The best of both worlds – single sex teaching within a co-educational environment.
Along with 12 other schools in the country, we follow what is known as the' Diamond Model' whereby girls and boys are taught together up to age 11, separately from 11 to 16 and together again in the Sixth Form. In this way boys and girls are taught in separate classes during the crucial and formative teenage years but have many social opportunities to mix together outside the classroom on a single campus.
Essentially the benefits of the Diamond Model result from the ability to tailor teaching and pastoral care more acutely and sensitively to meet the gender-specific needs of pupils. A single sex classroom structure from Year 7 helps pupils develop with peers going through similar changes – emotional, physical and social. It gives them space to focus on studies without peer pressure to perform in mixed classes. By the time they reach the Sixth Form, students have matured and established themselves academically. They can cope with a mixed gender class and become better prepared for life at university or work.
From both a teacher’s and a pupil’s perspective, there are distinct advantages to teaching boys and girls separately. It is generally acknowledged that girls and boys have different learning styles and different interests, particularly in adolescence. In Diamond Model schools teachers are able to adopt a more sophisticated and focused approach, tailoring their teaching accordingly.
At Brentwood, the same curriculum is taught to both boys and girls, and because the classes are single sex, their experience of subjects is gender neutral. In this way we avoid the risk of subjects becoming gender-labelled. There are no ‘boys-only’ or ‘girls-only’ subjects. Indeed, when it comes to subject options at GCSE level, we find no obvious gender trends to subject selection and the university destinations of our Sixth Formers reveals a similar result amongst girls and boys.
But it’s not all about the academic side of school life – the social side of school is equally important. A major part of what any good school should do is to help their pupils form respectful relationships with the opposite sex. In Diamond Model schools, pupils can see each other at break and lunchtimes, participate together in a wide range of co-curricular activities, learn to have mutual respect for each other and, first and foremost to treat each other as human beings.
At Brentwood School the co-curricular programme includes music, drama, trips and excursions, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and the Combined Cadet Force; the latter being just as popular with the girls as with boys. Leadership roles within the CCF and generally within school are awarded on merit and achieved equally by girls and boys, including positions as praepostors (prefects), Heads of Houses and Head of School.
Parents often comment on the advantages, that brothers and sisters can share the School bus, or in the case of boarding that their sons and daughters are living close to each other. This knowledge helps parents to get the best out of their relationship with the School. In turn, the School helps to ensure the best education for their child, regardless of whether they are boys or girls.