BBC Kent interview on the new Chatham Grammar School (12 November 2015)

BBC Kent interview on the new Chatham Grammar School (12 November 2015)

This morning, I contributed to the discussion with John Warnett & Maggie Doyle, talking about Chatham Grammar School, which is currently under-subscribed as a boys-only Grammar School, and looking to change to a co-educational school.

A transcript of my interview is below.

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JW: Would you rather your child went to a mixed or single-sex school? Chatham Grammar School for Boys, which is currently under-subscribed wants to go co-educational from 2017. Let’s speak to Dr Stephen Curran, a teacher and author about education. Is this quite a common thing or is it unusual for a single-sex school to go co-ed? 

SC: Well, it’s not uncommon for schools to change their status. There have been Grammar Schools before. There is one over in Berkshire that was originally only for girls, Bernhard Catholic Grammar School for Girls that went co-educational. It seems that one of the issues with this particular school which has, I believe, existed since the 19th Century, as a Boys Grammar School, that they have a severe under-funding issue. 

JW: Well, they are undersubscribed, and therefore underfunded, ’cause the money follows the pupil doesn’t it?

SC: Yeh, I think it’s to the tune of £200,000. So, that’s a considerable amount of money. I would imagine that for survival, they really need to attract pupils from a wider base and, in the end, if it’s about survival I think parents will understand that. 

JW: Well, will parents decide that is what they want for their children. The evidence is, isn’t it, that girls do actually better in a single-sex school.

SC: I think there is some evidence for that, although I think the overall academic evidence that I have looked at seems to suggest that girls do better overall anyway, right across the education system. It might have some small effect, although because it’s a Grammar School, I would think that [it wouldn’t make much difference].

JW: We are talking probably .01 or something, aren’t we as far as exam results [are concerned].

SC: I would have thought. 

JW: What is the feeling now about boys and girls being separated altogether? In the educational world, do most experts think they are better off put together?

SC: Well, there are many, many single-sex schools. The jury is out on that one. Obviously, children are educated mostly together in the Primary Sector, unless they are in the private system of course, where there are prep schools which are separate. But, I think, to me, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to separate children at 11-years-old and then for the rest of their lives, of course, men and women work together. So it does seem rather odd and perhaps it is better for children who are learning to make relationships and understand the opposite sex for them to be together. I do remember being at a single-sex school myself. To some extent, you are separated from something which is perfectly natural which is to be with the opposite sex.