Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: October 2014

16 - The life course consequences of single-sex and co-educational schooling



This chapter reports on a study examining whether attending single-sex rather than co-educational secondary school made a difference to the lives of a cohort of men and women born in Britain in 1958. The project aimed to assess the impact of single-sex secondary schooling, not just on short-term and narrowly academic outcomes, but also on longer-term social, psychological, and economic outcomes. In a generally gendered environment for adults, did it make any difference to have been to a gender segregated school, and in what way? This chapter provides an overview of our findings, and a discussion of the implications for policy and for future research.


Controversies about co-education at secondary schools in Britain began at the end of the nineteenth century and continue to the present. However, the arguments for and against co-education have changed over time, with changing gender differences in educational aspirations and attainment, while the number of single-sex schools has declined steadily. The evidence regarding single-sex schools must therefore be placed in historical context.

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

Gender Differences in Aspirations and Attainment
  • Online ISBN: 9781139128933
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *
Benn, C., & Simon, B. (1970). Half way there: Report on the British comprehensive school reform. London: Penguin.
Bone, A. (1983). Girls and girl-only schools: A review of the evidence. Manchester: Equal Opportunities Commission.
Brice, I. (1980). The early coeducation movement in English secondary education. Melbourne Studies in Education, 134–177.
Bynner, J., & Joshi, H. (2007). Building the evidence base from longitudinal data: The aims, content and achievements of the British Birth Cohort Studies. Innovations, 20(2), 159–179.
Dale, A., & Egerton, M. (1997). Highly educated women: Evidence from the National Child Development Study. London: HMSO.
Dale, R. (1969). Mixed or single-sex school? (Vol. 1). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Dale, R. (1971). Mixed or single-sex school? (Vol. 2). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Dale, R. (1974). Mixed or single-sex school? (Vol. 3). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Dyhouse, C. (1985). Feminism and the debate over coeducational/single-sex schooling: Some historical perspectives. In Purvis, J. (Ed.), The education of girls and women. Leicester: History of Education Society.
Faraday, A. (1989). Lessoning lesbians: Girls’ schools, co-education and anti-lesbianism between the wars. In Jones, C. & Mahony, P. (Ed.), Learning our lines. London: The Women’s Press.
Goldthorpe, J., & McKnight, A. (2006). The economic basis of social class. In Morgan, S., Grusky, D. B., & Fields, G. S. (Eds.), Mobility and inequality: Frontiers of research from sociology and economics. Stanford University Press.
Hakim, C. (1998). Social change and innovation in the labour market. Oxford University Press.
Hawkes, D., & Plewis, I. (2006). Modelling non-response in the National Child Development Study. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, A, 169, 479–491.
Hubbard, L., & Datnow, A. (2002). Are single-sex schools sustainable in the public sector. In Datnow, A. & Hubbard, L. (Eds.), Gender in policy and practice: Perspectives on single-sex and co-educational schooling (pp. 109–132). New York: Routledge Falmer.
Leonard, D. (1996). The debate around coeducation. In Kemal, S., Leonard, D., Pringle, M., & Sadeque, S. (Eds.), Targeting underachievement: Boys or girls? (pp. 21–29). London: Institute of Education.
Leonard, D., Joshi, H., & Sullivan, A. (2007). Single-sex and co-educational schooling: Lifecourse consequences? ESRC report. Swindon: ESRC.
Makepeace, G., Joshi, H., Woods, L., & Galinda-Rueda, F. (2003). From school to the labour market. In Ferri, E., Bynner, J., & Wadsworth, M. (Eds.), Changing Britain, changing lives: Three generations at the turn of the century (pp. 29–104). London: Bedford Way Papers.
Power, C., & Elliott, J. (2006). Cohort profile: 1958 British birth cohort (National Child Development Study). International Journal of Epidemiology, 35(1), 34–41.
Rutter, M., Tizard, J., & Whitmore, K. (1970). Education, health and behaviour. London: Longmans.
Shaw, J. (1976). Finishing school: Some implications of sex-segregated education. In Barker, D. L. & Allen, S. (Eds.), Sexual divisions and society: Process and change (pp. 133–149). London: Tavistock.
Smithers, A., & Robinson, P. (2006). The paradox of single-sex and co-educational schooling. University of Buckingham.
Spender, D., & Sarah, E. (Eds.). (1980). Learning to lose: Sexism and education. London: Women’s Press.
Spielhofer, T., Benton, T., & Schagen, S. (2004). A study of the effects of school size and single-sex education in English schools. Research Papers in Education, 19(2), 133–159.
Steedman, J. (1980). Progress in secondary schools. London: National Children’s Bureau.
Steedman, J. (1983a). Examination results in mixed and single sex schools: Findings from the National Child Development Study. Manchester: Equal Opportunities Commission.
Steedman, J. (1983b). Examination results in selective and non-selective schools. London: National Children’s Bureau.
Steedman, J. (1983c). Examination results in selective and non-selective schools: Vol. 2. Appendices. London: National Children’s Bureau.
Sullivan, A. (2006). Academic self-concept, gender and single-sex schooling in the 1970 cohort. CLS Working Paper. London: Centre for Longitudinal Studies.
Sullivan, A. (2009). Academic self-concept, gender, and single-sex schooling. British Educational Research Journal, 35(2), 259–288.
Sullivan, A., Joshi, H., & Leonard, D. (2010). Single-sex schooling and academic attainment at school and through the lifecourse. American Educational Research Journal, 47(1), 6–36.
Sullivan, A., Joshi, H., & Leonard, D., (2011). Single-sex schooling and labour market outcomes. Oxford Review of Education, 37(3), 311–332.
Sullivan, A., Joshi, H., & Leonard, D., (2012). Single-sex and co-educational schooling: What are the social and family outcomes, in the short and longer term?Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 3(1), 137–157.
Warrington, M., & Younger, M. (2001). Single-sex classes and equal opportunities for girls and boys: Perspectives through time from a mixed comprehensive school in England. Oxford Review of Education, 27(3), 339–356.
Younger, M., & Warrington, M. (2006). Would Harry and Hermione have done better in single-sex classes? A review of single-sex teaching in co-educational schools in the United Kingdom. American Educational Research Journal, 43(4), 579–620.