Thursday, 11 February 2021

Girls will be girls!

 Reading Libby Purves in yesterday's Times gave me a lot of food for thought   and is on a subject nothing to do with any of my boring things over the past few weeks.   So here's to something completely different.

She is writing about co-education versus single sex schools.   Did you know that in this country for example only twelve percent of State schools remain single sex?

My schooling was 1937 to 1949.   I started out in a Lincolnshire village school - boys and girls.   We all knew and played with one another long before we started school.   In those days it was a small school with only two teachers.   One - Miss Smith  - had been a pupil teacher (common in those days).   The babies adored her and I am sure we all learned a lot with her help. 

The we 'went up' at seven into Miss Kirkbride's class and at this stage the boys left us and all went to the boys' school in the neighbouring village (the villages ran into each other so it wasn't far away).   Mr Laws was in charge here and we all viewed him wi th a mixture of respect and awe (and he certainly never had discipline problems).  At ten I won a Scholarship to Lincoln Girls' High School -a single sex school.   After that I never encountered the opposite sex at school again...no boys, no male teachers.

Living in a village I knew and played with boys all the time.   Maybe it would have been different if I had lived in a town.

Almost all of the Public Schools have been admitting girls for a few years now.  (how much of this is because they need the extra money it brings in in these times when going to Public school is waning) or how much is because these schools want to encourage co-education is not for me to say.   But of the 'top' schools only a handful remain single sex.

There is no doubt that out in the workplace the role of women is changeing.   I really can't remember anyone ever being encouraged to work towards University in my day - maybe they were.   My parents would have struggled but I was consistently at the top end in my class and I am certain that had it been suggested at least I would have been consulted.

Are there fors and againsts in total Co-ed throughout the country or should we work towards it?   I would be interested to hear your views.   I can't say that in the Workplace I ever felt discriminated against and I did rise quite rapidly through my profession to the level I wished to go.

Libby Purves rightly points out that female scientists, politicians and the like still 'attract comments for their looks and dress sense' in social media.   Very rarely do men (although the photograph of our Prime Minister doing his morning exercises on the front page of The Times this morning has slightly altered my view with this statement).  But how much of this has anything to do with single sex or co-education?   Any feelings on the subject?

37 comments:

libby said...

Boys and girls being taught together all the way through their education seems to make perfect sense. Why separate them really?.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

I went to an all-boys school from 11 to 17 years old; I thought it was a daft idea then and I still do. It's interesting that at Cambridge University there are now only two single-sex colleges - Newnham and Murray Edwards, both of which are women's colleges.

Fifitr said...

Like you I started at a mixed primary and then moved onto an all-girls school in the mid-70s. After a year or so we moved into the city to be nearer to the school so I lost touch with all my village friends and didn't make any male friends until I was about 16, but that didn't stop me being comfortable around boys when I was older and I don't think it held me back. In fact the majority of my closest friends are male and I've always tended to gravitate towards groups of men rather than women.
I do remember the boys being much more rowdy and attention seeking in mixed classes but they were young and everything was a bit chaotic in the early 70s ultra-liberal school system. I certainly went from being shy to very confident in an all-girls' environment but I'm not sure how much of this was a function of environment and how much was to do with growing up and being in an academic environment that validated my sense of worth. But the usual argument used to be that boys are distracting and disruptive and girls are less cowed without boys around and engage more. My school certainly raised a cohort of self-confident, even arrogant 'ball-breakers' but I don't know that the same male/female disparities and prejudices exist in schools now.

Unknown said...

How fascinating! When I started school (mid 1960s) in the U.S., attending both private and public schools throughout my school years in various states, it was always co-ed. The all boys or all girls schools were exceedingly rare and always expensive private schools. I had a friend who went to one. She's the only peer I ever knew who did. And in America college or university was encouraged from the 1960s/70s on. At least that was my experience.

Hard up Hester said...

I have four children, two boys and two girls. They went to singles sex schools, not because they were single sex but they were better schools than the local co-ed. I actually prefer co-ed schools though. My kids have all done well and both my girls are more than capable of standing up for them selves.

Minigranny said...

I went to a co-ed school which was fine in the earlier years but when it came to later GCE years the boys be both disruptive and distracting. My daughter went to a co-ed school but when we moved house went to a single sex school and loved that one as she felt it was easier to study there.

Rachel Phillips said...

I don't really have a strong view on it. Almost all schools were single sex when I went to school It worked alright. It made the secret after school rendezvous with boys on the way home in the bus station, on the bus or wherever a bit more exciting perhaps, the forbidden fruit who we never mixed with. I think I probably worked harder as a teenager in a single sex school than I would have done in a co-ed.

CharlotteP said...

Going to a single sex girls grammar school with a very strong academic ethos, there was little or no opportunity to pursue practical subjects. I had to have an interview with the (terrifying!) headmistress to be allowed to take O level cookery; 'You're not a numbskull, Charlotte' she said...but I got my way. If I'd gone to the local comprehensive, I could have done woodwork...I would love to have been a cabinet maker.

Debby said...

I think probably the most sensible argument that I heard for it was that as teenagers, boys and girls learned better when separated. It allowed them to learn and develop their minds without all the distractions of the opposite sex. Academically, the scores for both groups were higher. This makes sense to me. However, this is a private school option only. Public schools are coed.

My children always laughed themselves silly when I told them that as a child, girls wore dresses every day. It was the rule.

Shoot. It was the rule when I grew up and became a keypunch operator. Try explaining THAT occupation to the kids! I think they believed that I had a pet dinosaur too.

Derek Faulkner said...

I went to a mixed infants school in 1953, then a Junior Boys School and finished in a Boys Secondary School. Can't say I missed having distracting girls alongside me and went on to achieve Form Prize and English Prize and do generally well. Rather think that might not have been the case if I'd had the distraction of developing teenage girls in the same class room.

hart said...

I'm in the US and went to a all-girls public high school.(It's now mixed.)
I was president of the science club. I think I'd have been lucky to be secretary if there had been boys in the school.

Brenda said...

I attended coed and can’t imagine anything else...I taught coed and believe it is good for the kids to grow up together.

Ellen D. said...

I was at an all-girls high school for my first 3 years and then our school went co-ed with the boy's school across the field. My senior year was exciting as we had better course choices and better teachers (and BOYS everywhere!) Many students (boys and girls) hated the change to a co-ed school and still talk about it today (over 50 years since we graduated!!)

Librarian said...

Your post and the comments so far are truly fascinating! I never put much thought to the subject of co-ed v single sex ed, but can see both points. When I started kindergarden and then school, it was the early-to-mid 1970s - no question here in Germany, it was all co-ed anyway.

Let me touch on the subject of how female politicians etc. are still commented on their looks and clothes; I certainly notice that a lot and must say I partly blame the female journalsists for that.
My weekly paper, Die ZEIT, is usually regarded as offering a high level of journalistic work, and I enjoy reading it every week. But I have turned it into a little game with myself: Before I start reading an article, I don't look at the author. Instead, I try to guess at the journalist being male or female (or anything else) while reading, and I must say I am rarely wrong.
Whenever a person is described not the way they ARE but the way they LOOK, I am pretty sure the author of the article is a woman - and I am almost always guessing right. That's actually rather sad, I think.

JayCee said...

I attended a mixed sex grammar school in the late 60s to early 70s but having boys around was never a problem. They were most definitely not interested in me!

Bonnie said...

I attended co-ed schools from age five up. I started school in 1957 and to my knowledge most of the public schools were co-ed. I know there were some private schools that were not co-ed but not all of them. Personally, I think co-ed is better in order to hopefully establish a more equal playing field for everyone regardless of sex. Of course for that to work the equality has to extend to the working life after school. Interesting subject Pat!

walking in beauty carmarthenshire said...

I too noticed that picture , Weaver.
I was mixed school till 11 year old then girls only grammar school. Never allowed to go to the same bus stops as the boys grammar. Probably easier to concentrte at a single sex school.

Mrs G said...

I went to a single sex state grammar in the 1980s. We did join up with the local boys grammar for musical/ drama productions, though. We still have several single sex schools in our county (mainly grammars) and they are massively in demand. All have mixed sense VIth gmforms though. Two of my 4 went to single sex and the younger 2 are at mixed. All chose their school (they are the ones going there, after all) and each went to a different one

Mrs G said...

I still have a personal preference for single sex education, having worked in both single sex and mixed schools. I also prefer selective education - but that's another issue entirely! ;)

Anne Brew said...

I went to a (very inadequate) private girls school in Ireland. Coeducation in Ireland in the 60s was unheard of.
I’m 100% in favour of co-education. The world after school is co-ed so no point in putting off the time when boys and girls mix daily.

Mary said...

Co-ed UK Primary School starting in 1948, with wonderful male headmaster and two very charming male teachers I recall fondly - the female teachers were wishy washy! Followed by all girls Grammar School with a male science teacher and the cutest male music teacher whom we all had a crush on - all others were old maid types, including my French teacher who lived up our road and reported me to my mother when I got off a motor cycle outside her house one night!!! I was grounded for a month.
Two years at Technical College, co-ed, where at last I felt I was treated as an adult - favorite teacher was my male English teacher who told me I should write a book. I still haven't other than my blog, lol!
I'm definitely for co-ed schools - life is much more fair and comfortable then.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Such interesting comments and points of view. Thank you for taking the time to think about it and add your thoughts. I really enjoyed reading them all.

Heather said...

It makes sense to me for boys and girls to be educated together, allowing them to mix daily and perhaps do away with the 'mystique' of the opposite sex. Both schools I attended were mixed.

Chris said...

All my elementary and secondary schooling was co-ed (1950's)but Teacher's college was women only with a male stream in the Physical Education department - 300 women and 30 men!

Red said...

Very definitely on the side of coed. We used to have the odd private school that was single sex. Much is learned in coed which carries over to adult hood and the work they do.

lynney62 said...

I'm not sure, and have not researched the numbers as yet, but I believe most all undergraduate public schools in America are coed and it seems to have worked fairly well this way. But, on Friday, January 29, 2021, our President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order stating that "all persons should receive equal treatment under the law without regard for their gender identity or sexual orientation"...including that "children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, locker room, or school sports".....So, this Executive Order will directly affect our public schools and the activities of our children. Many parents are very upset, worried, and frightened as they are not comfortable with their female child using the same restroom as a male child, who "identifies" as a female...especially during teen years for those young females who are undergoing many personal, private body/hormonal changes. The cultural changes happening now regarding gender identity are very frightening for many parents who are trying to protect their children, raise their children in the Christian faith, and protect their privacy and keep them safe. It is a very strange, crazy culture we are living in right now.

Margaret Butterworth said...

It is said (maybe after research, but I can't quote it) that girls do better in single sex schools and boys do better in co-ed schools. Girls thrive on their own, since boys demand and get teachers' attention in mixed classes. Boys, on the other hand, benefit from the civilising influence of females. A friend of mine had been a librarian in both types of school and acted on her observations. She sent her daughter to a private girls school and her son to a co-ed government school. However, if everyone did this there would be some unintended consequences!

Cro Magnon said...

I went entirely through the private system, which of course was all male. However, in 1970 my old school decided that, to celebrate 1,000 years of the school's history, they would take girls. I think it has been a great success, although how I would have coped; I'm not sure. When teaching I taught in an all girls upper school and in a mixed Prep' school. The mixed Prep' school was wonderful, and deserved its reputation.

Tom Stephenson said...

At my terrible school (highest juvenile delinquency record in the South) there was a white line drawn down the middle of the playground. All trysts were arranged at the border.

Alice Cove said...

When I was at my horrible secondary modern in the 60’s it was the boys who were ill behaved and disruptive, it is still the same in the Primary schools my children teach in and the same in an excellent comp my g.children attend. Until the male of the species become aware of how important education is then it will remain the same, disruptive, insubordinate behaviour so that girls also get a hard time trying to concentrate and come out with good grades. I believe there are more women going to University than males now so perhaps that says it all, women have superior intelligence and gaining good degrees leaving the Neanderthals to do whatever it is they do. Yes, single gender education, bring it on. Alice Cove.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks again everyone.

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Joanne said...

I worked in a girl’s’ school for many years. On one occasion I was on a joint trip with a mixed school and we went swimming. The girls from the mixed school either swam in shorts and T shirts or refused to swim at all. The girls from my school, who had never experienced the diminishing effects of the male gaze on a daily basis, merrily stripped off to swimsuits and had a fine time splashing around. I now work in a mixed school and some of the comments made by boys about the girls’ appearance are horrible. Protect the girls from the boys, I say!

Joanne said...

I agree. The boys hog the teacher’s attention and wreck lessons for the girls.

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