Single sex classes on agenda in Essex

SINGLE-sex classes could be introduced in Essex secondary schools in a bid to boost the educational performance of boys.The idea of single-sex classes in secondary schools has been looked at by members of Essex County Council as they try to find ways of addressing a performance gap between boys and girls.

SINGLE-sex classes could be introduced in Essex secondary schools in a bid to boost the educational performance of boys.

The idea of single-sex classes in secondary schools has been looked at by members of Essex County Council as they try to find ways of addressing a performance gap between boys and girls.

The councillor in charge of education yesterday confirmed staff would advise schools on the issue - but he stressed it would never become policy or forced on them.

The idea, which arose at the council's education policy development group meeting on Wednesday, was broadly welcomed by Essex headteachers who said it was worth looking into.


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Moulsham High School in Chelmsford already has single sex classes at key stage three and some single-sex classes at key stage four.

Headteacher Dr Chris Nicholls said: “The organisation is popular with parents and the school generally achieves very good results. Whilst it is difficult to attribute cause and effect, it is the case that gender gaps in performance are relatively small at both key stage three and GCSE.”

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Colne Community College in Brightlingsea is about to test the single-sex classroom idea in science, dividing a year group up into a boys' class, a girls' group and a mixed group.

Principal Terry Creissen said he felt the county council was right to flag up the issue but added it probably would not work countywide because different schools had different needs.

Alan Whelan, principal at St Benedict's College in Colchester, said: “I don't have a philosophical problem with the idea of splitting up boys and girls for classes though our boys often outperform the girls and overall we have a GCSE five A to C grade pass rate of 80% so there would be no real advantage in it here.

“But I doubt whether headteachers in Essex would have a problem with the idea if they felt it would make a difference.”

Stephen Castle, cabinet member for schools, said: “The county council can offer advice to any school thinking of trying the idea, although it does not have a one size fits all policy on the subject. Our advice is likewise tailored to the needs of the school and the wishes of the head.

“The subject came up as the policy development group sought to address the issue of underperformance by boys, which is a national trend as well as a local one.

“Obviously, we must consider every possible means of helping schools tackle that issue, and single-sex classes - where appropriate and only with the backing of the head - was simply one idea discussed.

“It would not be a matter for the council to make a policy on single-sex classes which would then be imposed on schools. The idea was that discussion of single-sex classes would form part of the ongoing conversations we have with headteachers and governing bodies.”

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