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Why Coeducation?

Why Coeducation? Because it’s a Coeducational World Out There!

“Why coeducation?” is a question prospective parents frequently ask me, and my answer is simple: preparatory schools by their very nature prepare children for the future, and that future is, unsurprisingly, more than any previous generations,  a coeducational one.

Edge Grove has been resolutely and progressively coeducational since the 1990s, and, for over thirty years, has taught boys and girls to live, work and learn together as equal, independent and confident members of our community.  Coeducation is not something you can embed overnight; many schools locally and nationally have recently changed, or are currently changing their models, moving from single-sex boys or girls to coeducational, but in all honestly, it takes time to get coeducation right.

In truth, our very youngest pupils have a very limited understanding as to the differences between boys and girls, however, as gender awareness grows, girls naturally seem to gravitate more towards other girls and boys towards other boys as they come to define their own gender. One of the wonderful features of successful prep coeducational prep schools is when year groups of boys and girls learn to establish respectful, mature coeducational working relationships through the final years of their prep education.

Many years ago, I taught at an independent senior boys’ school, which introduced girls for the first time into Year 9. I taught an all-boy Year 9 top English set the year before girls arrived, the following year, I taught the same set but with girls and could compare the differences between single sex and coeducational education. In the coeducational set, girls encouraged the boys to set higher standards of presentation and written accuracy, their oracy was more precise and considered, The girls also benefited, quickly learning to be bolder, to take more academic risks, to try out higher order thinking through discussion and exploration, expanding their learning zones and accelerating their learning. I saw boys and girls working together, complementing and enhancing learning in symbiosis. Although not as culturally diverse as Edge Grove, discussion and debate were enhanced coming from different gender perspectives and the challenging of stereotype and orthodoxy became the norm.
Co-educational settings also provide a rich environment for progressive child-centred education, whether it is in promoting pupil voice, establishing a meaningful and pupil-led Mission and its underpinning Values or in celebrating a truly inclusive and diverse community. Coeducation for me provides a platform which prepares pupils for the real-world interactions they will encounter in later life.

Many Edge Grove pupils move on to single-sex, 11+ or 13+ senior schools, which would seem to suggest that coeducation is a less important consideration for parents considering prep schools. I would argue that this makes choosing a coeducational prep school an obvious priority.

My early education was at an all-boys’ prep school and an all boys’ grammar school, which later introduced girls into its Sixth Form. Although I had friends who were girls, I had not really lived or studied with girls until the age of sixteen, missing early opportunities for rich coeducational collaboration, empathy, respect for different perspectives and indeed a healthy sense of competition.

Having taught in coeducational senior and prep schools for thirty years, I would not teach in a single-sex school, partly because coeducation facilitates progressive educational development, helps schools to cut loose from dated dogma and to think creatively about how boys and girls can live and work harmoniously together.

Coeducation helps schools to explore co-educational opportunities in sport, where boys feel comfortable playing netball and hockey and girls get to play football rugby and cricket. Look at the advantages that coeducation has in the direction of and production of plays, obviating the need for schools to ship in pupils from other schools or pupils to play roles of the opposite gender to their own.

I welcome the move that many single sex schools have made towards being coeducational; has been the direction of travel for many schools and continues to be an aspiration for many others, including Winchester College and recently Westminster School.

The future is indeed coeducational!

Ed Balfour
Head

Read this article about Co-Education
Learning to work together with the opposite sex from an early age

One of the most significant advantages of co-education is that boys and girls learn to work together from an early age, as they will be expected to do in adulthood, at home and at work. Pupils who attend a co-educational school in these formative years are introduced to the idea of co-operation and collaboration well in advance of whatever their futures may hold.

This mutual understanding and appreciation of similarities and differences that a co-educational school can engender from the get-go breeds mutual respect, and an awareness and acceptance of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Healthy competition

Competition happens in all walks of life and at all ages, and schools are no exception.  You only need to hear the excited stamping of feet as weekly House Points are announced, or at Sports Day and other events to know that healthy competition is alive and kicking at Edge Grove.  And why is this important? Healthy competition inspires children to feel passionate about what they are studying or playing and to aim high, but it, and this is arguably more important, helps teach children that it is OK to “fail”, and, at co-educational schools, they also learn to do so in front of the opposite sex.

Overcoming Fears

Some children, particularly if they only have siblings of the same gender, can start school fearful of the opposite sex, born out of a lack of knowledge of how children of different genders operate.  They may by shy or hesitant to initiate conversation with the other sex.  The balanced environment provided by a co-educational school offers pupils from the very outset the opportunity to talk to and interact with the opposite sex, setting a blueprint for positive relationships in the future.

Mutual Respect And Understanding

Coeducation emphasises how important it is to respect and listen to everyone, irrespective of gender. The inclusive environment that co-education provides gives rise to better understanding between children, reducing any discrimination and increasing respect and understanding towards each other.

Improved social skills

Children educated in co-educational schools can be seen to show more confidence and comfort in social situations and find it easier to make friends of the opposite sex.

As well as increased social skills, it also boosts children’s self-esteem when learning in a co-ed school; from an early age, Edge Grove children are comfortable expressing their opinions and views in front of the opposite sex, thereby building tconfidence for their future.

At Edge Grove. boys and girls happily work and play together, regardless of gender, as a co-educational learning environment is a normality for them. As well as mixed classrooms, both boys and girls also participate in co-educational sport sports, including football, netball cricket, hockey and rugby.

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