At Conyers School in Yarm we are starting our third year of teaching Year 9 science to single gender as well as mixed classes. Surprisingly, the first year of this experiment revealed that the students who do best in key stage 3 SATs are girls who have been taught in mixed groups (Who benefits from gender setting?, TES Curriculum Special, December 31, 1999).
For the second year, the 200 pupils were again divided on the basis of previous exam marks into girls, boys and mixed classes of similar ability ranges. SATs results showed that the upper band girls gained the best results in terms of levels 7 and 6. If we look at the two years together, and take the measurement of those achieving level 5 and above, then a clear trend emerges.
In 1999 the girls in mixed classes scored the highest percentage of level 5 and above. This was followed by the girls in single sex groups who scored the same as boys i single sex groups; the boys in mixed groups had the smallest percentage of level 5+ scores.
In other words boys did as well as girls when they were taught separately, but less well when taught together.
The 2000 results showed once again the same percentage of boys and girls in the single gender groups obtaining level 5 or better. But this time that percentage was higher than either the girls in mixed groups or the boys in mixed groups.
However, in 2000, the class which showed the greatest improvement was the lower band mixed, so mixed science teaching does appear to be "girl-friendly" - surprising when the impression we had drawn was that boys dictated the pace and style of mixed classes.
Will the trend be repeated this year and, if so, why does it happen?
Patricia Miller is head of physics and KS3 science at Conyers School, Yarm, Stockton-on-Tees