New Single Gender Education protects girls’ rights

Source:The Telegraph

Jenny Brown, principal of The City of London School for Girls advocates for the new single-gender education

New Single Gender Education. As private schools become increasingly coeducational to ensure survival, the need to protect gender-differentiated education is greater than ever.

It is well known that women ask fewer questions than men at the end of lectures and interviews. But when our girls attend events involving many other schools, many of them co-ed, they raise their hands without any shyness or inhibition. You just don’t see that in girls in coed schools because they balance their desire to learn with their awareness of male students.

So I read with interest this week that gender-differentiated schools were going out of fashion. This struggle for survival is not my experience at all. Applications for places at the City of London School for Girls are higher than ever and I believe that during the particular period between the ages of 12 and 16, pupils tend to learn best with their own gender.

Gender-differentiated girls’ schools are great for developing leadership skills (and protecting and building self-confidence) during those difficult teenage years when everyone goes through huge hormonal changes. Especially since these changes can be experienced very differently by boys and girls.

At the academic level, girls in sex-differentiated schools are much more likely to take Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics): two-thirds of our group choose mathematics as A-levels and an equal number of our female students choose Stem subjects such as humanities at university. This seems important as the particular intellectual space of Stem may be dominated by boys in a mixed environment, especially as cultural assumptions still persist that these are male subjects.

New Single Gender Education
Photo of London City School

Protecting the rights of girls

Likewise, focusing intensely on appearance can be a difficult issue for a teenage girl. In a gender-differentiated school, girls have a space where that doesn’t matter, which means they’re not fiddling with mascara applicators between classes.

Differentiated schools also allow teachers to accommodate male and female students slightly differently in this complicated hormonal period. Boys, for example, tend to see lunch as a time to refuel before going out again and expending energy, while girls see it as the social heart of the day: a time to talk, share experiences and forge bonds, and we need to be very aware of these differences and cater for them.

New Single Gender Education
Source: GSA Department of Education

Similarly, in boys’ schools that have recently embraced both sexes, the focus is often not on girls. For example, I always encourage prospective parents to ask about the resourcing of girls’ sports in co-ed schools: is as much spent on netball and field hockey as on rugby and soccer? Of course, unfair weighting doesn’t happen everywhere, but I do think it takes decades to grow a co-ed school after it has focused solely on boys for hundreds of years.

Some of the criticisms directed at differentiated schools have merit (that they don’t prepare kids for real life, for example), but I think we’ve resolved a lot of them in recent years. Yes, kids will inevitably leave us at 18 for a coed environment, and I think perhaps in the past some gender-differentiated schools were too closed, making students feel uncomfortable or shy when confronted with the opposite sex in college.

But today, I can’t think of an institution that doesn’t have strong links with a sister or brother school: at the City of London School for Girls we run weekly classes, co-curricular activities and social events with pupils from other schools, to the benefit of all.

New Single Gender Education
Source: The Telegraph newspaper analysis of ISC and school data.

You also always hear the tired old cliché that girls’ schools are hothouse environments or full of complicated social cliques; but that’s not my experience at all. We are far too inclusive for that; what we do is tailor our resources to the individual needs and intellectual interests of the female students. It’s all about focusing on individualized attention, which leads to excellent results. People can often lazily equate great results with a greenhouse.

That said, I don’t think a gender-differentiated environment is ideal between the ages of 4 and 18. I sent both my children to co-ed elementary schools because I think it’s important for young children to see everyone as potential friends, and before puberty there are no real disadvantages to being in a co-ed school. I also think there are good arguments for mixed sixth forms, as teenagers are much better at coping with the pressures of learning alongside the opposite sex when they are a bit older.

New Single Gender Education

Experts assure that differentiated education helps to solve some of the problems currently suffered by educational systems, such as school failure, low academic levels, difficulties in coexistence and gender discrimination. In fact, the vast majority of these centers in Spain are already developing equality plans. Another of the benefits observed is that female students who study in these types of centers opt in greater proportion for technical careers, traditionally chosen more by boys. In the Spanish educational system, the percentage of female students enrolled in technology degrees is much lower than that of male students.

Know more about Equal and Different here.

Source: “We must protect girls’ rights’: the London head fighting for single-sex schools”. En The Telegraph. Jenny Brown, November 29th 2023.