The last remaining all girls’ secondary school in Cambridge has said single sex learning is still best for its pupils – after one of its private school rivals announced it will let boys in.
The Stephen Perse Foundation, a group of private schools in Cambridge that includes Perse Girls, which inspired the infamous fictional boarding school St Trinian’s, is admitting boys into its junior and senior schools for the first time in its 132-year history, as the News reported.
Although its schools will now be mixed, boys and girls will be taught in some classes separately between the ages of 10-16.
The move makes St Mary’s the only all girls’ school in Cambridgeshire at both junior and senior levels.
Headteacher Charlotte Avery said they wish the foundation all the best for the transition, but is convinced there is still a place for an exclusively female education.
She said: “We are all aware of the well-rehearsed arguments surrounding the academic advantages of single-sex schools and the league tables are dominated by them.
“However, it is important not to overlook the other benefits of an all girls’ education, since girls in a single-sex school have the space for their intellectual and social confidence to blossom.
“There is a tremendous freedom to be – and discover – themselves and to fully explore all the educational opportunities available to them both inside and outside of the classroom.”
Geoff Fewtrell, a former Chesterton Community College teacher, went to a single sex school but has mainly taught mixed classes of pupils, which he says presents challenges for teachers.
The NASUWT union member said: “It’s important to mix the sexes because that prepares them for life and they need that social interaction with the opposite sex.
“But there is an argument to have separate boys and girls classes at certain stages and in particular subjects because they learn and develop at different speeds.”
He said the diamond formation adopted by Perse Girls is a way of tackling the issue, and suggested state schools could follow suit – particularly around the ages of 12-13 in subjects like the sciences.