Theo Brehony, Managing Director of Gardener Schools Group, makes the case for co-educational schools in helping to prepare young people for future life and work

The ethos of the Gardener Schools Group (GSG) promotes a nurturing environment – we encourage a growth mindset, instil resilience and stress the importance of empathy for others. Underlining our philosophy is the belief that boys and girls should be educated together. Whenever I meet potential parents at our schools I tell them, “The world is co-educational.”

We live in a time where the role of sex and gender has never been more keenly felt. When a child starts school, one of the most important things they do as a four-year-old is socialise, playing with others. Learning how to interact, listen and be emotionally intelligent is part of their journey. Why remove half the population? If you want to children to feel naturally comfortable with other people, this should begin at school.

Gardener Schools on the case for co-education
Everyone has a different learning style so dividing by sex is too simplistic, says Theo Brehony

Many arguments against co-education are made by girls’ schools. Girls do better in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects, for example, in single sex schools. Acknowledging this, it is important to promote these subjects to girls specifically and to stress they are not ‘boys’’ subjects. Another argument is that girls and boys learn in different ways. This, however, is overly simplistic. Everyone learns differently, regardless of sex. This learning could be kinetic, visual, aural or a combination. We ask our teachers to know their pupils and differentiate their approach to teaching to suit individual needs.

If you create a culture of equality and tolerance from the start, if you value the individual, if girls are perceived as leaders and ‘leaning in’ is a natural part of learning, everyone benefits. I cannot say for certain, but the problems highlighted across schools by Everyone’s Invited may have been on a lesser scale if this was the starting point for schools.

“Attending a mixed school will prepare you for university and work life – it is our job to consider the future world our children will be living in”

Increasingly schools are moving from single-sex to co-educational. Winchester College’s Sixth Form is one of the latest to do so. Latymer in west London has been co-ed for some time now although, surprisingly, in London there has been a dearth of co-educational senior schools in comparison to the rest of the country. In the last eight years, the GSG has responded to a growing demand from pupils and parents and founded two co-educational senior schools in Kew and Maida Vale. Now other school groups like Thomas’s Schools are following a similar co-ed model.

Nurseries are typically co-educational. Why do some pupils then go on to single-sex schools until university? Certainly, attending a mixed school will prepare you for university and work life in a way that single sex schools cannot. There are, of course, remaining bastions of single-sex education and some of the best schools are among them. That said, it is our job to consider the future world our children will be living in. At Gardener Schools Group, we firmly believe a pillar of success for all young people will be the ease with which they relate to others. 

Gardener Schools Group

Further reading: MPW on its fresh thinking for 14+ students