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Head's response to criticism of single-sex schools

You may have seen an article in the press recently, where the Head of a local independent school strongly criticises single-sex and specifically girls schools, our Head Mrs Bell wrote the following as a response:

I believe I have rather more authority to talk on this subject than Richard Cairns! I actually attended a single sex school myself, Haberdashers Aske’s in south London. I am also Head of a single sex school, Burgess Hill Girls. I have taught and held positions of responsibility in both single sex and co-educational schools. I was the first female member of the Senior Leadership Team at Ardingly College. Added to this, my previous headship was at a co-educational school in Yorkshire, Ackworth, where I was the first female Head since 1779! I cannot therefore fathom how I have been disadvantaged by my single sex education in any way whatsoever!


When did Mr Cairns last visit or spend any time in an all girls school? I am not including visiting as an ISI inspector here as this would not provide a normal, everyday, impression of a school. I have in fact already invited Mr Cairns to Burgess Hill Girls, but he declined my invitation. I am more than happy to talk with him, does he not what to have a conversation with me?  


Being at a single sex school means that our girls leave as exceptionally confident, forthright, bright and bold woman, who are more than capable of holding their own in whatever company they meet. His comments paint a picture that girls attending schools such as Burgess Hill Girls never socialise with boys! I wonder from where has he gained this information and question his ‘fact finding’? The girls do not live in an old fashioned, rarefied world. Yes they are switched on, hard-working, motivated etc etc but they are also emotionally mature, kind, sympathetic and empathetic to the needs of each other. ‘Kindness’ is not only found in the domain of co-educational establishments! In an all girls environment, everyone is valued as an individual with their own gifts and talents, each and every girl is known for who she is and all are free to be true to themselves.  

I do need to pose a couple of final questions based on a quote from Mr Cairns from the BBC News website: it is stated ‘If girls did not socialise with boys at school, “what happens when they go out into the workplace?”, asked Richard Cairns, head of Brighton College’. My concern is that if this is the case, why are women who were educated at all girls schools employed as teachers at Brighton College? Surely this would not benefit the students?! Also, why does Brighton College actively seek to take girls into their Sixth Form from single sex girls’ schools such as Burgess Hill Girls? Surely they would only consider home grown or similarly co-educated girls?

I would welcome Mr Richard Cairns spending time with the girls from Burgess Hill Girls. Communicating with the opposite sex is certainly not a problem at my school and has never posed an issue. Oh and I must add that we have a very good number of excellent male staff too!!

One of our old girls, also wrote an interesting blog on the subject as well, you can read this here.