Single-Sex or Co-Educational – Which Offers the Best Preparation for ‘Real Life’? – Eve Jardine-Young, Principal of Cheltenham Ladies’ College

03 May 2016

Eve Jardine-Young - Principal, Cheltenham Ladies' College

Eve Jardine-Young – Principal, Cheltenham Ladies’ College

Decisions about education are some of the most important choices that parents and children have to make. There is certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution and these choices should be informed by a child’s personality, talents and stage of personal development.

Recently, there have been reports claiming that single-sex education does not prepare girls for the workplace and the real world, and that no girl will be fully equipped for life’s challenges unless they attend a co-educational school.

Looking around me every day, I see hundreds of girls thriving in single-sex education. Each one has their own individual passions, but one thing they have in common is enthusiasm and a preparedness to take on life’s challenges.

I regularly watch senior girls confidently address hundreds of friends, parents and staff on issues they are passionate about, from the wider progress of feminism across the globe to their individual experiences of volunteering at inspirational organisations, for example St Hilda’s East Community Centre in London, with whom we have a 125-year unbroken connection since it was founded by our alumnae.

From playing sport for their country and performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, to taking Engineering lessons in Year 7 and hosting events with state and independent school pupils, it is a privilege to see these girls developing into independent, resilient, and creative young women who are keen to make a difference in the communities and the world with which they are connected.

Some of the arguments for single-sex education, such as the number of girls taking sciences or aspiring to leadership positions, have also come under scrutiny.

This year, over two hundred Sixth Form girls at Cheltenham Ladies’ College have elected to study STEM subjects and these girls are following in the footsteps of inspirational alumnae, such as the first female President of the Royal College of Surgeons, the Chair of the Science Museum, the first Female Deputy of the Bank of England and a number of outstanding researchers, entrepreneurs, teachers, writers, artists and designers, to name a few.

From the promising students around me, to the inspiring achievements of our alumnae, both recently and stretching back over 160 years, it is difficult to see how single-sex education has failed to prepare these women for their notable careers and often ground-breaking accomplishments. A great many have also enjoyed enriching and loving family lives, demonstrating an ability to form and sustain mutually supportive and committed relationships with partners and children, retaining life-long friends from their school days.

I strongly believe that the benefits of a single-sex education can enable girls to thrive and flourish both within and beyond school. Most importantly though, I believe that each child should have an education that is right for them, in a dynamic, diverse, supportive and tolerant community, where they can debate and understand a range of different viewpoints in a way that will truly prepare them for the challenges and opportunities of their generation.

Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Gloucestershire