I have been head of City of Portsmouth Girls’ School since 2003. Up until that point I had neither professional nor personal experience of single sex education. I believed, naively, that good teaching and learning was the same for both sexes. I have been converted.
From experience, I have noticed a lot of ways in which our girls have benefited from single sex education. They acquire higher self-esteem and greater self-confidence, are willing to put their hands up, take risks and make mistakes. They feel more positive about working and learning together, they develop broad horizons and higher aspirations.
There is no ceiling on their ambitions here. If girls want to achieve they can be given every chance.
Girls in single sex education also gain higher levels of achievement at all levels with more girls than ever achieving five good GCSEs with English and maths.
Recently, The News published research showing that even in universities young women have different learning styles to men and will avoid a mixed environment if they feel unable to contribute as they lack confidence in front of their male colleagues.
This national research supports what I see on a daily basis. That is, girls thriving in the knowledge they can contribute at every level. Anecdotally, girls who return to us having tried a mixed environment say ‘I feel more comfortable here as there are no boys dominating the teacher’s attention’ and ‘I don’t like answering in class if there are boys around’.
Then I see the rewards of our work, in girls who leave us confident and ambitious, taking the lead for example as head of student welfare at Portsmouth College or holding their own at Oxbridge interviews.
I am now an avid supporter of single sex education for girls. I feel it gives young women the chance to learn in their own way, and to enter into a co-ed environment with the strength to succeed.