Birmingham is unusual in its number of single-sex schools.
Most of the country swept away single-sex education in the 1960s and 70s but Birmingham was much less keen to embrace this for a number of historical reasons.
Because Rangi Ruru school in New Zealand, which I visited recently, is heavily involved in the Alliance of Girls’ Schools (Australasia) and campaigns vigorously on behalf of all girls’ schools, I came away having re-examined the case for single-sex schools.
There isn’t anything quite like this alliance in the UK because it embraces independent and state schools and is a global phenomenon driven in the main by US research.
Part education-based but closely linked to research on women and leadership, the organisation draws on research such as that by Linda Sax, 2009, US, that found all-girls graduates show higher levels of political engagement, academic success, and greater confidence.
So the argument goes that girls will learn better in a single-sex environment because teachers can respond to girls’ specific learning needs.
Girls are freer to participate in discussions, without being dominated by boys.
They don’t have to live up to expectations that they must be quiet, good and passive. They can command the whole of the teacher’s focus that is not being diverted by attention-seeking boys. An all-girls school can create an atmosphere that counteracts the negative influence of mass media and its often troubling depictions of women and girls.
Outside the classroom, all organisational roles are filled by girls who see strong female role models all around them and are encouraged to achieve successful outcomes from their own efforts. All activities are open to girls; they participate, influence and lead.
All of which, not surprisingly, I heartily commend and would add that in a world where diversity and change are needed, girls may find the different models within a single-sex environment.
* Sarah Evans, Principal, King Edward VI High School for Girls