Single sex schools vs co-ed – is it the wiser amongst us who remain undecided?
As the debate continues unabated as to the merits and benefits of single sex education as opposed to co-education the only conclusion to draw perhaps is that there is no unequivocal conclusion…
There is research which examines the data, such as ‘The paradox of Single-sex and Co-educational Schooling’, Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson, which summarises:
‘while gender composition is one of the most obvious features of a school, it is not necessarily an important factor in a school’s success – the main determinants of a school’s performance are the ability and social background of the pupils, followed by leadership and teacher expertise. Whether to mix or separate the sexes in education is an issue which arouses strong feelings, but on which there is little conclusive evidence. The paradox of single-sex and co-education is that the beliefs are so strong and the evidence so weak.’
Whilst then the features of benefits of gender options are widely recognised – both academically and pastorally – for single sex settings these include increased academic achievement; personalised care and support according to maturity rate; confidence; opportunities at sports, drama, music traditionally dominated by the opposing sex and from that a freedom from stereotypes – for co-education it is that it reflects life outside of education providing societal benefits; relationships between the two sexes are built at an early age to mutual benefit and academic achievement is improved through inter gender competition – how do parents decide and what should they consider?
When parents visit a potential school the majority talk about wanting a ‘holistic’ education for their child. They accept the academic aspirations need to be tailored to their child’s ability but that the way their child fits into society is hugely influenced by their choice of school.
Within the Independent Schools market, where the majority of single sex schools are, the main emphasis is not placed upon the gender of their pupils but more on the other facets they offer – critical is the Head for it is they who embody all the school offers, they are the tangible ‘ethos’ of the school; teaching and learning outcomes; the curriculum; provision of sports and the arts; extracurricular activities – an endless list of USP’s! Overlay those with fees, location, transport – it is a huge undertaking to select a school for your child.
For those who are tasked with marketing these schools the key must be to market a good school as opposed to a single sex or co-ed school. To inform and ensure the market is aware of the strengths of the school, to represent who and what you are across the widest marketplace.
For parents choosing a school, blinkers must be withdrawn, information sought about all the options and a decision based on potential outcomes for your child against their needs.
Consider your last house purchase – if you are like me you start with a list of what it should and shouldn’t have – then you walk in to a house you fall in love with despite what it is or isn’t – and it could even be one you hadn’t requested from the Estate Agent !
Choice is a wonderful opportunity; take the broadest path to ensure you find the optimum result.