It is no secret that thoughts about schooling and outcomes of education are changing around the globe. Guildford Grammar School here in Perth, Western Australia announced their plans to become coeducational in the secondary years from 2018. It is one of many schools in Australia to transition from single sex schooling to coeducation in recent years and it most certainly divides opinion in the parenting and education communities.
There are many schools with a long and proud tradition of offering single sex schooling that continue to stand by the idea that boys and girls learn differently and education that is segregated best meets the needs of these two groups of learners.
The growth in our understanding and acceptance of gender association and identity informs us that there are often more differences within gender groupings than between. Not all girls are suited to an education alongside other girls and not all boys are suited to an education alongside other boys. For some children it is an obvious solution and part of their best approach to learning. For other children who do not strongly associate with the typical gender stereotyping of their gender, it is a mistake.
Parents choose their child’s education based on many factors. Family traditions, the particular requirement of the child, the extracurricular offerings, the school’s location and academic performance, the offering of outstanding pastoral care… The factors are as individual as they are endless.
As the parent of four young men, choices for their secondary education have been based on their passion, drive and interests and which schools best fit those requirements. That has meant four different schools for four very different children. If any of my boys had been better suited to a single sex education, that’s where I would have looked. Parents know their children, know their children’s needs and should feel empowered to look for that education for their child without restriction.
So the decision to unplug from a 120 year tradition of single sex secondary education must come as a gift to some parents and as a shock to others – who have specifically sought that education for their child.
The most important message is that coeducation offers a real life experience for children. Men and women stand together in the workplace and in all aspects of life – so learning these skills early and especially in the formative teenage years makes sense.
Concerns about dropping academic performance should also be allayed. The research tells us that the differences in educational outcomes and life opportunities for children who progress through single sex schooling or coeducation are not statistically significant. Far more indicative of success is a child’s own commitment to their learning journey and the support they get from the teachers along the way. Balancing any perceived academic loss, is the fact that children who learn the skills of being with children of their own gender and the opposite gender do better in life – in all their relationships.
It’s exciting to be part of the discourse around these important issues in education. No longer do we simply look to the academic gains and outcomes but rather to the whole child and their social and emotional well-being. Breaking with tradition certainly isn’t easy and may cause great disappointment to families who hold with and have factored in that educational approach with their child. However, the good news is plentiful and families will accept and celebrate the diversity that coeducation offers their child as part of the rich social, emotional and learning journey through the secondary years.
Claire appeared on Nine’s Today Show to discuss Guildford Grammar’s move to coeducation in 2018.