school contract? Student contract? Is there anything in there upon which you could base some sort of argument against the change?

Hamsolo Wed 18-Jan-17 11:44:04

I do have daughters, and while I won't separate them at primary level I will be very disappointed if I can't find an all-girl school for secondary level. Unless society massively changes in the next 8 years (hollow laugh).

I went to an all girl school myself and noticed a massive difference in expectation of what I could do, what I could achieve. I think it allows quirky girls to flourish in spaces where they might otherwise feel they had to conform to expectations of what was right for their sex. You can be sporty, practical, political, and none of them are sold as "masculine" qualities. I really think it is the best way to educate girls, at the moment.

Boys it seems so better in a mixed environment, but that won't be at the expense of my daughters.

HairyLittlePoet Wed 18-Jan-17 11:46:08

Feminists don't share a hive mind, you know.

But many feminists have long fought for SEX (not gender) segregated spaces in very specific circumstances in order to counter the SEXism which remains inherent in society.

For a perfect example, see the OP's school's reference to the 'different ways boys and girls learn'. Promoting crap like that makes it easy to understand how they have managed to also jettison the benefits girls have enjoyed in a single sex learning environment.

The idea being that if you bring a daft and untrue idea like that into teaching you create a self fulfilling prophecy. The principle of all girls schools is supposed to give girls a chance to flourish in an environment without the additional burden of sexist nonsense during their formative years .

When they have had half a chance to develop themselves unhindered to adulthood, perhaps they will be better equipped to stand their ground against sexism as adults.

MaryTheCanary Wed 18-Jan-17 11:46:45

I guess it comes down to costs. The cost of private education keeps on rising and fewer people seem to be able to afford it. So I guess they need to take what they can get.

I understand your frustration though.

SomewhereOutThere Wed 18-Jan-17 11:53:14

I think I'd want clarification about this "boys and girls learning style" stuff, and ask for assurances that this isn't going to mean sexist stereotypes are going to be referred to.

I'm considering what part of my unease at this to put in an email to the (outgoing) head/chair of governors, and I think that is probably the most important thing to ask abou, you're right. They must have considered the fact that the school is losing USP/removing the choice of an all-girl environment in our area, so it would be pointless to raise that.

querty I am keen on an all-girl education for my daughters because my experience in mixed learning environments was that male privilege meant that boys were allowed to be louder and opinionated, and to shout me down. If I tried to shout them down, I was told I should stop being bossy and instead be nice.

In an ideal world I would prefer a school that was fully integrated in every way, with everybody free to express themselves in any way that didn't harm others, regardless of their biological sex or any other consideration - including financial. But when I looked around a variety of schools a decade ago, the ones most successfully standing against our society's entrenched expectations of girls to perform femininity were all girl schools. Hence why I started paying for my children's education, as the only way I could achieve that. Our town has pretty good primary schools - it was more about the all girl environment for me than any other consideration.

SomewhereOutThere Wed 18-Jan-17 12:14:10

Good point, Freddo, thanks. I will check.
I'll be interested over the next few days to find out the opinion of parents whose daughters will be affected more directly by this. If they are keen then their opinions will count for a lot more than mine. But I'll be surprised if they are.

One of the things in the booklet is:
"It is clear that our prospective parents are increasingly seeking a family prep school that can serve both their sons and their daughters."

I'd be interested to know how many prospective parents were surveyed, why they won't just send their children to one of the other two co-ed prep schools in our town, and how many only have a daughter/s and wanted single-sex. The majority of parents who can afford private schools only have one child, in the latest lot of national stats I looked at.

Also in the booklet...
"Indeed many current parents tell us that they wish their sons could stay at The Manor beyond the age of 7."

I don't think any of the school community will fall for this line. Since the pre-prep went mixed 6 years ago there have never been many boys. Last year there were only 3 in year 2! Most of those 7 year olds have got into one of the two excellent boys' schools nearby and their parents have been thrilled - those schools have their own senior schools that the boys take competitive exams to enter at 11 or 13 and the boys from their own prep department are in the best possible position to pass those exams (100% pass rate most years). The only parents who have gone around saying 'I wish they took boys to 11 here' are those who have struggled to secure a place at a new school at 7 - generally because of low-level behavioural issues. And that has been 1 boy every few years.

girlwiththeflaxenhair Wed 18-Jan-17 12:59:30

Girls already flourish at schools far more than boys do, the idea that girls need to be segregated in order to "get a better education" is plainly horse shit as far as I am concerned.

That said - if you believe that single sex education is better, and you chose a school on that basis I can see why you would be very cross about this development.

SomewhereOutThere Wed 18-Jan-17 13:19:39

No it's not a need but it is something that I wished I'd had more of (my parents travelled a lot with work so I went to a variety of schools - mostly not independent schools - and liked girls' schools best) so chose for my daughters.

See this report from TES on the GCSE results for last year. Girls do currently on average score higher at GCSE than boys, yes. (This is shown by other studies to be because they tend to be more mature about actually getting their head down and working!) But those are skewed massively by subject, and are almost equivalent for the subjects that typically lead to higher-earning careers - 15% better results for girls with English GCSE but only 0.2% for physics.

Other studies such as those listed here show that girls attending single-sex schools are more likely to choose STEM subjects at GCSE and A level and degree, to get better scores in them, to earn more in mid-life - oh and are just as likely to get married as girls who attend co-ed (to counter the argument some make that they won't now how to form relationships with males).

I have a son as well BTW so I'm not trying to bash boys here in any way.

SomewhereOutThere Wed 18-Jan-17 13:20:59

Know not now!

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