The debate about single-sex versus co-education is never likely to be one that is finally resolved. Young people behave differently when in single-sex and mixed company and from this stems the different character and atmospheres that one finds in single-sex and co-educational schools. There are clear advantages of both approaches. On the one hand, single-sex teaching seems to provide greater focus and allow young people the freedom to grow up at their own rate. On the other, there is fundamentally something unnatural about segregating the sexes throughout the period of schooling, when school is meant to be a preparation for life. "Diamond schools" are an innovative solution to the conundrum and have a very positive contribution to make to this debate.
A “diamond” structure combines both single-sex and co-educational teaching. Typically, boys and girls are taught together until the age of 11, separately from 11-16, before coming back together again in a joint Sixth Form.
"Diamond schools" are often the product of the merger of a boys' and a girls' school, thus it is usual that at KS3 and KS4 girls and boys can be taught separately on different sites. It is a common feature that boys and girls combine outside the classroom in activities for academic trips and visits and in some co-curricular activities, such as choirs, orchestras and the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. Thus boys and girls are able to maintain an appropriate level of social contact that means that it is possible to develop friendships with those of the opposite sex.
The diamond structure has further additional benefits too.
"Diamond schools" are very convenient for parents as effectively they provide a "one-stop" drop for the school run - children of both sexes from nursery to sixth form can be dropped off together, or, indeed, share in a common busing system.
The main advantage, however, is that "Diamond schools" are able to retain many of the positive characteristics of small schools - each part is often of a size that will allow each pupil to know everyone in the school; whilst enjoying the benefits of an infrastructure and economies of scale of a much larger school.
"Diamond schools" in the UK Independent sector include:
This blogpost was published as an article written for the GSA MyDaughter website