For many international parents in London, the concept of a boys or girls only school may seem somewhat outdated. Most of us have attended mixed schools in our childhoods and really don’t see why children should be separated by gender so early on. I am certainly in this camp and I had all the right reasons to completely focus my school search on co-ed schools, among them:
- you want your children to make friendships regardless of gender
- you don’t want your young children to accept narrow social categories so early on so they can develop freely based on their personalities
- you might have more children later so you want to make sure they all attend school together
- you are looking for a broad range of extracurriculars, and single sex schools can be more limited in their choice (I found no girls school that offers martial arts, for example, whereas most mixed and boys schools do)
Right? So how did I end up registering my daughter at Glendower Prep School? To be fair, it is the only girls’ school I signed her up with, and the other two schools I chose for her are mixed. There are arguments to be made for single-sex schools, and if you are like me and are focusing your search only on mixed schools at the moment, I encourage you to consider them:
- as it happens, some of the top pre-prep schools in London just happen to be single sex for historical reasons. If you are looking for the best school for your little one, you may be excluding a fantastic school for no other reason than its lack of a gender mix. When I looked at Glendower Prep School, I was incredibly impressed by their exit results and their academic quality, and I felt bad about preventing my daughter from having the best academic experience. Among boys’ schools, Wetherby has impressive exit results, and these might prompt you to consider it. I am not even arguing that they are successful because they are single sex, but the point is that there are very high quality single sex schools, and you don’t want to miss out on them
- secondly, you can flip the gender stereotype reason used above around, as it is often mixed schools which highlight the “boy/girl” category in the pupils, whereas in single sex schools, boys will define themselves much less as boys and girls much less as girls and instead develop their own personality. This can give girls more freedom to develop into passionate scientists or boys to pursue artistic interest. I am not sure if this is relevant at the initial stage, but it could become important once children approach their teens and prepare for secondary school
I had two personal encounters that tilted the balance for me: first, I visited Glendower Prep School, and I just absolutely loved the girls I met there. They were so genuine, friendly, curious and confident that I immediately imagined my daughter as such a smart and competent girl in a few years time, and I loved the idea. I actually brought my baby daughter along to the visit, and the girls in each class were incredibly sweet towards her. I was very impressed by their attitude and behaviour and could certainly imagine my daughter as a Glendower girl. I was still not sold on the idea of a girls school though, that required a second enounter.
Recently, we met another international couple and their 7-year old daughter attending the Royal School Hampstead, a girls school. Their daughter had initially attended a mixed state school and been chosed for the gifted and talented programme. Her parents became increasingly disappointed with the local school failing to stretch their daughter and she became bored at school, so they started looking at private schools. Again, they found the concept of a girls school strange and would have preferred co-ed at first, but then they fell in love with the Royal School, which their daughter has attended for one year now. As with the girls at Glendower, again I was extremely impressed with their daughter, her behaviour, her maturity, her humour. Of course a lot comes from the parents, not from the school, but again I met this daughter and felt like if my daughter turned out anything like her, I would be very pleased. After meeting them and seeing how their daughter was thriving at a private girls school, I finally filled in the Glendower registration form that had been lying on our kitchen table for months, and now there is at least a chance that my daughter will one day go to a girls school.