A recent article saying that girls educated in single-sex schools are at a huge disadvantage provoked the expected responses from head teachers.
What struck me, though, was the reaction from Old Cornelians – former students at Mayfield School, where I am headmistress – who responded passionately and immediately. Richard Cairns, a head of the co-educational Brighton College private school, described single-sex education as “a deeply unrealistic world”, saying that girls at single-sex schools can achieve top grades but they leave unable to talk to boys. This is but one of the many misconceptions about single-sex girls’ schools. It is outdated to think you need to have boys in the classroom to be able to “cope” with them and converse and communicate with male colleagues in the future. Girls’ and boys’ schools have regular involvement; good schools facilitate opportunities for them to meet and mix on a social, intellectual and professional level. Social networking predominates outside school and parents today are much more open to facilitating their children's social lives.
A former student, who is a police detective inspector and a former member of the armed forces, told me to say that she doesn’t feel that not having boys around all the time during her teenage years has made her any less able to work comfortably with men. She chose a career as an engineering officer in the army, where women are very much still in the minority and she says she has never felt unable to “meaningfully converse and communicate with male colleagues”.
Written by: Antonia Beary