Will my son receive an excellent education? Will he be happy? Will he grow into a responsible, curious and articulate adult?
These three questions, and no doubt more, are all more important than a straight choice between a single sex and a mixed education; but at Bedford School, we believe strongly that being educated in a single sex environment has advantages which leads to the answer yes on all of the above. Excellent education relies upon excellent teaching and a curriculum which is tailored to a school’s pupils. Generalisations are invidious but, broadly speaking, boys and girls learn differently inside the classroom, and have differing rates of emotional and intellectual growth. Teachers and schools who have the luxury to specialise in a single sex education can do so single-mindedly and without compromise.
The teenage years are delicate and self-esteem is at its most vulnerable. A boy’s happiness is likely to reside in a nurturing of his self-confidence and an ability to form good friendships with like-minded peers. Boys in a single sex environment act extremely naturally; they have the security to be themselves and, as such, develop in a way that is true to their own characters. They are also better placed to develop at their own pace; childhood seems to come to an end increasingly quickly these days, and a single sex education just allows boys to stay boys that little bit longer.
Teenage boys can be inhibited by having girls around them when they are learning. They are likely to be more worried about the impression they make and some may be inclined to take a back seat. This is perhaps even more apparent outside the classroom; a boy is far more likely to play the flute, take to the stage or join a dance club at a single sex school than at a mixed school. It is an interesting paradox that co-ed schools tend to reinforce gender stereotypes, whereas single sex schools help to break them down.
This is not to say that boys aren’t encouraged to mix with the opposite sex, and we feel that part of our success in preparing boys for the outside world has been as a result of a strong relationship with our sister school, Bedford Girls’ School. Boys are encouraged to mix with the girls in a variety of settings; drama, music, sports, combined cadet forces, and other extra-curricular activities.
Bedford School is now one of the leading all-boys boarding and day schools in the country (10th in a 2016 Times league table) and has a strong tradition of producing boys who excel. Our pupils are confident, articulate and enthusiastic, and they go on to flourish in the real world.