Single Sex V Co-Education, a few thoughts by Sarah Gillam, Head of Maple Walk Prep School and ISI Inspector

For a parent the decision about which school to send a child to is one of the hardest they may face; there are so many different types of school and then single sex or co-ed is yet another factor to consider.

Research shows that there are natural and individual differences in how pupils learn regardless of gender.

Advocates of single sex education suggest that research indicates that girls learn better when classroom temperature is warm, while boys perform better in cooler classrooms. If that’s true, then the temperature in a single-sex classroom could be set to optimize the learning of either male or female students.

Some suggest that single-sex schools can break down gender stereotypes. Perhaps pupils who attend single-sex schools are more confident about themselves as learners than in coeducational schools. In the absence of boys, the girls might feel less constrained in engaging in classroom discussion or in subjects such as mathematics and physics.

On the other hand, co-education provides a readiness for the real world.  Co-education enables pupils to develop healthy relationships with the opposite sex, based on value and respect.

However, excellent and experienced teachers understand gender differences and are adept at accommodating a variety of learning styles within their mixed-gender classrooms.

It is teachers who are the most influential factor that can make the difference in students’ learning outcomes.

John Hattie in 2003 said,  “It is what teachers know, do and care about which is very powerful in this learning equation.”

Therefore, a single-sex or coeducational learning setting should not be the only consideration.

Parents know their children better than anyone else. When deciding on the best school, there are many factors to consider including, for example, location, student population diversity, curriculum and co-curricular offerings, music and sporting facilities, library and IT access, discipline policy, academic reputation alongside single sex or co-ed.

My suggestions are to ask advice, consider your own child and be open minded when choosing a primary or secondary school for your child.



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