Article written for The Service Parents' Guide to Boarding on "Diamond Schools".
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 to 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, so 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 for academic trips and visits and in some co-curricular activities, such as choirs, orchestras and the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.
A unique feel
Diamond schools combine some of the best aspects of single sex and co-educational teaching. Boys and girls are kept apart during the crucial years of puberty, allowing them to grow up without the pressures that come from being in daily contact with the opposite sex. At Berkhamsted we find that, despite being taught the same curriculum in many cases by the same teachers, our boys’ and girls’ schools have their own unique feel.Like most single-sex girls schools, we produce a higher proportion of female scientists and our girls perform better than our boys at GCSE. However, because co-curricular activities are for boys and girls together, they are able to maintain an appropriate level of social contact that means it is possible to develop friendships with the opposite sex. So when they come together into the sixth form, there is sufficient maturity for them to cope with co-education without it being a distraction. The transition to the co-educational sixth form has a feeling of real progression – at Berkhamsted, boys and girls move out of blazers and uniform to wearing city suits. The move up from the boys' and girls' schools is an important step in the growing up process and the sixth form is a natural preparation for university and the world of work.
A ‘one-stop’ drop
The ‘diamond’ structure has further benefits too. For example, ‘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 bussing 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 – while benefiting from the infrastructure and economies of scale of a much larger school.