My youngest brother started at an all boys secondary school in September. My area is one of the few that still operates on a grammar/high and comprehensive school system. A system that is almost as old fashioned as the single sex schooling it practises. Whilst many, including my parents, fully support this style of education, plenty of others would argue that it is indeed ineffective and outdated.
The biggest argument for same sex schooling is that the students will be free from distraction from the opposite sex. I can picture it now; rooms full of students eager to learn, not sparing a single thought for the opposite sex. Except that's ridiculous. Teenagers are full of hormones, and I assure you that the mind can wander beyond the classroom quite easily. Besides, don't forget that there are plenty of LGBT+ students who will be positively thrilled by the idea of spending all their time with the same sex.
My little brother says he's glad he doesn't have girls at school because he can't stand them. I politely informed him that in the workplace he would have to put up with girls. Very few professions provide single sex environments, so boys and girls need to learn to get along and work together. School prepares you for that.
Many parents and teachers alike preach that boys and girls learn differently. I will admit, there is some science to this. Some studies support the idea that boys learn through practical application whereas girls learn better in a textbook style. There are of course studies that contradict this, pointing out that no two brains are the same, regardless of gender. Furthermore, it doesn't matter much whether boys and girls learn differently if they aren't being taught differently. Upon questioning, my brother revealed that he is taught in the exact same way I was; textbooks, power points, hand outs and notes. So if the teaching is the same, what's the point?
Some girls say that single sex schooling allows them to defeat sexist stereotypes. In theory that sounds great. Single sex schools provide a safe environment for girls to grow and develop separately from boys. Some studies even show that girls in single sex schools perform better in male dominated areas like maths and science. However, many people suggest this enforces gender differences rather than challenging them. Rather than dealing with the sexism, we are simply separating the sexes. Rather than teaching that boys and girls can't flourish together, perhaps we should try teaching respect.
Social interaction is a crucial part of the school experience. At a mixed school I experienced being around boys, working with boys and dealing with boy related drama. Consequentially, I know how to be around boys, work with boys and deal with their drama. This is so so important. My local grammar school mixes at sixth form. Despite this, not many girls actually attend, and on an open day it became very clear why. When faced with girls the boys completely lost it; they followed us around, they treated us like fresh meat. We were left huddling together, finding safety in numbers. It was bizarre, being around boys who had no idea how to socially interact with girls.
Another of my observations from my brothers experience is that boys fight a lot more when girls aren't around. In my seven years of secondary and sixth I probably witnessed about four fights. Four. My brother has had more kids in his class excluded in 3 months for fighting, than I did in seven years. Boys behaviour is better, and they grow up faster when they are around girls. That is clear.
Let's not forget minorities either. LGBT+ students have a completely different experience of single sex schooling than other kids. Statistics show that boys are considerably less accepting of gay students. Not to mention trans students. Students transitioning at high school age may struggle with feeling like they don't fit in. They could experience bullying more than other students. And that's without being at a school that your gender doesn't align with. Also, what about gender fluid students? Non-binary students? Where do they fit in here? It's time the education system realised that gender is more complicated that they are willing to admit.
Single sex schooling may be a great experience for some, and fine for others. But for me, mixed schooling is the way forward.