Single-sex schools, particularly girls' schools, deliver no +educational advantage over co-education, according to a new and growing body of research.
Studies in Australia and New Zealand have confirmed others in Northern Irelandand the United States that have found apparent benefits of single-sex schools only reflected the higher-achieving +profile of students who were likely to succeed regardless of school gender.
A study of 2000 Australian students at 250 schools, published this +year, found girls' schools did not lead more girls into year 12 +advanced mathematics, historically an unpopular subject for girls.
The study, by Dr, John Ainley at the Australian Council for Educational Research, echoed the results of a 1996 report which he co-authored, about girls' uptake of physical sciences.
A smaller study published this year by Dr. Judith Gill of the University of South Australia tracked 112 students from year seven to year 10.
Dr. Gill found girls' satisfaction, attitude to school, maths and +science and their confidence all declined. Significantly, there was no difference in the attitudes at girls' school and co-educational schools.
A New Zealand study, published this year, tracked academic performance in English, mathematics and science of 5000 secondary students.
Dr. Richard Harker, at Massey University, found no difference in academic performance between girls at co-educational schools and single-sex schools.
He concluded "school type is not an important factor in attempts...to improve the performance levels of girls in maths and science".
Typical of other international research, the Australian and New Zealand data found girls from single-sex schools seemed ahead in performance and in choosing maths and sciences.
But this was almost entirely due to socio-economic factors including prior ability, parental occupation and education, ethnicity and school location.
The president of the Alliance of Girls' Schools Australasia and +principal of St. Catherine's (Girls') School, Ms Judy McCowan, said +the results contradicted her experience. Demand was overflowing for girls' schools, she said.
"(Parents) are coming because we encourage girls in a situation where they don't have to play dumb or compete with boys, " she said.
The chairman of the Consortium of Co-educational Schools, Mr. Tony +Hewison, said the findings were no surprise and that there had been +"a lot of misuse of research and flawed findings in the past".
"In academic success, co-education is as good if not better. There's an argument that it's better because students are happier ina more natural environment," he said.
Dr. Ainley said single-sex schools had "no real advantage at all" in fostering enrolments in non-traditional subjects for girls or gaining higher results.
While it was known that single-sex schools drew students with a +high socio-economic profile, researchers could not separate the well-known influences on performance that were unrelated to school type.