Why choose coeducation?

When choosing an independent school, you may be unsure about the single sex versus coeducation debate.  This has the potential to be quite emotive and you may welcome our thoughts on the matter.

Learning about gender is a crucial life skill and it is very important to have both female and male perspectives on all aspects of the school experience.  For example, in English it is important to hear different views on texts and poems, and it is essential that we break down stereotypical thinking on boys’ and girls’ subjects and activities.  In coeducational schools, pupils often learn that they have much in common with members of the opposite sex.  Our boys and girls learn to understand and respect different opinions, ideas and beliefs, and collaboration between the sexes in the classroom helps develop the confidence in pupils to share these ideas, not only at school but at university and beyond.

Almost all of our pupils go on to undergraduate study and should not go to university having had the fundamental stage of their intellectual development taking place in an unrepresentative environment. Given that at 18 most will find themselves in a coeducational setting, often sharing halls of residence with both genders, experience of learning with boys and girls is invaluable.  Furthermore, the professional world is not segregated by gender and school is about preparing young people for the world beyond the school gates, both in the workplace and private life.  Pupils at coeducational schools make friends easily with members of their own sex and members of the opposite sex, helping them to forge strong friendships and lasting relationships, as well as honing vital leadership and team building skills.

We have to remember what schools are for.  They are not conveyor belt driven exam factories, purely there to maximise public examination grades.  Education should be holistic, educating the whole child and developing the different intelligences and aptitudes that make us individual, such as logistical, linguistic, creative, cultural, social, spiritual and moral intelligence.  Of course, there are many more and all of these aptitudes are encouraged and developed in an environment where boys and girls engage with each other with maturity and self-assurance.

I often hear the argument that children are at their most different when they are youngest and that boys and girls have different behaviours and different learning styles.  However, whilst this may be true, there are clearly different behaviours and different learning styles within each gender and good teachers successfully manage behaviour and cater for a wide variety of learning types.  We must avoid the temptation to assume that there are two learning styles out there; one for boys and the other for girls. Every class, regardless of gender, is likely to contain pupils learning in a wide variety of ways, which are catered for by carefully planned and skilfully delivered lessons.

I have also listened to the argument that single sex schools successfully avoid distractions from the opposite sex, hormonally driven behaviour and immature romantic relationships.  However, does being in a single sex environment really eliminate these issues or does it serve to artificially suppress (teenage) emotion?  It may, in some cases, actually fuel hormonally driven behaviour, as well as irrational and outdated attitudes towards the opposite sex.

So, in short, there is no compelling statistical evidence to suggest that single sex education is better academically for young people.  Many high achieving single sex and coeducational schools are highly academically selective so caution is required when making comparisons and judgements based on gender alone. Pupils in coeducational schools develop the confidence to express views and share a greater diversity of ideas.  They have respect for each other and are tolerant and skilled at making friends.  Boys and girls often have more opportunities to participate in mixed gender activities and are well prepared for real world experiences and situations by having greater exposure to different character types, a range of opinions and male and female role models.

If you would like to discuss the matter further, please do not hesitate to ask.

- David EJJ Lloyd