We will now see the return of single-sex schools – at least for girls

It is the greatest of ironies that in the same year that Winchester, one of the oldest male single-sex independent schools in the country, announced it is opening its doors to girls, co-educational schools have come under scorching attack for being hothouses of sexual abuse.

Single-sex education has long been considered rather old-fashioned and yet girls’ schools are thriving – not least because, statistically, we know that girls do better at them than in co-ed schools. Ironically, boys do better in a mixed environment.

The cry from parents who send their children to co-eds is that this is the “real” world and far better for boys and girls to learn together than segregate them in an unreal, cloistered single-sex environment.

I used to think they had a point. But then my daughter wanted to go to an academic girls school so that, as she put it when she begged me aged 12,  she could “get good grades, go to a good university and get a good job”.

How glad am I now that I didn’t go with the co-ed trend and instead listened to my daughter – because the last thing I would want is for her to be in a real world where she cannot walk down a school corridor without wondering if she is being the target of boys’ abuse. You only have to scan the posts left on Everyone’s Invited, highlighting victims’ stories of sexual abuse, to get a flavour of what teenage boys are capable of.

My daughter is right in the middle of her TAGs (Teacher Assessed Grades), the temporary solution to A-levels in a year where no one is taking A-levels, and she needs a safe haven where she can concentrate on getting those good grades.

The last thing she needs is to be bothered by boys, to have to deal with sexual innuendo, humiliation or fear, a sentiment that will surely now be echoed by many parents which can only be good news for girls’ single sex schools.

The ongoing accusations of “rape culture” is surely the death knell for Britain’s 13 remaining boys’ single-sex independent schools. By turns, bursars at the 165 girls’ independent single-sex schools should rejoice.

Annabel Heseltine is editor of School House magazine

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