Whilst boys and girls can – with significant overlaps – learn differently, they learn best from each other. Chafyn Grove is careful to offer a provision which accommodates this, providing both equity and specific consideration to their mutual advantage.
Sport is a good specific example of this: from Nursery through to Year 8, boys and girls are taught PE together by specialists. You do not need to be sporty to reap the benefits of exercise and shared team values, but all of our children benefit importantly from the staffing and facility investment we place evenly in this area. We retired Rounders as a summer option for girls years ago and run open selection for cricket. I’m surprised that many senior schools have yet to embrace cricket as a summer sport option for girls as fully as we have. Tennis and Athletics are fine options, but team sport offers many advantages which are particularly important to both children and adolescents that individual sport does not.
I think most characterisations of the differences between boys and girls are misleading; good teaching is tailored to the individual and transcends broader categorisations (especially clumsily drawn ones). Clearly there are various developmental milestones and thresholds for all children within a school; I think any approach based too closely on chronological age is going to fail a significant number of boys and girls. A joined-up approach, based on strong inter-personal relationships and flexibility will look after children at every stage of their education.
As a school, we are keen to reflect parity as a normal and positive outcome. Our senior management team and Heads of Departments model an equal gender balance – not through positive recruitment, but open meritocracy. That equilibrium is echoed in the makeup of our choir, where children sit at lunch and in the quality of our results – from English to Science, Art to DT, Music to Sport. Where attitudes are geared towards personality and openness, rather than conformity or stratification, a natural balance presents itself. Lamentably, life beyond Chafyn Grove is not as fairly set-up but I believe that all of our children develop an outlook here unspoiled by misconception or indeed ignorance. Life is mixed in all sorts of ways, and the ability to see past divisions or difference is one of school’s best lessons.