Why choose a boys’ school?
The number of single-sex schools has reduced over the past thirty years. Many boys’ schools have accepted girls, often into the Sixth Form at first, and this has put pressure on some girls-only schools which have seen pupil numbers decrease. You may have heard the commonly-held opinion that girls do better academically in single-sex environments while boys perform better in mixed schools. THIS IS NOT TRUE! Loughborough Grammar School and High School are both enrolled in a programme called MidYIS, run by the University of Durham, which measures the progress that students make between the age of 11 and GCSE. More than twenty years of research covering millions of pupils shows unequivocally that boys also do significantly better in single-sex schools, by an average of 0.2 grades per GCSE subject.
At the Loughborough Endowed Schools, we have the best of both worlds. Firstly, there are the mixed Prep Schools, Fairfield and Our Lady’s Convent School (OLCS), catering for boys and girls from 3 to 11. Shortly before the onset of adolescence, our education then moves to a single-sex model with Loughborough High School and OLCS for girls, and Loughborough Grammar School for boys. However, as I will describe in more detail later, the fact that the schools are next to one another facilitates a huge amount of mixing of the sexes, socially, academically and in co-curricular activities.
So what are the advantages of a boys-only environment for secondary education? Let me answer from the perspective of Loughborough Grammar School.
Social pressures can have a negative impact on the academic
If you have a 7 or 9 year old son, you are unlikely yet to have noted much difference in how he interacts with girls, compared with boys. However, as the teenage years approach, boys become very aware of the opposite sex and spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about what the girls might think of them. Some will turn to ‘showing off’ behaviour in order to attract attention, whilst others will be paralysed into silence. It’s well-known that girls tend to mature earlier, and their greater articulacy in lessons can be extremely intimidating for adolescent boys.
In contrast, boys are more likely to take intellectual risks without having girls to worry about. What do I mean by this? Before coming to LGS as Headmaster, I was Deputy Head of a large mixed boarding school and I am therefore reflecting on recent experience. Boys tend to become more collaborative in a single-sex setting. They can just be boys and not worry about what the girls might think. The biggest difference that I have noted between boys in the single-sex schools that I have worked in and those in my previous mixed school is that they put their hands up in class and volunteer themselves. They do not have to fear judgement from the opposite sex as being too ‘keen’.
We have the significant advantage of being able to adapt our teaching styles to the specific needs of boys. Boys thrive on competition and on enquiry-based learning: if you give boys a difficult task involving an information gap that they must fill, they tend to be motivated by the challenge. If they fail, they bounce back – a vital trait as we seek to develop their resilience during their secondary education. The Grammar School’s Teaching and Learning committee has done considerable research into how boys learn best, with staff presenting at international conferences on the subject. All new staff are given resources which are the fruit of this research and which help them to adapt their teaching styles to the boys in their classes.
Proponents of co-education claim that mixed schools help to break down gender stereotypes, but the evidence contradicts this. In single-sex schools, once pupils make subject choices for GCSE and A Level, boys are much more likely to choose subjects like English Literature, Art and Modern Languages, while far more girls choose Physics and Maths in girls’ schools. Similarly, this is because boys and girls are able to choose subjects on their own merits, rather than worrying about whether their choices make them unmasculine or unfeminine in the minds of the opposite sex.
The LES way
Yes, it is important for boys to understand girls, as the world of work is certainly mixed. This is where Grammar School boys have the best of both worlds. Almost half of our boys use the coach service, where they mix socially with girls from the High School and OLCS. In addition, a great deal of the co-curricular life of the school takes place in conjunction with the girls’ schools. All musical activities, which involve hundreds of boys, are mixed, as are the major Drama productions. In recent years, the CCF has become mixed, giving boys the opportunity to lead girls and vice versa. In the Sixth Form, there is mixed teaching in several subjects: notably Classics, Politics and Psychology but also other subjects as flexibility demands: girls wanting to take DT A Level, or boys interested in PE A Level for example. Finally, all of the 6th Form academic societies that take place at lunchtime are mixed, giving girls and boys the opportunity to engage in robust intellectual debate; and it’s true that, by the age of 16, the presence of the girls at the Philosophy or Debating Society certainly seems to make the events more popular with the boys!
If you’ve not thought about a boys’ school before, come and see us! Our Open Day for Autumn 2016 is on Saturday 1st October, where the most important thing will be to ask our boys themselves for their own opinions. Alternatively, the Director of Admissions, Calvin Feakes (email@example.com) will be delighted to arrange an individual visit if this is more convenient.
Duncan Byrne – Headmaster