Girls school vs. mixed? Which would you choose?

(140 Posts)
MothershipG Fri 05-Oct-12 07:12:21

I went to a girls school and feel I did better than I would have done in a mixed school, although as there is only one of me I obviously have no way of proving this!

My DD is in Yr6 and has the choice of single-sexed or mixed.

If we count other factors as equal which would you choose?

Copthallresident Fri 05-Oct-12 08:54:13

I have had two DDs go through a single sex school and I feel as if I have experienced the best and the worst. DD1 absolutely thrived up to GCSE. I think all the advantages of a girls' school contributed, they can angle the teaching methods to the ways girls learn, the girls don't have to be self conscious or distracted, as with hormones raging around Year 9/10 they will be, in the presence of boys. Her love of Science was nurtured and her school is extremely strong for womens' sports (and allround), girls get into national squads. However she felt that studying Science in a girls' only sixth form was a bit stifling, she felt boys would have brought another dimension to the quality of the debates and questioning. However how she would have felt as the only girl and whether she would have been allowed to shine at an earlier age is another matter.

I did feel quite strongly at 11 that DD2 would have been better in a mixed environment but sibling rivalry and disquiet with the texts being studied in English Literature (her best subject) that appeared to be angled at illiciting the interests of reluctant boys (it seemed to boil down to a Frankenstein v Jane Eyre sort of contrast, but I don't know why the choice of texts has to be so polarised) influenced her choice. She suffered from the presence of a lot of troubled girls in her year (it can happen at any school in any year), there was a lot of attention seeking manipulative alpha girl behaviour. She is now in a mixed sixth form and really feels that a girls only environment amplified the cliqueyness and manipulative behaviour. The alpha girl behaviour also embraced being extreme predators of the gentler sex, as in collecting scalps. As a friend's daughter in a mixed school commented, "Those girls (from DDs school) are chasing X now. Why? He smells"

As always in school choice though it is about what works for your DD.

Theas18 Fri 05-Oct-12 09:06:40

Have you asked your DD?

I think we've had the best of both here. Boys and girls schools on the same site so taught separately (except minority 6th form subjects like music) but plenty of social mixing on the bus, in choirs/orchestra/drama etc

Evidence is girls do better in single sex schools, and my DS hasn't done too shabbily either!

notcitrus Fri 05-Oct-12 09:14:34

I went single sex for secondary and the subtle stereotyping that went on that wasn't countered, but I didn't really notice at the time, was significant.

Lots of double maths is only for boring Chinese students, anyone playing with the computer lab in their spare time was considered a total wierdo, and lots of careers advice that told you only to do what you enjoyed, never a mention of having to support yourself let alone a family. Though apart from maths, most of the teachers were excellent.

Being single sex took a bit of the pressure to be interested in boys off, but only a bit. On the plus side, bullying was rare and well-handled.

I think the variation within single sex and mixed schools is much greater than that one obvious difference - sorry not much help OP!

akaemmafrost Fri 05-Oct-12 09:16:44

Single sex, if I had the choice. But I don't sad.

wordfactory Fri 05-Oct-12 09:20:01

I sen DC to a mixed prep but single sex secondary.

It has been a great success so far. School is for knuckling down and the bus/clubs/weekend etc for flirting and worrying about your hair wink.

Mintyy Fri 05-Oct-12 09:21:56

I have chosen single sex for my dd (year 7) and am very happy with that.

I don't quite feel the same way about a school for ds, though. He is cerebral and slightly eccentric and certainly in touch with his feminine side and we live in scary south London! The boys schools round here are possibly quite tough. Oh I don't know.

<worries for next 2 years>

aliportico Fri 05-Oct-12 09:23:45

I couldn't pick one or the other - it depends on the child and, possibly even more, the school. I'm not sure which I would pick if faced with two schools that were equally appealing in other ways.

I have a dd in a single sex school - she wanted to go to the grammar school, and loves it. They don't have brilliant sports facilities due to being squished into a town centre site, but use the boys' school's field and the council athletic track. They do textiles, food tech and product design.

I have another dd at a mixed school - she wanted to go to a mixed school and was very anti the grammar ethos. Again, she is thriving, and is not intimidated by the boys. They do PE separately, and again do all sorts of techs.

And I have a ds at a single sex school. 4 hours of PE a week. No textiles, no food tech. He would have gone to my dd's mixed school if he hadn't got in here, but I felt like he needed the academic push more at the moment than girls around. If he is ever not happy there, I would move him.

I'm glad both options exist, I think they provide quite different environments and suit different kids.

DoIDare Fri 05-Oct-12 09:26:31

My dd attends and I work in a mixed comp. it feels very natural. Anyone who is not straight vanilla fits in more harmoniously. I think it is a more tolerant, less labelling environment.

When I mixed with colleagues in a single sex environment, it seems very artificial to me.

I can't really argue about academic standards as they vary so much, but I am very much a woman's woman, and I prefer mixed for my dds.

fishybits Fri 05-Oct-12 09:32:36

DD will go to a single sexed prep school --in a probably futile attempt to let her be a little girl for as long as she needs to be--and then onto a public school where the majority of her lessons will be single sex but for lessons like drama and her pastoral care will be mixed.

Best of both worlds.

sausagesandwich34 Fri 05-Oct-12 09:36:56

if you have the option, a mixed school that teaches in single sex classes is the best otion IMO

We have one local but it's a private school and we are waiting to find out if we have been awarded a big enough bursary to allow DD to go

lottiegarbanzo Fri 05-Oct-12 09:36:57

Depends on your dd and on the schools of course.

My general view though would be mixed all the way. I went to a good mixed comp (plenty of Oxbridge, Russell group and medical school entrants. A good number of girls taking A level physics 20 years ago). The daily experience of people of both sexes and mixed social backgrounds as normal, so seeing everyone as an individual, not a type, provided a very strong basis for understanding, mixing and working with people and a healthy basis for personal relationships in later life.

My experience of women who went to single sex schools, the many I've met at university and at work (disclaimer, I am not saying all SSS pupils are like this but my experience is many are to some degree), is that many, even most, share an unhealthy distance from, mystification and idolisation of the opposite sex. They find it harder to have men as friends, always thinking of them as actual or potential boyfriends and behaving possessively about them. They often have an exaggerated idea of sexual differences and can't recognise male bluster and bullshit for what it is, sometimes being rather credulous.

When I hear exaggerated and entrenched attitudes about sexual difference, it almost always comes from people who attended single sex schools.

I think the idea that boys are 'a distraction' gives them mystical status and actually makes them seem much more intriguing than most teenage boys really are, perhaps setting girls up to be disappointed!

Helpyourself Fri 05-Oct-12 09:37:13

It sounds like there's not an obvious answer!

Other things to consider are VI Form. My DDs were physically small at 11, and I'm glad they didn't have to contend with 18 year old boys in the corridors and playground. If we'd had the middle school option, up to 13, or 14+, we'd have gone for mixed.

crazymum53 Fri 05-Oct-12 09:39:32

I went to an all-girls school and did Science A levels, including Physics, the actual facilities for Science were not that great. At university where read Chemistry I discovered that many of my peers from mixed schools had far better Science labs than at my old school. It was also a bit of a shock to go from an all-girls environment to a university degree course where girls were outnumbered.
We chose a co-ed school form our dd and there have been no comments at all that certain subjects are for girls or anything like that. In fact she has had female Science and Maths teachers which have boosted her confidence in these subjects.
We did look at 2 all-girls schools and one Headteacher made a comment about "girls don't play football". My dd does like playing football and this is part of PE at the mixed school. So one of the other reasons for choosing the mixed school is that dd is a tomboy! However most secondary schools do separate out boys and girls for PE from Y7 onwards so the OPs comments about her dd running with the boys would probably not be applicable.

Pagwatch Fri 05-Oct-12 09:44:41

I have spent the last five years with young men and women streaming through my house, most of whom are now at university.

I have absoloutely no experience of their having difficulty with friendship with the opposite sex.

I wonder if people don't quite realise the extent to which single sex schools mix activities now.
Ds1 attended classes at a local girls school. They met for drama. They met up at activities and at each others houses. They shock also mixed extensively with local teenagers at state schools.

Unless you are looking at a girls school in the back arse of nowhere, planning to not let them do and activities outside school and keep them at home as much as possible the 'they can't relate to the opposite sex' thing seems highly unlikely to me.

Dd is only just ten and knows lts of boys well - both from her swimming club and her friends siblings and friends. DS1 has just moved into his second year student accommodation with one bloke and four women

Takver Fri 05-Oct-12 09:47:16

It would depend on the schools and how I thought they'd suit my dd, but all other things being equal, I'd choose single sex.

TBH I think I got the best of both worlds - I went to a girls' school which had a boys' school next door, so plenty of social mixing (and a fair no. of mixed classes for less popular subjects as you went up the school) but mainly single sex education.

My feeling is that a lot of the negatives often cited about girls' schools relate to high pressure academic environments in grammar / selective independent schools. I certainly don't recognise them from my non-selective comprehensive school experience. Having said that I'm not sure how many single sex state comprehensives actually exist these days!

Takver Fri 05-Oct-12 09:48:43

Pag, your experience seems very much in line with mine.

I do have happy memories of dressing up boyfriends in our uniform & smuggling them into classes with our less observant teachers to see if they got noticed grin

Bonsoir Fri 05-Oct-12 09:51:11

I prefer mixed schools in theory.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Fri 05-Oct-12 09:54:40

I've been quite taken aback by the number of girls in ds's year who have gone on to girls schools; their parents don't seem particularly thrilled that they chose single sex, but the school did an excellent sales job on them. When I was their age I greeted the prospect of going to an all girls school with horror, and chose the only co-ed available to me.

To be fair it is a good school, I just find seperating girls and boys a bit weird. The difference between individuals are far greater than they are between the sexes.

I also think DOIDare is probably right when she says, "Anyone who is not straight vanilla fits in more harmoniously" in a mixed environment(I much prefer larger schools to smaller ones for the same reason). I can see how that might not always apply; it would very much depend on the school.

lottiegarbanzo Fri 05-Oct-12 09:56:46

Btw, my own experience of 'boys as attention hoggers or a distraction' was that third year (13-14) was a bit blighted by a few poorly behaved pubescent boys taking up a lot of teachers' attention. That was partly because as the last pre-GCSE year we were given weaker teachers, also we only had upper and lower streams at that point, so classes were quite mixed ability. So it's about the school's management. In the GCSE years we were properly streamed for English and maths, with other subjects optional, so teaching, behaviour and attentiveness was suddenly very good. I suppose it's significant that I was in the top stream and the brighter boys and girls were well behaved but also everyone was a bit more mature.

Being educated with boys was quite a good inoculation against fancying most of them! There were plenty of bright, motivated girls and we weren't going to be distracted easily anyway. That's not to say we didn't have social lives but, amongst the more academic set, there wasn't peer pressure to go too far too soon emotionally, at all.

Helpyourself Fri 05-Oct-12 10:02:05

The difference between individuals are far greater than they are between the sexes. You're right of course Jennai, but it's not just about individuals, but entrenched attitudes, Girls' voices v Boys', teachers' expectations, peer pressure etc.

I'm not strongly pro singles sex, ^at all^- it was the best option for my DDs at that age; interestingly what you mentioned about individuals reminded me that age 11 and tiny, DD struck up a lovely friendship with an Upper VI boy.

lottie lots to think about, thank you.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Fri 05-Oct-12 10:03:06

Being educated with boys was quite a good inoculation against fancying most of them!

Yes!!!! The boys at school were either sweet or irritating. We certainly didn't fancy any of them.

Helpyourself Fri 05-Oct-12 10:04:51

DD struck up a lovely friendship with an Upper VI boy, on the bus to school.

breadandbutterfly Fri 05-Oct-12 10:17:58

Single sex for my dds - esp dd2 who is going to be tiny and vv busty and v sweet natured - dodn't need grief of boys for a few years!

i loved single sex and dd1 prefers it too - nice to go through secondary not carig what you look like, spots, periods etc andclasses quieter and no time wasted on flirting etc.

But will send ds to mixed as he needs a calming influence.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Fri 05-Oct-12 10:30:18

Judging on what I see at the bus stop, pupils at the nearest state girls school seem to care very much about their appearance. If anything, the girls at the co-eds seem more relaxed.

Takver Fri 05-Oct-12 10:32:20

I guess the advantage for me of a girls' school is that it is one of the few places in life where being a woman is the norm.

In most of our society, like it or not, to be a woman is to be different, to be 'not a man'. In a girls' school, being a girl is what everyone is, there's no issue about 'can girls speak up', 'do boys dominate the classroom', 'do girls' take science' etc etc, because there are only girls, so girls do everything.

I guess whether you think this is a good thing or not depends on whether you think that girls need to learn early to cope with the issues about being one of the second sex - or whether you think that a few years out of that situation is of help. There are good arguments for both cases, so I suppose practically for me it would depend on the schools and the girls concerned.

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