Single-sex classes 'benefit mixed schools'

Mixed schools should teach boys and girls separately for some of the day, David Miliband, the School Standards minister, said yesterday.

Mixed schools should teach boys and girls separately for some of the day, David Miliband, the School Standards minister, said yesterday.

Mr Miliband described as "startling" the findings of a four-year study by Cambridge University, which found a marked improvement in results at a mixed school that switched to teaching boys and girls in separate classes.

He told the annual conference of the independent Girls' School Association (GSA), in Alton Towers, Staffordshire: "We need to recognise that in mixed-sex schools, girls and boys can prosper being taught separately for part of the time."

On Monday, Cynthia Hall, president of the GSA, which represents more than 200 schools, said girls in mixed schools suffered because they felt intimated by boys. She said she was infuriated by headteachers who claimed educating boys and girls together was "natural".

Single sex education had a "bright future", Mr Miliband said, but he dismissed the debate about whether it was better than coeducation as "ultimately sterile". "Instead of debate on the structure [of schools], we should learn the lessons of single-sex education and apply them in the coeducational sector," he said. "This is about recognising the differences between pupils, as well as the similarities."Single-sex classes can mean pupils are less likely to be distracted or to show off and will be more confident, he said.

Boys at the school in the study, which was not named, did better in languages and girls improved in maths and sciences when taught separately, the minister said. Overall achievement among boys rose from 68 per cent gaining five good GCSE passes in 1997 to 81 per cent this summer. Girls' performance rose from 68 per cent in 1997 to 82 per cent in 2004.

"I want to see schools learning from this record and this good practice and seeing how it can address particular issues in particular subjects in their own schools," Mr Miliband said.

He said the Department for Education would work with the Secondary Heads Association to discover the best ways of "tailoring" the organisation of classes to suit both sexes.

Mr Miliband also recommended that comprehensive schools consider setting up strict "girl-boy" seating plans for certain mixed-sex lessons. He said there were examples of schools that had achieved success by sitting girls next to boys, including Notley High School in Essex, where such a seating plan was introduced to tackle boys' under-performance but had the unexpected consequence of also improving girls' results.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Assistant / Apprenticeship Industry

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for an e...

Recruitment Genius: NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Private Training Provider off...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...