BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Thoughts on possible Chichester schools’ merger

C140895-6 Chi High Boys and Girls  phot kate SUS-140924-094739001
C140895-6 Chi High Boys and Girls phot kate SUS-140924-094739001
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WITH the possibility of a merger between Chichester High School For Boys and Chichester High School For Girls ever increasing, what do students, their parents and teachers think?

Both have been single-gender schools since their creation 43 years ago and last month’s news that discussions were taking place to join them caused shock waves at both schools.

Entrance to the Kingsham Campus

Entrance to the Kingsham Campus

Under the proposed changes only students starting their secondary education in September, 2016, would be placed in co-educational classes with the current crop of pupils continuing in single-gender lessons.

From speaking to the people who will be most affected, there was a range of strong opinions, both for and against the changes.

What parents think

“AS a parent who attended a single-gender school myself I think mixed schools are a healthier environment,” said Steve Frogley.

“They help with communication skills as well as socialising in an environment which is similar to what the student will be experiencing in both the near and distant future.

“Rather than being thrown in the deep end it enables students to build up courage and feel natural around the opposite gender.

“As well as this mixed schools are typically less gender biased, therefore allowing the students to express their personalities.

“I don’t think there will be any negative impact on the schools’ popularity or dynamics, only positive.”

And Amanda Everett said: “Although many parents won’t be happy about the change of the schools, I believe it’s a good thing to do for both the school and the economy.

“Having sent my children to a mixed school I know first-hand that it has a positive effect on their behaviour.

“My daughter was very shy before starting secondary school, and I could see her personality blossom throughout the years of attending, growing in confidence and making new friends, both boys and girls.”

However one parent, who wanted to remain anonymous, said she sent her son to an all-boys school to avoid distractions and that the only reason her young daughter would go to a mixed school was because of their location.

“I personally don’t agree with mixing the two schools together,” she said.

“From when my children were a young age, I knew I wanted to send them to a single sex school.

“I don’t think boys and girls bring the best out of one another and by mixing the two would cause clashes and distractions within the classroom.

“I am extremely disappointed my daughter wont be able to attend an all girls school however she will still be attending the mixed, simply because it’s our local secondary school.”

What teachers think

HERE three teachers give their views on how they see the changes affecting them. All three wanted to remain anonymous so they will simply be referred to as Teacher One, Teacher Two and Teacher Three.

Teacher one said: “I think on a practical level, yes the merging of the schools is a good idea. However, the removal of choice of single-sex education in Chichester is a retrograde step.

“I believe if the development goes forward there will be a greater range of resources in the new merged school, as well as more diverse staff who will be capable of bringing new skills to lessons and teaching methods. Therefore an education which is more balanced.

“On the other hand the removal of the option of single-sex education restricts choice and could ultimately result in the loss of pupils as parents may choose to send their children out of the area to a single sex school resulting in a less diverse student population.

“Overall I believe there are mixed opinions amongst staff and students. From having discussions with my colleagues it is clear there are split opinions across the departments. I am unsure how it will affect teaching, it may take a change in staff to achieve success.

Teacher Two said: “I think the merger is a positive move as I believe mixed schools benefit both boys and girls.

“I think that in all other areas women and men are encouraged to mix and that co-ed schools prepare students for real life. Boys and girls are encouraged to co-operate in mixed schools and have more opportunity to develop friendships in a natural way than in single sex schools.

“There is no conclusive evidence that girls do better in single sex school although this statistic is always put forward by those who support them. However as a boys school teacher, in my experience boys are calmer when educated with girls and girls play a positive role on the behaviour and achievement. My children both go to mixed schools as I am keen they mix with the opposite sex... I agree with the merger both as a teacher and a parent.”

Teacher Three said: “I believe it is important that the conversation takes place between pupils, parents, teachers and all stakeholders to gather opinions on the best way forward for both schools, and that these opinions are valued and considered when a decision of this importance is taken.

“With any significant change to an organisation there will be disruption. The proposed merging of CHSB and CHSG will be no different. It is difficult to see how there will not be job losses and redundancies. This process is always unsettling therefore that would by my main concern.

“There is a great deal of history and tradition attached with the boys’ school. I feel there will be strong resistance to the end of CHSB. However I do feel a lot of this comes from a more emotional and historic attachment to an all-boys school than for any practical or academic reasons.

“If the strengths from both schools can be brought together and used to benefit both boys and girls in the Chichester and surrounding area then personally it will have been a success. Time will tell.”

What the students think

THE opinions of students at both schools was equally mixed.

Alice Ford said: “In my opinion, I’m really excited for the merging of the boys and girls school.

“I think by mixing boys and girls in classes it prepares them for future life, such as sixth-form and college, therefore boosting confidence and learning social skills.

“I don’t think it will change popularity. Although the schools are the only single sex schools in the area, parents will have no choice but to send their children to a mixed school, therefore not changing the amount of students joining. Being a girl, my main worry would be how distracting the boys may be during class.

“Although it has been proven that girls get better grades in single sex schools, I think boys would benefit being in a mixed environment. The teachers will experience teaching both genders which will be beneficial to their skills. It’s a great idea.”

However Gemma said: “I don’t agree with the proposition of merging the two schools together.

“Mixed-gender classes will simply cause too many distractions amongst students.

“It may settle after adjustment. However, the teaching system will have to change and the teachers may not reach their full potential when teaching differently to their previous school.”

Emma Potter said: “This development will raise lots of competition against Chichester High School.

“There are many co-ed schools in the West Sussex and Hampshire areas which have been mixed gender for several years and have achieved a good reputation.

“Why would parents send their children to a school which is only newly-changed as opposed to one of these schools?”

Consultation

There is currently an ongoing public consultation on the schools’ plans

To take part, visit www.research.net/s/chichesterhighschools.