Single sex schools

There are 261 state secondary schools in New Zealand. This includes 11 designated character schools but excludes integrated and private schools that have compulsory fees.

212 are co-educational. 24 are boys only and 25 are girls only. That is 81%, 9% and 10%.

176,479 students are at co-educational schools, 27,803 at boys only schools and 25,469 at girls only schools. The average roll is 832 for a co-ed school, 1,158 for boys only and 1,019 for girls only.

Both boys and girls at single sex schools get significantly better academic results than those in co-ed schools. The data for 2019 state schools in terms of percentage of school leavers getting UE is:

  • Girls single sex 55%
  • Girls 43%
  • Boys single sex 43%
  • All 36%
  • Girls co-ed 39%
  • Boys 29%
  • Boys co-ed 25%

There is a huge educational inequality that boys are doing massively worse at schools than girls. For every three girls that get UE only two boys will do so.

But this huge gap closes depending on type of school attended.

Boys at a single sex school are 68% more likely to get UE than those at a co-ed school while girls are 40% more likely.

Another way of looking at this is that in co-ed schools girls are 55% more likely to get UE than boys but in single sex schools only 40% more likely.

Now some of this may be decile related as single sex schools may tend to be in higher decile areas. So let’s adjust for that.

For schools in the top quintile (deciles 9 and 10) the male UE rate is 43% for co-ed and 69% for single sex. For those in the bottom quintile the male UE rate is 9% for co-ed and 37% for single sex. So almost as many boys get UE in bottom quintile single sex schools as in top quintile co-ed schools.

The difference also applies to Maori students. Maori boys in top quintile state schools get 26% UE in co-ed schools and 44% in single sex schools.

Now the purpose of this data is not to dump on co-ed schools. There are many excellent co-ed schools and I’m a big fan of parents being able to choose the school they think will be best for their kids.

But the issue is this. Many parents no longer have a choice as they do not live near a single sex school.

We have a huge educational inequality with boys falling behind girls at every level of the system from NCEA Level 1 through to attending and passing university. This is a national disgrace and if it was the other way around, there would be weekly media stories demanding the Government do more to close the gap.

And it is clear that one thing that does close the gap is allowing boys to attend a single sex school. Boys at a single sex school achieve UE at the same rate as girls achieve overall.

But here is the problem. There has been no new state single sex boys schools since at least 2004 (as far back as recent records). The Ministry of Education only will allow new co-ed schools.

I assume this is because it is cheaper to construct one new large co-ed school than two medium sized single sex schools. But this penny pinching is coming a terrible cost to a generation of boys.

Again I am a fan of parental choice. Many co-ed schools are great and parents should be able to have a local co-ed school to attend. Co-ed schools have non-academic benefits also such as socialisation.

But more parents should also have the choice of a single sex school.

Unless we are content to widen the educational inequality gap between boys and girls, we should demand the Government allow parents a choice by reversing the ban on future single sex schools.

Maybe even have a policy that (for example) 80% of parents should live within 10 kms of both a single sex and co-ed school.

The status quo is failing. We need a brave Government that will champion giving parents choice.

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