When deciding upon whether to send your children to a boarding school one must also decide whether to consider a boys / girls only school, or a mixed / a Co-educational (Co-ed) school.
Whilst historically all boarding schools would admit either boys or girls only, over time changes in educational styles, along with financial pressures has meant that many have moved over to a (Co-ed) model.
Many highly regarded and long-standing boarding schools are Co-ed and therefore parents will be pleased to find a good choice of schools in a variety of locations.
Some boarding schools have introduced arrangements whereby they take either boys or girls only in their lower years, but admit both sexes to their sixth form / A-Level upper years.
It’s therefore worthwhile to consider the advantages and disadvantages of Co-ed or single-sex boarding.
Co-Educational Boarding Schools
In Co-ed schools boys and girls study in mixed classes with classes set based upon ability and are free to socialise together outside of lessons.
Along with strong exam results, Co-ed boarding schools also provide a wide range of extra-curricular activities, including sports, drama and music.
Being at a Co-ed school means that students may have access to activities and sports not necessarily available in a single-sex school.
Boarding schools also run various after-school clubs, which cater to student’s interests, including subjects as diverse as sailing, chess, golf, shooting and horse riding.
Through interacting with each other on a daily basis and by having informal time provides opportunities for each to develop effective social skills and prepare them for later life, either progressing to University or employment.
Accommodation / Boarding
All boarding schools will operate a version of a ‘house’ system, with most, but not all, having boys and girls in single-sex houses.
Where Co-ed boarding arrangements are employed students ‘live’ in the same ‘house’ but have separate floors and toilet / wash facilities.
They would, however, have rooms where they could eat together and a common room, where they can relax.
Choosing a Co-ed Boarding School
Every Co-ed boarding school has it’s own feel or ambience and therefore it’s important to not make any decisions on the ‘right one’ purely upon exam results. Your child will be spending many days and nights there and so it’s important they are comfortable being there.
There will be variations in the learning style, school values, size and location and these, along with many other elements, must be assessed in order to make an appropriate selection.
Advantages of Co-Educational Schools
Many educationalists believe that since life is itself co-educational, and since one of a school’s objectives is to prepare students for life, then it is sensible to educate children in a Co-ed environment.
Co-ed schooling demystifies the opposite sex and helps children to build relationships and confidence from an early age.
Co-educational schools provide a safe environment for boys and girls to live and work parallel to each other and to learn from and with each other.
Co-ed schooling can apply the best and most appropriate teaching methods in-class to ensure the best results for both sexes.
Being in mixed classes means boys and girls can experience the different learning styles of each other and develop skills at working with people of both sexes.
Girls’ boarding school in the UK
Girls only boarding schools in the UK have a well-deserved reputation for the pastoral care, academic results and extra-curricular activities they provide.
Whilst providing a girls only environment most also have good relationships with nearby boys’ schools and arrange joint evens so there will be opportunities to socialise.
Being a girls-only environment means that they are often more willing to participate in many of the extra-curricular activities that can otherwise be labelled ‘for boys only’ and thus develop confidence to step-up into positions of responsibility in later life.
This also leads to greater involvement in the boarding schools’ extra-curricular activities such as sports, CCF, music, dance and drama.
Benefits of Girls’ boarding schools
Better Class Participation
Research shows that in Co-ed classes girls can be more likely to defer to boys when responding to a teacher’s questions, or less willing to argue cogently against boys.
By having girls-only classes these situations are avoided and thus your daughter’s confidence can be developed in a safe environment.
This can lead to better grades and more confidence in and realisation as to the abilities they have in a variety of subjects.
Emphasis on Math and Science Skills (STEM)
Girls are significantly under-represented in STEM subjects at university, often because they have felt that those subjects were ‘not for girls’ whilst at school.
By having a strongly supportive teachers for all STEM subjects daughters can be allowed to develop their skills in these subjects and may go on to discover a love of engineering, maths, technology or science.
Even if they do not elect to take these subjects further as A-levels or at university, having the opportunity to explore and excel in subjects they may have previously felt were ‘not for the likes of us’ will develop their self-belief in various ways.
Less Emphasis on Social Life
Whilst it’s impossible to remove totally the internet and social media from a teenager’s life, single-sex boarding schools can control the timing and locations of socializing with boys occurs helping to ensure they can stay focused on learning at the appropriate times.
Boys’ Boarding School in the UK
It takes only a few minutes review of international league tables to recognise that UK boys’ boarding schools are highly regarded by parents from many countries.
In many of the boys’ boarding schools a significant proportion of their students are foreign nationals, which attests to the quality of education that these institutions impart to their students.
In additional to scholastic achievement, these boys’ boarding schools create high levels of self-motivation and self-confidence, enabling their boys to go on to tackle challenges and tasks that other students may have felt unable to do.
Many boys will already have been boarding at a Prep-school and therefore to continue to board for their later school years would feel perfectly natural.
As boarders they would each continue to develop confidence and study free from the distraction of girls.
Boys-only schools have each developed their teaching methods so as to develop their boys’ skills so each boy can become the best they can be and develop into highly capable adults.
In Co-ed schools subject choices can often be made on the basis of “boys do this, girls do that”, whereas in a single-sex school this unconscious bias can be removed, enabling students to select a wider variety of subjects to study.
Selecting subjects that they want to take, free from social stigma or pressure can help to ensure they’ll achieve good results and help them to progress with tertiary education or transition into a good employment position.
World-class sporting facilities
UK Boys’ boarding schools have some of the best sports facilities in the UK. Many famous and world-class professional sportsmen and Olympic medal winners first developed and honed their skills whilst studying at just such a school.
Due to the ‘full board’ arrangements there are invariably sporting events and fixtures every week and whatever a boys’ standard he will find others he can compete with.
There exists a strong, historic, friendly rivalry between most boys’ only public schools and so students will find a full and varied sporting calendar with fixtures throughout the year.
There will also be opportunities for travel to other schools and sporting events across Europe or even further afield.
Many boys’ boarding schools provide for not only football, rugby, cricket and tennis but also have many other facilities in their grounds, which may include such activities as riding, sailing and rock climbing.
In addition to the variety of sports boys can participate in, for those whose interests are not in the sporting arena they will be able to join the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) or take part in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards scheme.
Co-ed and single-sex, both are right, for the right student
If you’re considering sending your child to boarding school then Co-ed vs single-sex is only one of the various options you need to consider.
Other considerations include, where you may have gone to school, school location, ease of access by road or rail, fees and whether you might want siblings to attend the same school.
This is why we’d always recommend and so we’d always suggest parents taking their time over making this decision, and if you’d like to discuss your situation further we’d be pleased to offer some useful questions and suggestions for your reference.