Coeducation at Westbrook Hay

Why we believe in coeducation…

One of the critical decisions for parents when choosing a school is whether to opt for coeducation or single-sex education. While both systems have their merits, at Westbrook we believe that coeducation provides a better environment for our pupils to prepare for life beyond school.

We are firm in our convictions about this because we believe that education is not merely about imparting knowledge and learning new skills; it is also about shaping individuals and preparing them for the challenges of the world. Helping to shape the character of the child is inherent in the culture, purpose and values of Westbrook.

Social Skills

Westbrook provides an environment where our pupils learn to interact with individuals of both genders from a young age. This early exposure helps in developing essential social skills, including communication, empathy, and cooperation. Boys and girls may have different social dynamics but keeping them apart denies them the opportunity to learn about and from each other. Any limiting of children’s social interactions risks a lack of exposure to diverse perspectives and experiences. At Westbrook, we understand how boys interact with each other, how girls interact with each other and how the two genders interact with each other. Single-sex education does not provide these learning opportunities for a child.

Coeducation facilitates holistic development by nurturing not only academic but also social, emotional, and interpersonal skills. Through interactions with peers of the opposite gender, students learn to navigate complex social dynamics, develop emotional intelligence, and cultivate empathy. These skills are invaluable for success in all facets of life, from personal relationships to professional endeavours. In contrast, single-sex education may inadvertently prioritize academic achievements over holistic development, neglecting crucial aspects of a young person's growth and well-being.

It's the real world…

In today's interconnected world, workplaces and communities are characterised by males and females working together. Coeducation reflects this reality, providing students with first-hand experience in navigating these environments. Such exposure prepares them to thrive in professional settings where collaboration across genders is an everyday imperative. Single-sex education was created for a different era, for a time when boys and girls were being prepared for separate pathways into adulthood and differing workplaces. This requirement should not exist anymore, meaning that single-sex education risks creating an artificial environment that fails to mirror real-world dynamics, potentially leaving students ill-prepared for the complexities of the modern workplace and modern society.

Westbrook’s coeducational nature prepares students to become active and engaged citizens capable of navigating the complexities of a what is a diverse society. By learning alongside peers of both genders, students develop the skills necessary for effective communication, collaboration, and importantly, leadership. Girls learn how to lead boys and vice-versa. These leadership opportunities develop attributes that are essential for the growth of a self-confidence that will be essential when our young people move on to sixth forms, universities, and the workplace.

Encouragement of Equality and Equity

One of the key facets of Westbrook’s ethos is that of inclusivity.  As such, we believe that an environment where both genders are learning and playing together is inclusive. Our coeducational environment gives us the platform to promote equality by breaking down stereotypes and fostering mutual respect between the genders. When boys and girls learn together, they perceive each other as equals, challenging traditional gender roles and biases. This egalitarian environment cultivates a mindset of inclusivity and fairness, which can have far-reaching implications in creating a more equitable society. Single-sex education may inadvertently reinforce gender stereotypes and perpetuate gender-based discrimination by segregating society based on their gender. By dismantling stereotypes and fostering a more inclusive environment, coeducation empowers students to pursue their interests and aspirations irrespective of societal expectations.

A coeducational environment, like one that Westbrook provides, allows the flexibility to provide some lessons and activities as single gender. We can quickly adapt our provision to provide the right environment at the right time. For example, some Relationship and Sex Education lessons are taught with boys and girls together because that is important. Some are taught with boys and girls apart because that is also important.

Sport is another crucial area where Westbrook has a flexible approach. Pre-pubescent children can be taught the same sports together; Westbrook’s main autumn and summer sports are football and cricket – for boys and girls. This equality, in the younger years, is critical, as it builds an important level of respect between the sexes at such a formative age. As the pupils approach and enter adolescence, the physical differences between boys and girls mean it is more appropriate for them to be separate for sports. At this stage, our pupils can be taught sports apart but if it is in an individual’s best interests to participate in sport with the opposite gender then Westbrook will facilitate this.

Through examples such as these, Westbrook’s children are in a position to challenge preconceived notions about gender roles and capabilities.

Academic Performance

Westbrook is a setting where high academic achievement is possible for both boys and girls. It is an environment where boys and girls can challenge society’s academic gender stereotypes thus driving themselves on to success. The diverse perspectives and collaborative learning opportunities inherent in coeducation stimulate intellectual growth and creativity, ultimately enhancing students' academic performance. We know that boys and girls can learn differently, but that is also true in a single-sex class. One of the stereotypes that we challenge at Westbrook is that boys are more dominant in the classroom, that they contribute verbally more to the rhythm of the lesson. Through the purposeful and skilful use of questioning our teachers provide an environment where engagement is equal.

Having positive role models is an important part of a Westbrook pupils’ academic development. We consider it to be important for both boys and girls to see adults of both sexes in roles of leadership and doing a variety of jobs across a variety of subjects. With the aim of providing role models for our pupils, our academic leaders look carefully at our curriculum to ensure that pupils learn about the achievements of both men and women, past and present. Similarly, through the English curriculum, children are exposed to texts written by a variety of authors. Exploring the often weighty themes of some of these books, in a coeducational setting is important to the children’s understanding, not only of the texts themselves, but of how some of the themes might be viewed by those with a differing experience from their own. This broadening of experience within the classroom makes for rich dialogue which enhances academic achievement.

In conclusion

In conclusion, we realise that choosing the right school for your child is a complex decision. One of the key factors should be coeducation or single sex. At Westbrook, we are passionate about coeducation and believe that it offers numerous advantages over single-sex education. This ranges from the promotion of social skills and gender equality, to high level academic performance and holistic development. As we strive to cultivate well-rounded young people capable of making meaningful contributions to society, embracing coeducation is a cornerstone of a Westbrook education.