It’s an old chestnut; which should you choose? A single sex or a mixed school?
You read it in the papers, you hear it on TV. Usually around the time that A Level and GCSE results are released. One sex performs better than the other, one type of school performs better, and so on. Cue a roster of experts citing studies arguing in favour of one type of school. Counter claims and questions about statistical validity follow. Add into the mix opportunistic politicians giving their opinions about why this is so, and what needs to change. But nothing does change. And next year the whole circus plays out again.
In a later post I’ll look at some of the arguments for choosing one over the other. But first, some data. Data tells us something about choice. And that choice is limited. Almost to the point of negating the whole debate.
100 years ago single sex was the norm, perhaps reflecting the different roles that men and women played in society. Today mixed schools are the norm, perhaps reflecting the convergence of those roles.
If you want a single sex school, you’ll probably have to pay
In the UK there are around 23,000 mainstream primary schools. Only 334 of them are single sex. So primary education is 98.5% mixed.
Of those 334 single sex schools, 322 are independent. In other words, if you want a single sex school for your primary age child, you will probably have to pay.
It’s a similar, if less extreme, situation at secondary level. Of the 4,000 mainstream secondary schools 782, or nearly 20%, are single sex. 55% are state and 45% are independent.
Put another way, 35% of independent secondary schools are single sex, compared to 14% of state secondaries.
Your choice narrows even more
Choice rapidly narrows thereafter. There are only 180 single sex state secondaries that aren’t academically selective. 6% of state secondaries.
And only 80 single sex independents that don’t have a mixed sixth form or a faith-centric curriculum. 8% of indepdendent secondaries.
Alas, there is only one single sex secondary school in Scotland, and four in Wales.
So years of public education policy and parental choice have taken us to a situation where 96% of schools offer mixed education.