Optimal Single Sex

Is there a third way between single-sex and co-educational learning asks Oliver Snowball, Headmaster of Eaton House The Manor Girls' School.

One of the fundamental decisions for parents is between co-ed and single-sex education. There are many benefits to single-sex education, not least the fact that boys and girls tend to develop and mature at different rates.

There is also an argument to say that boys can be more expressive around their peers and girls less plagued with gender stereotyping when they are educated in single-sex schools. It helps that both girls and boys’ schools are free to develop their curriculums with the sex that they are teaching in mind.

Girls who are educated separately tend to be confident and strong, believing that nothing is beyond them. At Eaton House Schools, which only educates children in single sex schools outside the nurseries, girls have won 33 Academic, Art, Music, Drama and Sports scholarships in the last three years. They are actively encouraged to express their opinions using challenging, open-ended questions. This allows Eaton House girls to construct a belief system that stands the test of time.

Notwithstanding these benefits, parents sometimes wonder if co-ed is somehow more reflective of society, yet when they visit Eaton House The Manor Girls’ School they are often won over by the experience.

This is because we offer an ‘optimal’ single sex education at our 1.5 acre site. It is optimal because boys and girls are educated in separate schools by separate Heads but come together for important activities such as after-school clubs, drama and certain trips. Parents benefit from the ease of one drop-off and a co-ed nursery.

The ‘one site two schools’ approach allows boys and girls to give their siblings and friends a wave in passing between classes or on Clapham Common. It works tremendously well, as in a friendly, family-orientated area like Clapham, boys and girls socialise after hours.

Three Eaton House The Manor Girls benefitted this way, in a Drama Club, in Debate and on a residential trip. Lottie, aged 10, has two brothers in the Manor Prep, Tom, 13, and Oliver, 12. A handful of girls chose to join 15 boys to put on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ for the school’s Shakespeare Project and Lottie really enjoyed herself, as she was cast as Hermia. Her brother Tom was also cast as a lead character.

Celia, 10, who is off to a boarding school with an active MUN, was happy to take part in after-school MUN with boys, especially as she is interested in the key debate topic of climate change. She enjoyed the camaraderie of the group and always felt treated as an equal. The team was evenly balanced, with around 5 girls to 3 boys.

Georgia, 7, went off to a Hilltop Adventure Camp. She hasn’t got any brothers and was amused to discover that some of the girls were braver on the high ropes and better at archery! She made a few good friends and afterwards they had a Reunion Dinner. That’s a pretty optimal result as far as I’m concerned.

Oliver Snowball
Head of Eaton House The Manor Girls’ School

This feature was published in Absolutely Education Prep and Pre-Prep in September, 2019.