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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 November, 2004, 20:05 GMT
Is single-sex learning better?
Senior school children experimenting in a laboratory in a science class
An inquiry into how secondary schooling can best meet boys' and girls' different needs is going to be backed by the government.

It may mean that boys and girls are taught separately for some subjects where gender could be seen to be influencing underperformance, such as languages for boys and maths for girls.

The shadow education secretary has dismissed the idea saying that, "Yet another plank in Labour's 'one size fits all' approach seems to have broken away."

Is the inquiry a good idea? Will it spread success? Send us your comments and experiences using the postform.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Why can't we live as humans instead of boys and girls?
Phil, UK

Single-sex education leads to a lack of the social skills needed to live with the opposite sex and as such should be abandoned as soon as possible. Why can't we live as humans instead of boys and girls?
Phil, UK

I think that to blame under or over performance on gender is a little narrow minded. Not all boys are loudmouth show-offs, and not all girls are quiet and studious. If teachers find themselves unable to deal with an unruly element in the classroom, surely that is an entirely different issue to deal with? The current suggestion would seem to disadvantage boys who are quiet and studious by nature - and I find this pigeon-holing by gender rather offensive.
Ted Miller, Kent

From a continental point of view, the UK can sometime look really outdated in its ideas! I have never, never met anybody from "continental" Europe who attended anything else than a mixed school, and can you honestly say that the average level of education is better in the UK than anywhere else on the continent?
Olivier, Brussels, Belgium (French citizen)

I went to a single-sex school. I was very successful academically and sportingly. I thought that I had well-honed social skills. On entering University, I soon realised that this was not the case. I did not cater for the broader spectrum of people that I met. For three years I felt that I was catching up with my new friends.
Simon, UK

What about us "boys" who don't disrupt classrooms?
Stuart Dempsey, Glasgow

What about us "boys" who don't disrupt classrooms? I am sick of the idiots in my school and would much prefer a quieter atmosphere. I don't want to sit in a class of 30 boys - it is bad enough now.
Stuart Dempsey, Glasgow

We tried sending our eldest to a single sex girl's school. Never again, while the schooling may be better the level of bitchiness was many times that of a mixed sex school. After speaking to adults who have been through single sex boys schools it appears those are no better.
Mark Lowes, Somerset

One of the arguments for single sex schools is that girls are losing out because of the time teachers have to spend dealing with badly behaved boys. True, but there are well behaved boys as well. If girls are entitled to an education away from troublemakers, then so are boys that want to learn.
Steve, Hampshire

We had no hesitation in sending our daughters to an all-girl secondary school
Fiona, London

There is no doubt in my mind that single-sex education benefits girls, and we had no hesitation in sending our daughters to an all-girl secondary school, where at 12 and 14 they certainly don't (so far) miss having boys around - by the end of primary school they were fed up with them! I attended a single-sex school at both primary and secondary level, and have never wished it otherwise.

Both socially and educationally I think girls benefit from waiting until university age before spending most of their time in mixed-sex company, by which time their male counterparts have matured and are a lot nicer to know. Unfortunately boys seem to benefit from the opposite alternative, so there is no way to provide an ideal situation for everyone.
Fiona, London

It's a brilliant idea. Girls often lose out lesson time to teachers dealing with time wasting boys. It is not fair to say that the school system has been biased in favour of girls for the last 40 years! We had the 11 plus then and many LEAs set the exam pass level for girls higher than that for boys!
Meg, Lincs

If co-ed schools are so bad, how do so many students get such good grades? I went to a single-sex secondary school and no way will my daughter - now five - be doing the same. I want her to get a good education and not hit puberty thinking that boys are an alien species.
Ruth, Dorset, UK

I think secondary students should attend mixed schools, but with single-sex classes. I'm sure that boys mature much more slowly than girls, and I know that when I was at school, lessons were constantly being interrupted by boys behaving badly or not being able to concentrate. Single-sex classes would also mean that both boys and girls could concentrate on their lessons rather than trying to impress the opposite sex, but they would still be free to mix socially at lunch and break times.
Allie, London

Having just started at university, I have had the misfortune to encounter several young men in the laboratory who have great difficulty working with, and receiving instructions from women. These same boys all went to single sex schools. I think it a great shame that in the 21st century, this archaic form of segregation is still being practised and nurturing all of those terrible prejudices.

Surely we should be encouraging cooperation and equality? We don't want another generation with a desperately skewed view of what men and women are allowed to do. And as for social skills, well - those aforementioned boys are certainly lacking in that department!
Ana, Cardiff

Compulsory education has been biased in girls' favour for at least four decades. Perhaps a segregated system with male teachers in a competitive exam orientated environment will enable boys to reach the necessary level to begin out perform girls again!
Kris, Edinburgh

The only way to give them the best possible education is to treat each child as an individual
Brendan MacLean, Birmingham, UK

For many years now, politicians have ignored the advice of people who know better than them when it comes to education. There is no such thing as the average child and so to develop and education system that only caters for that average child is ultimately doomed. Children are not all equal and never will be. The only way to give them the best possible education is to treat each child as an individual and allow them to build on their strengths and reinforce their weaknesses and above all, make education interesting. Ultimately, it does not make single-sex education better but it does mean that in some cases it may be far more appropriate.
Brendan MacLean, Birmingham, UK

Parents should have the choice between mixed and single-sex secondary schools for their children where possible. Each child is different: some will be distracted or intimidated by the presence of the opposite sex; others will benefit from it.
Tim, Rugeley, UK

Mixed secondary education seems to work in most countries, e.g. Germany and the US. Why are we so obsessed with diversity in education? A good comprehensive system would work, if properly enforced! Then both sexes could be educated properly to their full potential.
Pauline Fothergill, Halifax, UK

Isn't school meant to be not only about learning, but also about preparing for the outside world? Which particular outside world doesn't allow men and women to work together?
Jamie, Reading, UK

I attended a single-sex school for four years from 1962 to 1966, after leaving and in preparation for turning the school into a new comprehensive the school was told to mix the genders in preparation. After a few years I was talking to one of my form teachers and they informed me that when this mixing of the genders was instigated school discipline, concentration and general school atmosphere changed for the worse, indeed some of my teachers left and went into the private sector.
Ron, UK

Isn't it strange how educational thinking is finally coming full circle? So much for trendy teaching methods.
Martyn, Stratford upon Avon, UK

As someone who went to an all boys school, I can thoroughly recommend single sex learning. I would have been far too busy chasing girls and not spending enough time on learning!
Paul, Fareham

I went to a single-sex school and whilst this may have helped pupils concentrate on academic subjects, it didn't help us acquire social skills, which are arguably more important. On a daily basis I have to use team working skills but as for some of the academic knowledge, I've long forgotten it.
Mark, Glasgow, UK

Of course it is! It is hard enough to learn at school without the distractions of the opposite sex. Co-educational comprehensives are another example of the failure of liberal education policy.
Dave Mailer, Bristol, UK




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