Are single-sex schools still relevant?

Do single-sex schools still have a place in our society? (Credit: Luka Kenyon)

Whether single-sex schools still have a place in society today is a much contested issue.

It’s something I’ve thought about a lot since leaving the all-girls secondary school I attended for eight formative years of my life. There’s a valid argument that dividing pupils by gender is an antiquated idea, but I think the system still has merit today.

I honestly believe that I owe all of my self-confidence to being surrounded by kind, wonderful and phenomenally driven women.

Attending an all-girls school meant that I was not impacted by the gender stereotypes I may have been at a mixed school, as all activities and subjects were available to us without question.

I went to an all-girls school for eight years (Credit: Luka Kenyon)

I only realise now how important it was to have this ‘girl power’ rhetoric constantly reinforced. I felt more myself at 18, having been surrounded by the same girls since I was 11, than I perhaps do now after four years at university.

Some research has been done into the benefits of single-sex education, and in exam season there are often articles suggesting that single-sex schools perform better.

Grace Duncan, 21, who attended an all-girls school in London said, “I think going to a girls school made me more confident to follow my own path and helped me recognise that I’m no less competent than a man. It also gave me a strong circle of female friends that I know will weather any storm, because once you’ve survived eight years in an all-girls school together you can survive anything.”

In contrast, some girls feel cheated that they have missed out on a mixed education. Lucy Booth, who was in  a single-sex school from age five says, “I would have liked to experience what school was like with boys. I had problems with girls being cliquey at school and there was no one to go to about it. Girls schools are all about what the girls want and need which is good, but I think we need to learn to be with boys because leaving a girls school when you’ve been there since age five is terrifying.”

Maybe a middle ground needs to be found in single sex education as Rachel Fox, who went to an all-girls boarding school with an all-boys partner school, describes. She said, “We had a diamond structure to our school, where we were mixed for primary, separated for classes from S1 to S5 and then in classes together again in our last year. It was good because we were separated for the most important years when we needed to concentrate on our grades”.

I found my all-girls school a safe and positive environment, but this is not always the case. Major improvements need to be made to how single-sex schools handle their LGBT+ pupils. Single-sex schools will only remain relevant if they learn to handle gender identity appropriately.

Layla Moran MP introduced a bill to the House of Commons on Wednesday arguing that gender neutral school uniforms should be adopted by all schools, something that could definitely stop single-sex schools from gender stereotyping or excluding their LGBT+ pupils. Read more about the bill here.

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