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Why ‘Optimal’ Single Sex Education Really Works

Last Updated on : 25th November 2019

“The most valuable thing I have learned at Eaton House The Manor Girls’ School is to love your friends and all the people around you.” A former Eaton House The Manor Girls’ School pupil now at Downe House School.

By Mrs Sarah Segrave, Headmistress of Eaton House The Manor Prep School and Director of Education for the Eaton House Schools’ Group since 2016 and Mr Oliver Snowball, Headmaster of Eaton House The Manor Girls’ School.

One of the fundamental decisions for parents is whether to choose co-ed or single sex education for their child. There are a number of single sex senior schools in London and the country that are very well known internationally as beacons of academic teaching – Dulwich College, Westminster and King’s College, Wimbledon , St Paul’s Girls’ School and St Paul’s School Boys’ School, JAGS, Godolphin & Latymer, Wimbledon High School, Eton, Wycombe Abbey, Tonbridge and many more. They are all highly sought after by those children who want to attend the best London day schools or country boarders with only boy or girl pupils.

Though they get their pupils from many sources, single sex London Pre-Preps and Preps feature prominently in feeding these schools with pupils. Eaton House The Manor on Clapham Common, whose Prep School is listed as a feeder school on the Westminster website, is one such school. Together with its sister Eaton House The Manor Girls’ School, it offers all the timeless qualities of the traditional single sex school together with an innovative pathway for its pupils to find a way to enjoy learning for its own sake and to achieve good in the wider world.

If parents want to understand what single sex education means, an Open House visit to Eaton House The Manor gives a good flavour of what it really offers. Eaton House is unusual insofar as it is non-selective at age four, yet it achieves some of the best results in London due to a culture of wellbeing that pervades both the Boys’ and Girls’ Schools. This culture is founded on an innate knowledge of what makes boys and girls ‘tick’ and, even more importantly, what makes them happy.

How does optimal single sex education work at the Eaton House The Manor site?

Eaton House The Manor offers an ‘optimal’ single sex education for boys aged from 3-13 and for girls aged from 3-11 in separate schools at its large 1.5 acre site. It is optimal because boys and girls are educated in separate schools by separate Heads but come together for important activities such as after-school clubs, drama, sporting and cultural events and some residential trips. Parents, in their turn, benefit from the ease of one drop-off and a co-ed nursery.

Both Eaton House The Manor Boys’ School and Eaton House The Manor Girls’ School are highly academic, but, beyond academics both schools have the same ‘feel’ of being welcoming, family-oriented and reactive to parents’ concerns. Both schools put a huge emphasis on the pastoral care and wellbeing of every child in the school and both heads share a single passion – that no child shall pass unnoticed or unchampioned on their watch but rather shall be encouraged to find all their hidden strengths and talents so that they can shine as an individual. This common ethos across the schools makes the whole of the Manor site a lively, fun and wonderful place to go to school.

The ‘one site two schools’ approach allows boys and girls to enjoy one large and beautiful site and to give their siblings (many boys and girls from the same family are educated together here) and friends a wave in passing between classes or on Clapham Common.

It works tremendously well, as in a friendly, family-orientated area like Clapham, boys and girls socialise after hours and can meet up after school or walk home together.

What are the benefits of optimal single sex education?

There are many benefits to single sex education, not least the fact that boys and girls tend to develop and mature at different rates. There is also an argument to say that boys can be more expressive around their peers and girls less plagued with gender stereotyping when they are educated in single sex schools. Girls who are educated separately tend to be confident and strong, believing that nothing is beyond them, from STEM subjects to sports like cricket.

It helps that both girls and boys’ schools are free to develop their curriculums with the sex that they are teaching in mind. It’s genuinely the case – and a walk around the Manor site on any Open Day will confirm this – that both sexes concentrate extremely well in single sex schools in the early years from 3-13.

Parents love the idea of two schools on one site. One new parent who started at the Manor in September 2019 wrote: “Eaton House is truly a lovely school which I feel has grasped the differences in learning in primary school aged girls and boys, tailoring their learning styles and techniques to the children’s respective needs.

“One of the key factors for our family choosing Eaton House the Manor was the flexibility of having the separate Boys’ School and Girls’ School on the same site, and also accommodating infants in the nursery school. This, coupled with the teaching staff and the nurturing yet academic nature of the school, has reassured us that we have made the correct school choice for my son and his siblings.

“The school provides a vast range of clubs which seems to offer something for all children with varied interests.”

How does optimal single sex education work in practice?

Notwithstanding these benefits, parents sometimes wonder if co-ed is somehow more reflective of society as a whole; yet when they visit Eaton House The Manor they are often won over by the experience and decide to opt for single sex education.

What brings this about? There are a number of factors but one thing that is often mentioned is the realisation that Eaton House The Manor Boys’ and Girls’ Schools have many things in common, such as tradition, House spirit and healthy competition, but individual timetabling allows them to be flexible when they need to be and to create a timetable specifically suited to each school and its pupils. This approach really benefits both boys and girls academically.

In addition, sharing facilities such as a full size sports hall and theatre, and taking part in a number of activities together like Model United Nations and STEM Club also helps to create a strong and warm sense of community among boys and girls.

Eaton House The Manor Pre-Prep is non-selective and yet academic and it prepares boys aged 4-8 for the renowned Eaton House The Manor Prep for boys aged 8-13. All the lessons are designed with active boys in mind and they are full of active engagement, movement and physical elements and teachers and pupils have fun together as they learn.

Pre-Prep boys take ownership of their own learning and adopt a ‘can do’ attitude. A good example is learning about velocity by the practice of dropping eggs from one of the school parapets which the boys think is so much fun!

The school enjoys an active programme of sport with a specialist sports staff, with beautiful Clapham Common on its doorstep. This gives Eaton House Schools the perfect place to practice team sports and the school really enjoys its matches against other schools.

At Eaton House The Manor Girls’ School intellectual curiosity and agile thought is highly prized. The school praises both academic exploration and risk-taking highly. Girls are told that they can achieve anything, with no gender stereotyping in a ‘sky is the limit’ approach.

The Headmaster wants the girls to have an adventure at school and to be intellectually challenged to their maximum potential. This means that every girl is able to find something she loves and is passionate about, something that she can take into senior school and even into her life.

Girls are actively encouraged to express their opinions using challenging, open-ended questions. This allows them to construct a belief system that stands the test of time. In line with this, Adventure Books were introduced to challenge the girls with questions that did not have a right or wrong answer. Instead, they are designed to develop creative, evaluative and analytical thinking skills.

Beyond that, the Head would like each girl to feel they are known, nurtured,challenged. He would like them to have a genuine love of learning and a deep-rooted respect for people and places by the time that they leave the school.

Games, Music and Art are very important to the life of the school. Being regularly active enhances the girls’ physical and emotional health and they have access to excellent facilities both indoors and outdoors.

This ethos, where girls are treated as individuals and their wellbeing comes first, leads to them being happy, calm, emotionally intelligent, balanced, kind and mannerly.

Do the results show the success of this system?

Eaton House The Manor has an enviable position in the London Prep school scene as being academically outstanding, with boys and girls going on to leading day and boarding schools, despite the fact that it is non-selective at age 4.

In 2019, Eaton House The Manor Prep leavers have received offers from 16 top senior schools with 216 A* and A grades at Common Entrance, 13 scholarships and two CE prizes. They are part of a long tradition of academic excellence which has included a St Paul’s John Colet Scholarship in 2018.

The results are also extremely consistent over the last decade. From 2010-2019, some 62% of leavers attended Eton College, Radley College, Dulwich College, Charterhouse, Tonbridge, Harrow School, Westminster School, St Paul’s School, King’s College Wimbledon and Winchester College.

Now celebrating its 10-year anniversary, Eaton House The Manor Girls’ School is firing on all cylinders, with girls attending schools such as St Paul’s Girls’ School, Wycombe Abbey, St Mary’s Ascot, Brighton College and JAGS.

This year’s leavers have achieved excellent results and won numerous places to top schools. They also won an impressive nine scholarships, taking its scholarship tally to 33 scholarships in the last three years from 2017-2019. The school has also increased 12 percent year-on-year due to its growing academic reputation.

How have the girls of Eaton House The Manor enjoyed their contacts with the Boys’ School?

Drama is one way in which the girls interact with the boys on the Manor site. Lottie, aged 10, has two brothers in the Manor Prep, Tom, 13, and Oliver, 12. She enjoys drama so she joined The Shakespeare Project, which is a co-educational annual event.

Lottie, and a handful of her classmates, joined 15 boys to put on a memorable version of the bard’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ Everyone worked well together, got involved and had many suggestions to make, from ideas about the physical comedy in the piece to the pace of the production.

Lottie really enjoyed her role as Hermia and was somewhat amused to discover that her brother Tom was cast as another lead character, making it a truly family affair on opening night.

Treading the boards together is not the only way that girls and boys can interact. Debate has always had a strong tradition at the Eaton House The Manor site and the MUN Society is a place where boys and girls can express their points of view about global issues in a fun way within a formal debate format.

Celia, 10, who is off to a boarding school with an active MUN, was happy to take part in after-school MUN with boys, especially as she is interested in the topic of climate change. She enjoyed the camaraderie of the group.

In May, some of the boys and girls also attended Hilltop Outdoor Adventure Centre Camp in Norfolk. The lovely woodland setting proved to be the perfect place for recreational fun, relaxation and team building.

Georgia, aged 7, was looking forward to it as she hasn’t got any brothers and she wanted to find out what boys would be like to be around!

To get to know each other and to encourage team spirit they had to build yellow and green crate stacks with the winning team ringing the bell of victory. They also had to communicate with each other to cross ropes and wires and enjoyed group activities such as: the ‘Big Zipper’ zip line; archery; an assault course that involved climbing under and over logs on a pond; and even fire making, where twigs were rubbed together to light a fire.

Georgia was quite happy to discover that, in her opinion, some of the girls were braver on the high ropes and better at archery. She made a few good friends and afterwards they had a Reunion Dinner.

That’s a pretty optimal result as far as Eaton House The Manor is concerned.

The school takes boys and girls at 4+, 8+ and 11+ plus but is also able to look at occasional place candidates at any age from 3-13, subject to assessment. If you would like to find out more about Eaton House The Manor, please contact Sam Feilding on 0203 917 5050. You can book an Open House at www.eatonhouse schools.com.

“What made me the happiest since I have left Eaton House is the fact that I have stayed in touch with many of my Eaton House friends. We have all gone on to a wide range of schools but despite this, we have maintained our friendship, meeting up during school breaks or fixtures.

I truly hope to maintain these friendships for all of my life and will always feel a sense of belonging when I walk past 58 Clapham Common Northside.”

A former Eaton House The Manor Boys’ School pupil now at Dulwich College.

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