Girls who attend single-sex schools leave with top grades but may be at a ‘huge disadvantage’ later on if they are unable to talk to boys, a leading headmaster has suggested.
Richard Cairns, head of Brighton College, said young women could face difficulties if they do not learn to socialise with the opposite sex as children.
In a magazine article, Mr Cairns took aim at single-sex schools, saying he was puzzled by parents looking for a place that will prepare their child for the future who are swayed by ‘outdated notions’ about young women performing better in girls-only schools.
Girls who attend single-sex schools leave with top grades but may be at a ‘huge disadvantage’ later on if they are unable to talk to boys, a leading headmaster has suggested (file photo of a mixed-sex school)
‘All parents looking for a school for their daughter have broadly similar criteria in mind,’ he wrote. ‘They want somewhere that readies their child for the world beyond the school gates, academically and socially.
‘That is why I am often perplexed when they end up being swayed by outdated notions about girls performing better in single sex schools and plump for that deeply unrealistic world.
‘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.’
Supporters of girls’ schools argue that students achieve high standards, and are more likely to take subjects traditionally seen as ‘male’ – such as physics and maths.
Caroline Jordan, president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) said it was ‘old-fashioned’ to assume that these schools do not offer plenty of appropriate opportunities for young women to interact with young men.
In his article, Mr Cairns argued that girls at Brighton College – a co-educational private school – would not say that they have been held back by learning alongside boys.
Mr Cairns said: ‘Boys in single-sex school tend to create their own artificial hierarchies where only those in the 1st XV rugby team are truly valued’ (file photo).
He went on to acknowledge that there are many good schools that are co-educational and many that are single-sex.
But he added: ‘There is something, I feel, much more common to schools that educate both boys and girls and that something is kindness.
‘Boys in single-sex school tend to create their own artificial hierarchies where only those in the 1st XV rugby team are truly valued while girls-only schools sometimes suffer a degree of emotional intensity that can lead to bullying.
‘Contrast that with a co-educational world where girls admire the boys who dance, sing or act, and so, therefore, do the boys. Contrast that too with a mixed environment where the emotional intensity of all girls is diluted by the boys.
‘In other words, there is a place for everyone and an environment where girls and boys can be themselves.’