Secondary school is a trying time for everyone; be it your desperate efforts to obtain good grades, the pressures of being seen as ‘cool’, or the general annoyances that come along with puberty.
When I was picking my secondary school, I chose an all-girls grammar school since my sister was attending one at the time. I also liked the academic appeal and the comfort of it being a familiar territory. During those five years, it became an important place to me. My friendships, education, and hobbies all revolved around the school in one way or another, so it was no surprise when I decided to stay there and attend its sixth form.
This was when I began to pick up on the stigma surrounding all girls’ schools and I was shocked at how strongly people felt about them.
Some arguments against all-girls schools are ridiculous and incredibly sexist, basing themselves on the stereotype that girls are ‘bitchy’ and that this type of environment would be poisonous for girls to grow up in. From my experience studying in a single-gender school, the atmosphere was far from malicious or uncomfortable. In fact, I would argue the opposite. Even if we were diverse in our opinions or values and our attitudes differed greatly from one another, we all had certain common ground and with that came an immediate sense of friendship.
Other arguments that also aren’t in favour of same-gender schooling attempt to undermine girls, speculating that they might not know how to communicate with men when they leave school. For example, in an article by the BBC, they quote Mr Cairns: the head of Brighton College who opposes single-gender schools. He says ‘that if [girls] cannot meaningfully converse and communicate with male colleagues, they will be at a huge disadvantage.’ This is, of course, assuming that none of them have dads, brothers, cousins, or friends outside of school. Most importantly, men can be teachers too! It is, in my opinion, ignorant to believe that girls are isolated in an unrealistic representation of the world. I would actually go as far as to say that I thrived in a learning environment where it was encouraged for girls to shamelessly speak up and have an input.
The successes of single-gender schools is often ignored by those who oppose them; ignoring achievements is the easiest way to negatively criticise something. In the same BBC article, the president of the Girls’ Schools Association, Caroline Jordan, argues that ‘girls’ schools feature heavily at the top of the league tables for independent schools and have done so for decades’. This argument is one I would usually avoid, but I can’t help but agree with. I’d always been quiet prior to attending secondary school, but the support and competitiveness I was surrounded with gave me the drive that allowed me to excel.
Ultimately, I think most of my old classmates and many others would agree that single-gender schools are not the detrimental environments they’re made out to be. Not only do they teach like every other school, they also encourage values like confidence, enthusiasm, and independence which is all I could have asked for from an education.