What’s the evidence on…single-sex schools

The head of an independent co-educational school has said that girls educated at a single-sex school are at a huge disadvantage. Richard Cairns, head of Brighton College, writing in the magazine, Independent School Parent, said,  “After all, if girls do not learn to socialise with boys as children, what happens when they go out into the work place? They may have a clutch of A*s and a first class degree but if they cannot meaningfully converse and communicate with male colleagues they will be at a huge disadvantage.” In the article, he refers to research published in the American journal, Science. 

Dr Alice Sullivan, Director of the 1970 British Cohort Study, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL-IoE, has researched single-sex schooling. Here she explains the evidence she found:

“People often make claims about the consequences of single-sex schooling for relationships between the sexes without referring to any evidence. Ours is one of the only studies to examine the influence of single-sex schooling on long term outcomes such as relationships and childbearing. We found that women who attended single-sex schools were no more or less likely to marry than those in co-educational schools. There was also no influence on childbearing. Most surprisingly, girls-only schools did not even have a protective effect against teenage pregnancy, which suggests that single sex schools may do less to impede relationships between the sexes than parents hope.

We found that girls from single-sex schools were more likely to take male-dominated subjects such as maths and science at school. Girls who had attended single-sex schools also had slightly higher wages than their co-ed peers in mid-life (at age 42).”

Notes The project web page is here.

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