Single-sex or Mixed School?


Mummy says….’Finding a place for your child at a good school is often a challenge, but many parents also find themselves pondering the type of school that’s likely to be best for their children. Would they be happier and more successful in a single-sex or mixed school?

Single-Sex or Mixed School

The answer isn’t simple, and a lot will depend on the child, but these are some of the issues you could consider.

Different ways of learning

It’s well known that, on average, girls mature faster than boys. This can put boys at a disadvantage in a mixed-sex classroom. But it may also mean that boys work harder in mixed schools if teachers are aware of  the problem and give them the right support.

Girls can benefit in single-sex schools, where they get more intellectual stimulation early on and when subjects are approached in a more cooperative way.

Escaping social pressures

The social pressures of mixed-sex environments can have a damaging effect on girls. Boys tend to dominate in classroom discussions, with assertive girls risking being picked out for bullying. There’s also evidence that girls do worse in maths and science if they are in the company of boys because they have less confidence about their comparative ability.

A good single-sex school such as Hornsey School for Girls can encourage girls to explore a wide range of academic interests, take on leadership roles and feel good about their abilities. This can make them less willing to put up with sexist behaviour when they leave.

Preparation for the real world

On the flip side of this, critics of single-sex schools argue that they can’t possibly prepare people for the real world because they produce young people who have little experience of it. They argue that boys and girls need to learn how to interact with one another, and say that flirtations at this age, which single-sex schools often say are a distraction from academic work, are important to developing the skills needed to have healthy relationships in adult life. There is also concern that women who have been to single-sex schools can underestimate the challenge of dealing with sexism and become more inclined to give in to it.

Behavioural extremes

Sexism can start early in life, and there is evidence that girls in mixed-sex schools are often bullied or even sexually harassed by boys. Boys, however, tend to be less aggressive in mixed groups, and may treat women with more respect in later life if they encounter confident girls when they’re young.

Just as all-boy groups can become aggressive, all-girls groups can be bitchy, and this too seems to be diluted in a mixed-sex environment.

Ultimately, the most important things about any school are its overall ethos and the quality of the teaching, but parents should keep an eye on their children’s progress and be open to moving them to a new type of school if they might do better there.

Whichever type of school you choose, there is always the unfortunate opportunity for an accident there, it may be worth checking out the schools policy on accidents and emergencies.

There is a lot to think about and consider – what do you think?


  1. Both the schools i went to were mixed and my little girls nursery is mixed so personally I think mixed is best for her but I have never rsally thought about it till now x
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  2. I think mixed schools are best because those critics are probably right – single-sex schools can’t possibly prepare people for the real world because. I went to both single sex and mixed schools while growing up and enjoyed the latter more 🙂 Great article!

  3. When I started reading I wasn’t really sure but now I see about the differences in learning ability and the risk of girls being bullied it makes me realise that is what school was like in the one I attended!! Lots to consider for the future!
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  4. I went to an all girls high school and I enjoyed it. There was no pressure to “look cute” every day because boys are present. And we did a lot of events with the nearby all boys high school. And yes, girls still fought over boys all of the time lol. I do not think you miss out on anything and it can really help academically.
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  5. I’d never even thought about this before as I grew up in a mixed sex school but I think maybe a single sex would be better for females as it may help their self esteem, but then I’m divided because then would it make it harder in the future??!?!?!

    Great points and has definitely gave me something to think about.

  6. Before high school I attended a mixed school and I enjoyed be able to beat the boys, being #1 then girls school in high school was also a competition to be the best in most instances so I think it depends on the child
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  7. I went to mixed schools and in all honesty I think I was even more competitive because of it – there was definitely a vine of “we can do anything the boys can do (academically & sports etc) and do it better”.

  8. I went to a mixed school but we were separated into girls and boys only classes for our French lessons as a bit of an experiment, I thought I benefited from the absence of boys in the classroom but French ended up being my lowest graded GCSE… I’m not sure if I was destined to do worse if it hadn’t been for the single sex classes but I did enjoy them! x
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  9. I went to a mixed school and I couldn’t imagine going to a single sex school, it gives you more a real view of how things are 🙂 x
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  10. There aren’t really many options where I live. I didn’t really think there would be much of a difference before now though
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