Why I don’t agree with single-sex education

Has single-sex education had its day, or do arguments for teaching boys and girls separately still hold water? Picture: Getty Images

Has single-sex education had its day, or do arguments for teaching boys and girls separately still hold water? Picture: Getty Images

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Time for a confession: I don’t really like girls.

Through school and university some of my closest friends have been male as I found the potential pitfalls and faux-pas of female friendship hard to navigate, particularly the gossip and snide comments which seemed to be essential to maintaining your position.

This is why the thought of single-sex education terrifies me. Being cooped up with girls for 13 years probably would have driven me to the edge of sanity.

As of September 2019 there will only be one single-sex school left in Norfolk after the penultimate institution, Hethersett Old Hall School, announced earlier this month that it was going fully co-educational.

But a poll of EDP readers found there is still widespread support for single-sex education: around 45pc of the 650 people who responded to our survey said the arguments for educating girls and boys separately still stood.

So if people still believe in the value of segregated education, why are schools moving away from it?

Research has revealed discrepancies in boys' and girls' development which single-sex education could help to iron out – for example, girls tend to pull ahead in literacy while boys excel in maths. It has also been shown that girls are more likely to tackle “male” subjects such as science or technology in a single-sex setting.

But a 2004 study into whether single-sex establishments produced better academic results was inconclusive.

A spokesman for the Independent Schools Association told online forum The School Run that single-sex education could give children a better experience of school – particularly girls who may struggle to cope with the “boisterousness” of boys.

But the fact remains that, unless you enter a religious order, it's nigh on impossible to live a sexually segregated life. Tackling this “boisterousness” sets girls up better to cope with more dominant male behaviours which women still come up against in day to day life.

Rather than being seen as spoiling girls' school experience, co-education should be viewed as a massive step forward for sexual equality. There was a time when women weren't considered worthy of an education, but for decades now they have sat side by side and in direct competition with boys, once assumed to be innately more intelligent.

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