Fringe Box



Guildford Schools at Forefront of Single Sex versus Co-ed Education Debate

Published on: 3 Oct, 2014
Updated on: 7 Oct, 2014
Coed v Single sex

Two Guildford schools one co-ed and one single sex but also one state school comprehensive, Guildford County School and one independent, Guildford High School.

By Maria Rayner

A heated debate was played out this week in the national media between two Guildford girls’ school headmistresses.

The difference of opinion regarding single sex schooling has been revealed on the eve of the Headmasters’ Conference (HMC) annual meeting. Fiona Boulton, who leads the top ranking Guildford High School near Stoke Park, criticised the “narrow focus” of some all-girl schools in the Sunday Telegraph, and said teachers should be concerned with getting “the best out of every pupil” irrespective of gender.

She continued: “I think if you create a really great environment then pupils do well. I don’t sell a school on it being single-sex… I sell it on the fact that we set out to be excellent in all that we do and that’s why you should choose us, not because it is an all-girls school.”

This view is echoed by the Chief of OFSTED, Sir Michael Wilshaw who told The Sunday Times: “Boys and girls do better in a mixed-school setting . . . as long as it is a well-run school. A mixed-school setting is by far more congenial”.

He said that boys’ schools were macho and “much tougher” than co-educational schools, and that placing working-class boys in single-sex schools to try to improve their performance would not work.

Sir Michael said: “I was head of an all-boys’ school. We did all right, but I much preferred being head of a mixed school. Girls and boys mix socially in the workplace. They should be educated together, too.”

However, the current President of the Girls’ Schools Association, Alice Phillips, Headmistress of St Catherine’s School, Bramley, disagrees. Also in the Sunday Telegraph she says: “Many of the top performing independent schools in the country are girls’ schools.”

She added that an analysis of A-level results “for all girls in all schools and sectors” shows that those belonging to GSA were more likely to score highly in subjects such as science, technology, engineering, maths and foreign languages.

Dr Cox, the Headmaster of Guildford’s other top performing single sex school, the Royal Grammar School was unavailable for comment as he is attending the Headmasters’ Conference this week.

RGS is very proud of its long tradition of single sex education, proclaiming on its website: “The RGS has maintained an innate belief in the value of single-sex education and through generations of inspirational, erudite and charismatic teachers, the School has taken pride in nurturing an environment which provides an education specifically tailored for boys.

The school provides “a stimulating, inspiring education which fulfills boys’ need for pace, variety and healthy competition. Boys are given the space and opportunity to mature and develop at their own pace and, most importantly, they enjoy a happy and challenging education in a supportive, positive environment.”

Two of Guildford’s mixed state schools, George Abbot and County, were contacted for their opinion but neither expressed a viewpoint.

The last words in this argument belong to GHS’s Fiona Boulton, with so much that divides our society, schools “just need to work out how to teach children and how to get the best out of each child rather than which school they are in”.

What’s your opinion? What’s best: mixed, boys or girls? Were you out-machoed in a boys’ school or did you feel the pace suited you? Did boys (or girls) distract you in a mixed school and were you gender stereotyped?

The Guildford Dragon NEWS would love to hear your experiences of being a pupil in one of Guildford’s schools.


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