Karen O’Connor, head of Berkhamstead Pre-Prep and Berkhamsted Day Nursing in Hertforshire, answers our questions on co-educational learning
The discourse around the benefits of single-sex and co-educational learning can leave many parents confused as to which choice is most beneficial for their child. As the first step of their educational journey, the pre-prep years should be a time for children to explore, socialise and learn, in a setting that offers security, nurture and challenge and where children are excited to come into school but most of all, happy to be there.
While we know that young children recognise that there are boys and girls in their class, daily interactions in a co-educational setting at this age enables children to interact, play and co-operate across a spectrum of activities. In nursery and reception at Berkhamsted, our responsive daily planning takes into consideration the interests of the children who are leaders of their own learning. Such diversity of ideas within a co-educational setting allows children to experience the intrinsic elements of play that can be very different for boys and girls.
As they move into Key Stage One (five to seven years) continuing to develop secure relationships based on excellent personal, social, emotional needs that promote acceptance and equality from everyone, helps to teach children about the importance of kindness and respect. Promoting opportunities across the curriculum that encourages them to collaborate in their learning equally and to value the contributions of their peers regardless of gender stereotypes.
Pre-prep education is key to securing the foundations of learning that will develop the basic skills and learning dispositions, enabling children to go on to be successful at GCSE and A-level and beyond. It seems that to isolate them by gender at such an early informative stage would perhaps halve the possible learning opportunities and socialisation experiences that are evident daily in our school, and which make it such an exciting, vibrant setting for children to learn and play together. This, with an exceptional environment that meets the development needs of both girls and boys, gives children the very best start for life-long learning that will inevitably be across the gender divide in the real world.