One of the obvious questions I was asked during the interview process for Headship at Northholm Grammar School was; ‘Having spent thirteen years in an all-boys School, what are your thoughts on co-education and how would you feel leading a co-educational School?’ I must say that when I joined The King’s School in 2006 I was a strong advocate for ‘Boys Education’ because I believed that a specific learning environment that focussed on competition, adventure, activity, structure and fostering strong relationships was best for a young man’s personal development. However, as the years have passed it was clear to me that the above qualities mentioned are essentially important in the development of both boys and girls and single-sex education is suffering from its inability to harness an authentic social environment in fostering real world relationships.
Northholm is committed to co-education because it provides a learning environment that best prepares boys and girls for the world in which they will lead. Our vision for quality learning is fundamentally supported by co-education and having spent a few weeks here now, it is clear that co-education is the optimal setting in allowing students to best learn how to live with others.
If we truly want to prepare our students for life after school, then we want to ensure that they can develop respectful and meaningful social relationships which is best achieved through a mixed-gender environment. Leadership and learning in the development of the well-rounded student is at the heart of our vision and co-education provides opportunities for both girls and boys to be role models for other students. The caring and nurturing environment that strives to challenge each student to reach their full potential allows boys and girls to develop their character strengths and independence, so they can thrive as future leaders.
Northholm prides itself on a knowledge-based curriculum that allows students to develop the dispositions such as critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and creativity. There can be no better way than to harness these skills then by allowing boys and girls to work together, fostering mutual respect, building friendships and supporting one another. The classroom environment allows boys and girls to celebrate their differences and similarities, whilst participating equally in contributing to the value of the School. Critical questioning and debate are common practice among students in a co-educational school setting and we can best develop ‘confident and compassionate citizens’ by respecting each individual and creating a safe and supportive environment.
Developing knowledge and understanding through the curriculum is essential, however students learn best through their shared experiences with others. It’s important they discover through their schooling who they are and the character strengths they possess. Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, from the University of Cambridge, stresses that “separating children for a number of year’s means they will not be mixing and learning about each other”. Self-awareness is critical in allowing students to understand how they fit into the complexities of the adult world. Co-education promotes a far more authentic understanding of one’s self and one’s potential to make a significant impact in our community as a resilient, disciplined and respectful adult. The value of co-education is alive and well at Northholm Grammar School.
Mr Christopher Bradbury
4 April 2019