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School Selection by Gender: Why it Works

By Alice Phillips

2015-04-01
"Females especially do better academically in single-sex schools and colleges across a variety of cultures. I have concluded that single-sex schools help to improve student achievement"

School Selection by Gender: Why it Works

By Alice Phillips

School Selection by Gender: Why it Works

Selection in education is traditionally associated with ability or attainment. However, some schools select their pupils by gender. Single-sex schools play a significant role in UK education but what is it about them that continues to attract parents? 

Whereas aspirational parents of the nineteenth-century sent their daughters to single-sex schools because there was simply no viable alternative, aspirational parents of the twentyfirst century select single-sex schools for their daughters because they consider them to be the best. We know this because of a study undertaken to find out why today’s parents choose single-sex schools for their daughters. This study looked at the aggregated results of the School Pulse parental satisfaction surveys carried out in 80 independent schools between 2011 and 2013. i It compared the responses of parents of more than 9,000 girls in 36 girls’ schools and 34 co-educational schools, at both junior (up to year six) and senior (from year seven) level and in both day and boarding schools. The responses – from parents with girls in both girls’ schools and co-educational schools – were remarkably consistent. It was clear, from the information parents provided about the other schools they had considered before making their final choice that the vast majority looked at both single-sex and co-educational schools. This suggests that whether or not the school was single-sex was not necessarily the ‘deal breaker’. Instead, the quality of teaching, pastoral care and extra-curricular provision was far more important in parents’ minds and it just so happened that, for them, it was a single-sex girls’ school that ticked more of those boxes. The big question – and the one that evokes so much discussion and argument – is a chicken and egg conundrum. Which impact comes first: the single-sex environment or the good teaching? To what extent is excellence in girls’ schools down to the fact that teaching is done in single-sex environments and to what extent is it due to their simply being good schools?  

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"Females especially do better academically in single-sex schools and colleges across a variety of cultures. I have concluded that single-sex schools help to improve student achievement"

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