Many schools are separating pupils by age and gender in playgrounds in a practice that amounts to “Dickensian segregation”, according to the chief executive of Scotland’s regulatory body for teachers.
Ken Muir, of the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), also criticises single-sex schools for being at odds with efforts to encourage equity in the classroom and beyond.
Writing in the new issue of the GTCS members’ magazine, Mr Muir asks: “How can we be serious about creating a more equitable, coherent and integrated education system when we continue to have single-sex schools and Dickensian segregation in playgrounds which mean that children are unable to play with friends, sisters and brothers across age ranges and genders?”
When Tes Scotland asked Mr Muir to expand on his comments, he said: “The continuation of those practices I would view as being very much counter to the direction of travel we’re trying to arrive at at the moment, [in terms of] an equitable education system, a more equitable society.”
On the separation of playgrounds by age and gender, he said that headteachers should consider “the messages that it sends to youngsters” and whether the practice contributed towards equity in both the school and wider society.
Mr Muir said that strict splitting of playgrounds by age and gender appears to happen in a large minority of schools in Scotland, with pupils’ safety often cited as a factor.
He added: “I know a lot of headteachers will say, ‘Well, that’s for health and safety reasons’, but I actually think that the equity card trumps the health and safety card.”