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Save single sex schools

Seaton Nick Seaton from the Campaign for Real Education says that single sex schools get the best results.

Recent research by The Good Schools Guide may just wake up some local authorities to some of the long-term damage they may be doing to standards in education.

The study found that girls taking GCSEs in single-sex state schools all did better than predicted from their results in national tests when they were 11-years-old. By contrast, 1 in 5 girls in co-educational schools did worse than expected.

Perhaps more importantly, girls who were struggling academically when they moved up into secondary schools were more likely to get good exam results and carry on into further education, if they attended a single-sex school. (Readers please note: Comparing eventual performance against predications in this way is not the same as manipulating data for contextual value-added tables!)

In general terms, this simply confirms what many parents already know. And think about when choosing secondary schools for their offspring. Given the choice, it is probable that many more parents would choose single-sex schools for cultural or religious reasons as well as educational ones.

Yet, the educational establishment seems determined to deny that choice even where it still exists.  If anyone knows of a new single-sex school being built under Labour's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, perhaps they will tell us about it?

There are also rumours that under BSF, the Department for Children, Schools and Families wants unisex toilets in all new schools. If this is true, have any of the Conservatives involved in such plans considered the implications?  How could such a ridiculous idea possibly benefit girls or boys?

In the meantime, it is reported that another questionable Labour quango, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), has agreed 'transformation' projects in the further education sector valued at £5.7 billion – a sum that far exceeds its £2.3 billion budget. This, plus the credit squeeze,  has left the over ambitious building plans of 79 further education colleges in limbo, illustrated by disturbing images of parts of  Barnsley College, now a heap of rubble with no money on hand to rebuild it. The LSC’s chief executive, Mark Haysom, has resigned.  But shouldn’t the minister responsible go too?

This government has done its best to sidestep the power and influence of local authorities, often justifiably. But the effects of such incompetence are felt most at local level, not in Whitehall. People care about their local schools, even when they aren't so good!

Yet hand on heart, how many local Conservatives were whistle-blowers before the damage was done? How many local decision-makers, such as governors or councillors, have kept silent as girls' and boys' schools have been merged to become co-educational; or said nothing when the sixth forms of good schools have been undermined; or granted dubious planning permissions; or unnecessarily spent millions of taxpayers' pounds; or, indeed, accepted  empty assurances with little thought for the consequences?

In recent years, consensus politics have created a disastrous mess. For better or worse, grassroots decision-making does matter.


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