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Debate: Co-ed schools – are you for or against?

Got a child and wondering about schooling? We wade into an age-old debate. Is co-education best? Here's what William Brierly, head at Claremont Fan Court, a co-ed school in Esher, has to say.

William Brierly, head master at Claremont Fan Court School in Esher.

The single sex versus co-ed school debate. People feel strongly about it don’t they?!

So we thought it would be interesting to open a debate about the subject – how kids learn best, the differences between boys and girls, all that stuff.

Please get in touch with your comments, but to kick things off William Brierly (above) the headmaster at the co-ed school, Claremont Fan Court (see our review of the school) has stepped up to the challenge of making the argument for co-ed schools.

Claremont Fan Court School, Esher

Co-ed or single sex? Discuss

The problem with labelling schools, sports or subjects as boys’ or girls’ is that everyone is different. The beauty of a co-ed school is the removal of gender labels; you can thrive in co-curricular clubs, friendship groups, academic subjects or sports which suit, not because of your gender, but because you are you.

Of course, this is only really the case with a truly co-ed school. Where year groups are significantly imbalanced, with either boys or girls in a minority, a sense of equity is not easily achieved. At Claremont Fan Court School, we have consciously increased the school roll to enable fully balanced year groups allowing truly co-educational opportunities and a school which feels co-ed in every way.  

What are the main benefits of co-ed education?

Whether your concern is the politics of friendships sometimes cited at girls’ schools or a worry about what a boy not keen on football does at break-time, the solution is always a co-educational environment – it is simply a more exciting and diverse proposition!

But don’t girls and boys learn differently?

Every individual learns differently.  If being co-ed ensures teachers flex their approach to cater for different ways of learning, is it all the more likely they will understand your child’s needs.

And distract each other?

Pupils will distract each other in any school if learning habits and the learning environment are not right. Excellent classroom teaching and learning is neither achieved through silence or noise, but through the din of minds whirring and the progression of understanding.

An environment where you feel happy to learn is one in which you will thrive; there is no lack of ambition in the hearts and minds of our young learners.

So what’s your advice in a nutshell for parents who are anti co-ed?

I attended an all-boys school from the age of nine, and I will be eternally grateful to my parents for the sacrifices they made to support my education. But at the time, pretty much all selective schools were single-sex, so I imagine their decision was driven by education, not segregation.

There are superb single sex schools as there are outstanding co-ed schools, and there is no harm preferring one over another.  However, the question to consider most carefully when choosing a school is whether a child be happy and thrive there. So many aspects, not gender alone, affect the shape of a child’s learning journey but life is about living and working alongside people of every gender and background, so it seems unwise to rule it out as an option for your child’s education.

Claremont Fan Court School is a co-ed school for pupils from age 2 ½ to 18 tucked away just inside the M25 about a mile from the centre of Esher. It’s set on the historic 100 acre grounds of Claremont Estate. The school is ‘gently’ selective, and has a reputation for its outstanding pastoral care and support.

Claremont Fan Court, Claremont Drive, Esher, Surrey, KT10 9LY. Tel: 01372 467841

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