Which option is best for your child? There are benefits to both but also distinct differences, writes Ben Beardmore-Gray For many parents, this thorny topic is heavily influenced by memories of their own experience, whether in the independent or state sector. Some cannot bear to think of their son or daughter going through the same social experience they had, and there are many stories to prove that neither option is always right for every child.
Strong opinions are shared and aired among parents in the playground and on social media: Over my teaching career, I have taught in both all-boys and co-ed prep schools, and both clearly offer something different. Depending on your local options, and whether you are prepared to re-locate, or consider the boarding school route, it is surely better to send your child to a really good school rather than an average one, whether single sex or co-ed.
However, if you are in the fortunate position of having a choice of two schools on your doorstep that are of similar standard, the targeted education of single sex schools can offer distinct benefits. The most obvious of these is that the school can completely focus its resources and tailor its teaching style to the gender in question — boys are very different to girls! At Moulsford, an all-boys independent preparatory school in Oxfordshire, we focus on delivering a curriculum that works specifically for boys.
When recruiting staff, we only have to consider how brilliant they would be at teaching boys. Similarly, if we want to develop an area of the school, we only need to think about how it would best benefit boys. The following video demonstrates very simply a boy-focussed environment with a range of activities to suit all pupils. In terms of how they learn, boys and girls have very different requirements, particularly up to the age of As a group, boys love practical teaching and competition — many are not naturals at concentrating in the classroom at this stage.
For example we set running relay spelling tests, we re-enact battles in History lessons, and in Geography we set orienteering challenges around the school grounds. Girls are usually able to concentrate better, and being generally more diligent at 12 — 13 years of age, they normally respond better to the structured classroom environment. At this age, girls can be well ahead of boys in terms of maturity and academic performance, which is not always a great environment for some boys from a confidence angle.
Although some might argue that this is just another way of enforcing old stereotypes, my experience leads me to believe quite the opposite. In contrast, in many co-ed schools, the girls can dominate these areas by as much as Most single sex schools are now very progressive and positively encourage social and educational events with schools of the opposite sex.
Children also have much broader access via social media to connect socially beyond their school friend groups. The bottom line is that for boys, single sex schools present fewer distractions in the classroom, whatever you think about the requirements for social interaction outside of it. As we all know, one size does not fit all, and single sex schools do suit a certain type of child.
For boys, this is the child who needs a framework to reach his potential either academically or pastorally. Most boys at this age would, given the choice, be out kicking a football around rather than studying, so it is important to give them structure and guidance.
The majority of boys respond well to very clear boundaries, and clear rules on manners, courtesy and discipline. At Moulsford, where sport forms a very important part of school life, we encourage competition and participation at every level. We also have a very clear rewards programme to motivate boys, with consequences for those that cross boundaries in the wrong direction. Ultimately, as parents it is up to you to work out what your child needs to bring out the best in him or her.
It is important to keep an open mind and look at all the options, both co-ed and single sex, before leaping to conclusions drawn from your own experience and upbringing.