Vicky Tuck, head of Cheltenham Ladies College, claimed this week that girls' education is sacrificed in order to help struggling teenage boys. Speaking at the annual conference of the Girls' School Association, she said that girls are being used to improve their male classmates' education and are losing out on a focused women-only school life, according to this report. "What happens at boys' schools is there may be falling rolls, or their results may not be as good as they might like. They think they can solve that by widening the catchment and taking in girls. Girls are regarded as more diligent and they will pull up exam results and they assume the boys will respond and it will be a wake-up call for them."
The GSA website has interesting articles on why they believe girls are short-changed by the co-educational system, and how girls schools do things differently. Some of that could be really useful if you run single-sex groups or want to be more aware of how gender issues could be sabotaging your mixed youth work. But having identified some of the challenges inherent in educating girls and boys together, I'm not convinced that the answer is to educate them completey separately. I went to an all-girls secondary school, and I don't think it was a great preparation for the reality of living and working with men for the rest of my life. Of course, I wouldn't want to see boys or girls lose out from being educated together, but I'd like to see good examples of how co-ed schools are addressing some of these gender issues and finding ways of helping both girls and boys reach their full potential together. What do you think?