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The Myth Of Single Sex Education

In 2014, the American Psychological Association published a landmark worldwide meta-analysis on single sex education.

The analysis covered 184 academic studies, involving 1.6 million pupils and spanning 21 nations.

It concluded that there is no educational advantage to single sex schooling

In 2009 the O.E.C.D. reviewed attainment in single sex vs co-ed schools. It covered 30 nations in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) .

The report found that any apparent gains made by single sex schools disappeared when socio-economic factors were taken into account.

It concluded that “The evidence from PISA does not support the notion that females tend to do better in a single-sex environment.”

These are just two of many worldwide academic studies looking at single sex vs co-educational schooling. Decades of research has failed to find any substantial evidence that girls do better, either academically or socially, in single sex schools.

(See more studies on our Academic Research page.)

Transition From Primary To Secondary School

However, transition from primary to secondary school is known to have a significant long term impact on academic achievement and pupil well-being.

A 2010 longitudinal study followed 2000 Scottish pupils from 135 primary schools on their transition journey. Their progress was then monitored over the next 8 years, through high school and beyond.

It found that “a poorer school transition predicted higher levels of depression and lower attainment” in pupils at 15 and 18/19 years old.

And friendships are important too!

A 2018 study followed 593 UK school children. It found that “Helping maintain children’s best friendships during the transition to secondary school may contribute to higher academic performance and better mental health.”

By contrast, the single sex policy at Notre Dame High scatters children from Notre Dame primary to as many as 12 different high schools each year. This breaks up peer groups and separates siblings. It also, importantly, limits opportunities for schools to collaborate in the primary to secondary transition process.

However, a co-ed Notre Dame High would allow all children from feeder primary schools to transition to their local secondary school together. Additionally, it would allow the schools to closely collaborate and manage a smooth transition process.

This would have a long term positive impact on educational attainment and well-being.

Closing The Attainment Gap

Closing the attainment gap between pupils from rich and poor backgrounds is a huge challenge for education in Scotland.

In Glasgow, the attainment gap is a particular concern because of the large number of deprived areas in the city.

Source: Evening Times School League Tables 2018

Among Glasgow’s catchment high schools, the percentage of pupils from SIMD 1&2
(Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 20% most deprived areas), ranges from a low of 30% (Hyndland Secondary) to a high of 93% (Drumchapel High).

On average, Glasgow high schools have 61% of pupils attending from deprived areas.

Notre Dame High Has Significantly Below Average SIMD

Notre Dame High School draws pupils from all areas of Glasgow. Because of this, it may be expected to reflect the demographic of the city as a whole, but it does not.

Only 45% of the current school roll are from SIMD 1&2. To clarify, this is 16% below average and joint 7th lowest among Glasgow’s secondary schools. 

If Notre Dame High became co-educational, the catchment area would be expanded to include more local primary schools.

GCC Education Services have suggested:

-St Joseph’s Primary (85-90% SIMD 1&2) 

-St Patrick’s Primary (35-40% SIMD 1&2) 

-St Charles’ Primary (55-60% SIMD 1&2)

Many pupils from these schools are currently transported to high schools miles from home. Notre Dame High is their closest secondary school but the single sex policy excludes them.

Moving to co-education would give more local children from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to attend. All children would be able to transition together, including girls and boys from deprived areas. They would be allowed to attend one of Glasgow’s best performing high schools close to their homes and within their local community.

Will Co-education Reduce Attainment At Notre Dame High?

In a word, no.

There is no good evidence that gender segregation improves attainment.

Over recent decades, a number of schools in the West of Scotland have successfully transitioned from single sex to co-education. None have reported a drop in attainment.

Furthermore, during the late 80s/early 90s researchers from the University of Sydney studied two schools going from single sex to co-ed. The impact on academic performance and pupil self-concept was assessed over a 10 year period; before, during and after transition.

The research concluded that “Coeducation was found in this study to have no academic disadvantages for either girls or boys.” However, there were
“social advantages for girls and boys attending the two coeducational schools, as measured by student self-concept.”

Notre Dame High will continue to thrive as a co-educational school.

Ending gender-based exclusion will allow all children to attend their local high school together. This will be hugely positive for the school, the children, their families and the local community.

Co-education at Notre Dame High will open the school up to more girls and boys from disadvantaged areas. It will allow children from diverse backgrounds to benefit from a managed transition from their local primary to their local high school together.

Evidence from both academic studies and lived experience suggests it will have no negative impact on attainment. However, allowing all children to attend their local high school together will improve academic performance and well-being, and help to close the attainment gap.

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