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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Single sex studies get go ahead
School pupils (generic)
Mr Ciccoti hopes the experiment will run for the full academic year
A Pembrokeshire school is to go ahead with an experiment of teaching some pupils in single sex classes.

Around 120 Year Eight youngsters will be split into boys' and girls' groups for certain lessons when they return to Pembroke School later this week.

The trial is aimed at improving the performance of both sexes in English, history, maths and the sciences.

The comprehensive school has noticed that boys are generally doing better than girls, bucking the national trend.

South Pembrokeshire is unusual when compared nationally in that girls under-perform compared to boys
Head teacher Frank Ciccotti

Parents have been asked for their permission to run the scheme.

Around half the 12 and 13-year-olds in Year Eight will be taught in single sex classes with the rest continuing in mixed lessons to provide a comparison.

Head teacher Frank Ciccotti said: "There were no objections from any of the parents in that half of the year group.

"Interestingly the only objections were from parents of high- achieving boys."

The move follows research by one of the teachers at the school who found that girls at the comprehensive were under-achieving in certain subjects.

Mr Ciccotti said it was surprising as girls at that age tended to be more mature than boys.

Teaching methods

"South Pembrokeshire is unusual when compared nationally in that girls under-perform compared to boys.

"Overall we have seen an improvement in the girls this year but they still lag behind the gender gap for Wales," he explained.

"The parents of the girls think it is a good idea because girls tend to mature more at that age.

"The parents of boys are less so. They are afraid that if you concentrate the boys together you will concentrate the silliness."

He said there was evidence boys responded better to competition and close monitoring, while girls preferred longer term targets and group projects so different teaching methods would be used.

He said each department had been told it could revert to mixed lessons if teachers believed it was not working.

"I've allowed them to come out of it if it's a disaster," added Mr Ciccotti.

"I don't think it will be a disaster and I would like it to run for the academic year."

Your comments:

Why is it that anglo-saxon countries believe single sex education provides advantages? In Italy single sex schools can be counted on the fingers of one hand, while the rest of us are educated in mixed schools, and there are no differences in achievement between genders. As a 17-year-old I spent a term at a girls' school in England, and the most striking difference was the social and emotional immaturity of girls that had been shut away from boys since before puberty (it was an 11-18 boarding school).
Elisa Menardo, Italy

Why do children have to be seen as 'boys' and 'girls'? Why aren't they treated as 'children' and all educated the same?
Jackie Hogarty, Eversley, Hampshire

I was educated for two years in a single gender secondary school and later for two more years in a mixed gender secondary school comprising of the students from the school I attended and an all girls' school in close proximity. I found that I was initially "distracted" by the girls, but the distraction subsided after about 10 months to a level that (in retrospect) I feel did not dramatically interfere detrimentally with my education. The amalgamation of the single gender schools in my case, did present me with additional social pressures that I had previously not had to deal with in secondary education. This is no doubt part of developing social skills between genders, but I am sure that this addition to school life could be avoided by attending single gender schools without significant detriment to inter-gender social skills in the long term. I personally found that the single gender schooling I received focused my attention upon learning more than in the mixed gender school, which (although still focusing my attention on education) directed more of my thoughts and energies into a more complex social structure, with greater social pressures and distractions.
Tom, Shanklin, Isle of Wight

It is interesting that in one of the few regions showing that boys are doing better than girls, there is a desire to change this ... and hey presto .... girls will be doing better than boys. How nice ....
Martina, London

While single sex classes eliminate the social distraction of being around the opposite sex, they also eliminate the inherent reservations pupils are likely to have about acting out and therefore being embarrassed in front of the opposite sex. I have taken some classes which were comprised only of male students, and their behavior was abhorrent given the fact that the girls were not there to see them make fools of themselves.
James Hull, New York, USA

I liked to get on with my work and enjoyed doing well, whereas most lads in Year Eight wanted to prat about. The lessons would've been constantly disrupted, and the lads that got on would've been targeted by the rest. No wonder some parents of such lads have objected!
Rob Bennett, Nantwich, Cheshire

If only we could have a single sex workplace too then we would not have all these moans about sex inequality, pay, workplace 'romances' etc.
Chris, London

I went to both a single sex school (for two years) and a mixed secondary school (for five years). In my opinion, a single sex school offers the chance for a better education but at the cost of developing social skills with the opposite sex. I would not send my kids to a single sex school as I can help their education (if required) with tutoring but this will not improve their social skills.
Jay, Newport, Wales

I was educated in a single sex environment from entering secondary school for the first three years. Boys and girls were on different sites and then merged back together at a third site. This worked quite well because by the time we got back together the girls were mature enough to withstand the distractions from the boys. I don't think it works as well for boys as they have no-one to keep them in check and bring them back down to earth.
Louise, ex-Wales, now Worthing

As school improvement officer for raising boys' achievement in my education authority, I would certainly never advise schools to attempt single sex teaching in order to raise the achievement of boys. There is little, if any evidence to suggest that either boys or girls will benefit. Indeed, there is a greater likelihood that those unacceptable elements of what we refer to as laddish culture become exaggerated in such settings, which works to the detriment of boys. Single sex teaching may work for boys if teachers delivering it fully understand the complexity of the barriers to boys' learning (I would put the number at around 30 reasons why boys aren't doing as well as girls). Furthermore, it must never be lost sight of that boys and girls have complementary skills that they need to share and develop. This was part of the reasoning behind comprehensivisation in the first place.
Gary Wilson, Huddersfield west Yorkshire

I went to a boys' secondary school, and having experienced it I'd never send my own children to a single sex school. The environment is artificial, and has a detrimental effect on young people's ability to relate to the opposite sex.
Simon Marshall, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion

When I was at school the boys would spoil it generally for the girls to learn as both sexes would mess around to impress the other. I think single sex classes are definitely a good idea.
Christina Dwyer, Cardiff

I was taught in an all-girls' school back in the '60s. It is a much better system. In mixed schools the boys and girls seem to show off in front of one another and do not concentrate on their lessons
Bev Camp, Cardiff

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