Practices and policies on single sex classes within co-educational schools

Year: 2001

Author: Watterston, Barbara

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Gender education issues have been highlighted by a number of Commonwealth and State policy initiatives. The Education Department of Western Australia's Social Justice in Education Policy (EDWA 1991, revised 2001) seeks improved outcomes for both boys and girls, identifying gender difference as one of the main factors influencing student participation, achievement and post school options. Within WA, policy on single sex classes in coeducational government primary schools is increasingly being generated within individual schools - a bottom-up approach. With an emphasis on micro political processes, the present research is based upon an exploration of the efficacy of single sex classes, from the perspectives of teachers, parents and students. It highlights the messiness of different policy perspectives within individual educational institutions.

A major challenge is the extent to which policy makers are able to recognise and build upon the heterogeneity of students' backgrounds, aspirations and needs, to provide varied and meaningful learning experiences for them. Emphasis is placed on examining the way in which limiting stereotypical notions of gender impact on learning and participation. In light of the interviews currently in progress, this paper will explore propositions for policy development - at both micro and macro levels - to facilitate the use of single sex classes within the coeducational context.