The number of single-sex state schools has fallen from nearly 2,500 to just over 400 in 40 years. On the other hand, recent research may prove to be a major factor in possibly boosting the demand for a return to same-sex education in the UK.
However, in 2006, Nottingham City Council proposed closing its last remaining all-girl comprehensive unfortunately due to falling demand, which led to a fierce protest by angry parents in the area. It was their right, they argued, to send their daughters to a school without boys. The school is thankfully still open today. But why were these parents so supportive of their same-sex system?
It is obviously a key issue among parents eager to do the best for their children. This recent same-sex debate has been fuelled by a recent 2009 analysis of Key stage 2 and GCSE scores of more than 700,000 girls that revealed that those in all-female comprehensives make better progress than those who attend mixed secondary schools.
Even mix-sexed schools are starting to experiment with single-sex classes after a Government-backed review in 2007 recommended that boys and girls should be taught differently to maximise results, amid fears that girls tend to be pushed aside in mixed-sex classrooms. A major longitudinal study of over 17,000 individuals examined whether single-sex schooling made a difference for a wide range of outcomes, including academic attainment, earnings, marriage, childbearing and divorce.
This report backed-up previous research from June 2005, when researchers at Cambridge University released results of a four-year study of gender differences in education. The research found that the single-sex classroom format was remarkably effective at improving girls' performance in maths and science, while also boosting boys' performance in subjects such as English and foreign languages.
Brenda Despontin, president of the Girls' School Association and a head at an all-girls school, summarised the pro-same-sex school argument in a 2006 issue of the Guardian when she said: "Girls and boys develop at different stages. Single-sex schools are particularly good at finding what is special and nurturing it. I think it is difficult for girls in co-ed to achieve what they can in single-sex schools."
Although, it may be ludicrous and a knee-jerk reaction to suggest that the UK returns to single-sex education, it at least certainly makes good sense to fight for the opportunity for the remaining schools to continue....and hopefully flourish again.