Category Archives: The Journal

Things To Do When You’re 11 – 15

11, 12, 13, 14, 15? At last you can start making your own choices. Your parent/s have the final say, but increasingly you’re trusted just to get on with it. You know how important school is, and maybe you have ideas about a career, but there’s still space for fun in with the serious stuff. Sometimes you can even combine the two….

And that’s the idea, along with some general Be Happy Rules, behind the list which follows of ‘Things To Do’. You can try them, or you might not, but perhaps the list will spark off more ideas to keep you trying out new adventures and developing new skills.
OK, here goes. Why don’t you:
Get physical
Learn to roller or ice-skate, walk to school, swim competitively, train for the 5 /10k. Take the challenge to try something different from your normal team game or school activities. Remember, exercise is for life, so to gain the full benefits start now and enjoy.
Annotate your friends
You’d be astonished how quickly time will fly! To remember your friends now for the future, make a book, video or other record of
who they are and how they are part of your life. Get them to add their own contributions to your ’collection’; but do ensure that what you record is something they’d still like to see in ten years’ time.
Help raise environmental awareness
Learn to calculate your carbon footprint – and then help others to do the same. Can you predict what is most ‘carbon costly’? Might you / others change anything you do because of what you learn? That carbon score might just deliver some surprises!
Become a fashionista
Can you find a sewing machine somewhere? Why not design and make your own clothes, from scratch or by adapting gear you already have? Girl or guy, choose a style, fabric or colour you
like, and go for it. It’s never too early to make your own style statement.
Find you way around
You’re well past the ‘Are we nearly there now?’ stage, so learn to map-read – street maps, rights of way, routes in or out of town, journeys to other places; all make more sense (and are much more interesting) if you can interpret the map.
Create a little happiness
Everyone worries and feels down sometimes, but you can decide now to start life as you mean to go on – by making the best of things whenever possible. Give yourself a private project to observe what makes people you care for and admire really, positively happy; and then see what you can do, as a part of your daily routine, to create more of this wonderful state of being for
yourself and others.
Do your bit for the environment now
Plant a shrub or tree, or some vegetables or flowers, then nurture them and watch them grow. Maybe you can make this the beginning of your new ‘green’ habit? Could you even, perhaps, share this activity with others in your family?
Gain skills for independence
Regardless of gender, you’ll need to look after yourself ‘properly’ in the not-too-distant future. Sure, you’re excellent on computers, but do you know how to operate the washing machine, redecorate a room or cook a decent meal? Having these skills is not only useful, they can also be the way to impress your family and friends. So if you’ve got it, flaunt it – think where cooking has taken Jamie Oliver!

Write your own ‘future diary’
You’re beginning to think seriously about your future. Now is the time to ’vision’ it, however straightforward or ambitious your intentions. Use your ‘future diary’ to imagine what life in your possible line of work might be like in five, ten or fifteen years. How might your workday go? How might you feel about it? And, most importantly, if you like what you ‘see’, what do you need to do to get there?
Do your own thing
Maybe you want to do things your way, no bright-ideas-from-elsewhere style? Well, within the boundaries of what’s sensible and positive, just go for it.
But whatever you do, please remember just to check with your parents first – plus, you never know, they may perhaps even

have just a few good ideas of their own!
Have you read….?
Things To Do When You’re 16 – 18
What To Do At Any Age – Be Happy
* Life is not a rehearsal
* Smile when you can
* Do acts of random kindness
* Try no-TV days
* Be cautious sometimes, cynical never
* Use your pedometer
* Treat yourself daily to a ‘Went Right’ list

And why not add your own take on Things To Do When You’re 11–15 via the Comments box below…

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Regeneration And Community Engagement In Action: The ‘Rules’

‘Regeneration’ happens when someone with influence perceives a need for improvement. But this is a process in which professionals omit to involve those to whom regeneration is being done at their peril. What follows is therefore a set of observations or ‘rules’, derived from direct experience, about how regeneration and community engagement may play out on the ground.

The ‘Rules’ below are presented from the perspective of a professional approaching a regeneration scenario. The reader might like to turn them around and ‘translate’ them, to reflect the possible understandings of a person ‘in the community’ on whose (claimed) behalf regeneration is taking place.
1) It is very difficult to ensure that everyone ‘knows’ what they need / would like to know.
2) People at all levels get suspicious / unhelpful if they feel ‘left out of the loop’.
3) Identifying legitimate Stakeholders is always a challenge – not all of them are formal.
4) Professional practitioners are not the font of all knowledge.
5) Perspectives and language (discourse / terms) may vary
dramatically between parties.
6) Expectations may similarly vary, and can be challenging to manage.
7) It is essential to start any programme by identifying ‘what works’ and protecting that.
8) Who is ‘qualified’ to undertake such ‘what works’ identification can be problematic.
9) Participants’ understandings develop over time; what they’d initially asked for will change.
10) The same may also apply to the professionals involved – especially if they are sensitive to context.
11) Sustainability – social, economic, physical – is often
overlooked in practice, if not in theory.
12) There is rarely a clear end-point (when does ‘regeneration’ finish?)
13) Engagement is by definition voluntary; it can never be forced, but is very necessary.
14) Equipping people to engage often requires patience, skill and thoughtful leadership.
15) Many stakeholders only really become interested when the chequebook arrives; be ready and beware!
These observations formed part of a lecture delivered (by Hilary Burrage) on 23 April 2007 to Masters’ students of social policy and political science at Charles University, Prague, in the Czech
Republic.

What do you think?
Do these ‘rules’ reflect your experience? And are there other ‘rules’ to add to these?

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Alternate Weekly (Waste) Collection: Has It Been Explained?

AWC (Alternate Weekly Collection of recyclable and non-recyclable household waste) has a bad reception in the UK, although it increases the extent of recycling. But why is something designed to sustain our environment – an ambition held by most of us – producing such hostility?

Latest in the endless list of Things People Don’t Like is the idea of alternate weekly collection of recyclable and non-recyclable domestic waste. There is evidence that this is effective in getting people to think more carefully about what they can and cannot recycle (rather than just bunging the lot in the dustbin) but everyone seems to be in uproar about it.
Why?
‘Why?’ is always a complex question to answer in environmental matters. What seems self-evidently sensible to the scientists and policy-makers (not to mention the demanding officials of the European Union, who are rightly leading a very serious environmentally conscious charge) is far less evident to Mr & Mrs Suburbia or Mr & Mrs InnerCity. The dialogue has got lost on the way, or perhaps has simply never existed.

People suspect that the bi-weekly collection of their ‘normal’ waste, even though it is to be interspersed by alternate weekly collection of what’s recyclable, is actually the result of a financial ‘cut’, and that it must therefore be bad. No-one seems to have thought to explain that there’s good evidence that AWC increases recycling – albeit at contested levels of efficacy.
Cynicism is the only winner
So there is Big Fuss. Nobody seems to believe something could be being done for ‘good’ reasons; and in that local politicians have often not helped. This situation benefits no-one.
The sooner the powers-that-be learn they must share rationales with ‘ordinary’ people right from the start of their thinking, the better. This is an issue which goes beyond what used to be called the ‘public understanding of science’, to an even more pressing
issue – the sustainability of our planet.
Be straightforward
So let’s ask our media, policy-makers and politicans to be braver and more honest in how they present these things. It would be good for everyone.

Read the debate which follows then…

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Things To Do When You’re 16 – 18

16, 17 and 18 are when it really starts to buzz. What you choose now will have impact for a long time to come. Horizons are expanding as comfort zones are challenged. Opportunities grasped now, at work and at play, will shape the adventure to follow. So go for it, looking forward and with a zest for life.

This is a time for action, but it’s also the time to set yourself some groundrules for the future – not ‘don’t do this’ restrictions, but an approach to life which will serve you well in years to come. If you haven’t already, check out the general Be Happy Rules for some ideas; happiness (or at least peace of mind) is often a matter of choice.
Then, future chemist, carer or caterer, you might like to give these suggestions a try…..
Get moving
You’re finally old enough to get a Driving Licence! So do it properly, and learn to drive with pride and care. Those driving lessons are about one of your first adult responsibilities; please take good advice and use your newly-won freedom skilfully.
And maybe you’d also like to sail, ski, horseride, hill-walk, who
knows…? Get out and about, using your strength and stamina to explore a whole new world.
Keep what you’ve got
Perhaps you’ve been having football, music, hockey, dance, chess or other lessons along with your school studies; and maybe the demands of exams are pushing these aside. Fair enough, but don’t lose it altogether. Keep your hand in where and when you can.
These interests are investments in your future – and excellent ways to spend a bit of ‘me time’ now, if you’re feeling stressed out.
Plan and enjoy
Is there something you would especially like to have or do? Give this one a bit of thought, and plan how you’ll do it. Maybe you’ll
do it alone, or maybe with others, but now’s the time to get the act together; manoeuvre, save, persuade – and then be sure to enjoy!
And, whatever it is, big or small, it will look good on your CV too.
Be vote-wise
Somewhen soon you’ll have a chance to vote. Make sure you are ready for this, that you know the actual practicalities of voting (where to go, which forms to complete etc) and that you understand the party-political options on offer.
‘They’re all the same’ is not an adult way to respond to politics and our hard-won right to vote; so if you don’t like what’s being said, be sure your voice is heard and do your best to make things better.
History B.Y. (Before You)

It’s never too early to start a habit which will serve you well for many decades…. get to know your neighbourhood, town or city and find out why it’s like it is. Who ‘made’ it? And who’s in charge now?
What’s behind the local names for streets and areas? Are there local stories passed down from generation to generation? There are some fascinating tales to be told, and it’s great to be in the know.
Become a people watcher
Late teens is a time when career choices loom large. It doesn’t matter whether your ambition is a steady job or a heady career, you need to know something about how it all happens – so remember to people-watch! How have people in occupations which interest you got there (or not)? What seems to make them
happy, and what worries them?
It may be easy to find out, or it may require some work, but with luck you’ll discover everyone’s happy to share their personal take on chosen occupations. These are big career decisions you’re about to make.
Go camping
It might be your backyard (to practise), it might be a bus-ride away, or it could be another continent, but try life under canvas. In years gone by camping was a well-established and often very soggy part of growing up. Thankfully, modern arrangements are both more civilised and less regimented.
This is a brilliant way to adventures and self-sufficiency (plan before you plunge!), perhaps just for a day or two, perhaps for a whole summer somewhere really exciting and new.

Get involved
No matter what your background and experience to date, there are now comfort zones to breach and challenges ahead. Always value your family and friends, but also see where else you can go. Is there a ‘cause’ or charity you might support, or something you’d really like to help with? Are there younger children in your school you’d like to encourage? Or older people in your community who’d enjoy your company?
You’ll probably gain as much as you give, and it’s never naff to care enough to share.
Learn First Aid
This is a strictly practical aspect of your developing skills. If your school, college or workplace doesn’t teach First Aid, ask why not. And if it does, make sure you’ve done the course.

Learning how to save a life is a valuable investment of anyone’s time.
Get green gym-ing
Is there a green gym in your part of the world? A place with open-access exercise points, perhaps in the local college grounds or park, where everyone can get fit and enjoy fresh air at the same time? If there isn’t, are you going to get one installed, and then use it? … maybe even help to construct it yourself?
‘Green’ themes are the future, and especially yours as a young person. If green gyms aren’t your thing, perhaps there’s another eco- / fitness project you would enjoy? Discuss and decide what’s best, and don’t take No for an answer! Good luck.
Have you read …?
Things To Do When You’re 11 – 15

Things To Do When You’re 19 – 21
What To Do At Any Age – Be Happy
* Life is not a rehearsal
* Smile when you can
* Do acts of random kindness
* Try no-TV days
* Be cautious sometimes, cynical never
* Use your pedometer
* Treat yourself daily to a ‘Went Right’ list

And why not share your alternative ideas here, too? You can add your own take on Things To Do When You’re 16 – 18 via the Comments box below…

Pianos For Peace

Piano keyboard (small) 70x83.jpg Rarely are artistic installations truly inspirational, but the use by George Michael and Kenny Goss of John Lennon’s piano, on which Lennon composed the song Imagine, is one such example. This travelling piano scenario is art, goodwill and common humanity all rolled into one.

George Michael is taking John Lennon’s piano on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Or that, at least to my eyes, seems to be what’s happening.
Singer-songwriter Michael acquired Lennon’s piano, on which the song Imagine was written, at the turn of the Millennium, and he and his partner Dallas art gallery owner Kenny Goss have now resolved the question of what special use to put it to: It has been given the central role in the world-tour Imagine Piano Peace Project.
Genuinely inspired art
It is a stroke of genius to take that humble piano to troubled places – sites of gruesome events such as assassinations, state-sanctioned executions, bombings, multiple murders and the like. The piano and its associations bring to these grimly horrible and
almost unthinkable acts a sort of dignity and calm.
The piano itself cannot and need not speak. It shows and incites no fear. All it has to do is occupy these sites as physical spaces. We can, each of us, work out the rest for ourselves.
John Lennon started life an unremarked child, attending our local school in Liverpool. He ended it a tragic victim of sudden very public violence in New York. As he himself might also have said of his travelling piano, just “Let it be.”

Things To Do When You’re 19 – 21

You’re very likely at college now, or learning on-the-job. Enjoy these new experiences! Ages 19, 20 and 21 for most young adults are ‘me time’, time to spread your wings and test the limits. Whatever you’re doing, use your freedom and energies to invest in your future, whilst you have some fun right now.
You’ll already have devised your own Be Happy Rules; and only you can be sure what’s right for you. But have you considered these ideas as you consider the options ahead ….?
Climb a mountain
Did you know there are well over two hundred Munroes (mountains over 3,000 feet) in Scotland? Can you name the highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales? (or whichever country you live in?) Why not face the challenge, and get to the top of a mountain every year?
But treat your mountains with respect; they require knowledge, the right gear, fitness and large quantities of common sense, even if you simply walk up them. So do it properly, perhaps with your college sports advisers or the Youth Hostel Association (YHA). Get prepared, form a team and reach the peak/s in style. That way you’ll return safely and come to a whole new understanding of how aching limbs can be the mark of real achievement.
Sort your gap year – or not
Are you planning a gap year? Can you say clearly why this is a good choice of how to spend your time? If you can, then go for it; the world is your oyster.
But if you don’t in all honesty know why you want that year out, maybe you need to think again. There are plenty of other ways to have adventures, without the enormous costs, and interruption to your studies / employment which a gap year imposes.
Step outside the stereotype
Is your idea of a good night out a visit to the pub? Or a concert? Or maybe just staying in with a new computer game? Just a few times a year, why not try something completely different? Sports, if you’re arty, the theatre if you’re an action (wo)man, a brisk walk in the park if you’re a bookworm? But be prepared. You’ll enjoy it more if you’ve got your head round the new experience – find knowledgeable friends, discover the plot of the play, pack a picnic and plan your route (or choose consciously to explore) – all before you start.
Penetrate the political
You’ve already discovered the practicals of actually how to vote, and in truth you do know you really must to use that vote. So now’s the time to get a proper grasp. If you don’t understand why the mainstream political parties spend so much time and energy disagreeing with each other, make it your business to find out.
There are fundamental differences between politicians’ perceptions of how the world works, and it’s these you’ll need to explore before you decide how to mark that ballot paper.
Eat well, stay well
We all need treats but we also know that food is fuel. It’s what makes us whole. What sort of a body do you want? How do you feel about the things that happen to food – its origins or its carbon footprint – before it reaches your plate?
Perhaps you could experiment occasionally with different styles of eating. Keep a diet (as in ‘food’, never as in ‘not eating’) diary and see how you feel after a few days with a particular mode for your meals. Does low GI help? Are you a high-cal person? Do you enjoy veggie? What we eat is what we are and only you can determine that for you, for the long-term.
Learn another language
Here’s a good excuse to get an InterRail card, or even to make your inter-continental booking to an adventure. Tell everyone you’re off to study another language…. and then do just that. It’s a lot easier to learn new languages – especially ones unlike your mother tongue – when you’re young, than later on!
You can find introductory ‘foreign’ language courses everywhere these days; you could even get a programme for your iPod. Then, when you’ve got to grips with the basics, pack your phrase book and passport, and practise on real people in the country of your choice. (No cheating, ‘letting’ people practise their English on you instead.) You’ll be amazed how much you can pick up in just a week or two if you try.
Re-think your family
Everyone sees their family as the backcloth to their lives. But now you’re fully independent, you can do a double take. Your parents aren’t just Mum and Dad any more, they can become people in their own right as much for you as they already are for their neighbours, colleagues and friends.
Why not choose to spend some time with family members, actually talking to them about their past experiences and their hopes for the future? There are doubtless many tales to be told, and perhaps some dreams still to be realised. So offer a listening ear, and explore a whole new way of looking at your nearest and dearest.
Play mind games
No, not by psyching other people out, but by having a go at new mental challenges – chess, cards, computers, what you will. A busy brain now will stay active longer, and nurturing ‘mental fitness’ is probably the biggest investment in your personal future that you could make.
Plus, it’s fun….
Be an eco- envoy
Whatever your situation, you can do your bit for the future. Even if you’re ‘between jobs’ (ask yourself, Why?, if you are…) you can do things to help your community along.
For instance, many young people say the environment is a big concern. Perhaps you can find a role at work, college or wherever you are, turning this concern into positive action? This is truly an area where every little helps.
Believe in yourself
Nobody finds life a doddle. No matter how old and wise or hard and cynical they might seem, almost everyone worries about whether they’ve done the ‘right thing’ and whether they are liked by others. And, whether they recall it or not, they, like you, have had to negotiate the tricky years of young adulthood.
So, be gentle as you judge yourself. Conceit may not take you far, but self-belief is essential. Accept the ‘failures’ and mistakes, and learn from them; but much more importantly, do build on your successes. They are the base-line of your life ahead.
Have you read….?
Things To Do When You’re 16 – 18
Things To Do When You’re 22 – 25
What To Do At Any Age – Be Happy
* Life is not a rehearsal
* Smile when you can
* Do acts of random kindness
* Try no-TV days
* Be cautious sometimes, cynical never
* Use your pedometer
* Treat yourself daily to a ‘Went Right’ list

And why not share your alternative ideas here, too? You can add your own take on Things To Do When You’re 19 – 21 via the Comments box below…

The Independent: Climate Change & Bottled Water

TheIndependent,water&climate (small) 90x102.jpg Today’s Independent newspaper offers us a mixed message. Under a front page story entitled ‘The Climate Has Changed’ it features a special issue on ‘the bill which makes action on global warming a reality’. And then, at the point of sale, it proposes a special offer of a free plastic bottle of water…. Celebration of a major breakthrough in environmental legislation is greatly to be welcomed. But toasting this particular achievement with such an environmentally unfriendly product tells us a lot about the contradictions of the market.

The Independent has long featured environmental issues as important news, and for that it should be applauded. A headline like today’s ‘Blair hails ‘historic day’ in battle against climate change‘, with a full seven pages of analysis, is indeed something to be welcomed.
But why on earth (to use an apt metaphor) did The Indy decide to promote sales (in some train stations at least), today of all days, by offering free bottled water – just at a time when large numbers of organisations are acknowledging the importance of good old water-from-the-tap?
Joined up thinking, this is not. Priority of marketing over content, it might well be. There’s a way to go on the eco agenda yet…

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International Women’s Day: Let’s Focus On Feminist (Gendered) Economics

Women at market (small) 70x71.jpg Today (8 March) is International Women’s Day, when women are celebrated in many parts of the world. But after more than a century of campaigning, women and men remain unequal in wealth and power. It’s time for an overtly feminist, gendered approach to economics, examining the differential impacts and advantages of economic activity on women and men.

The campaign for ‘women’s rights’ has been going for a very long time now.
One of the original texts about women’s rights, The Subjection of Women, was written in1869 by the Scottish radical philosopher John Stuart Mill. That’s almost a century and a half ago. And so very much more has been written, said and done about this issue since then.
The question is, therefore: despite worthy events such as International Women’s Day, why is there still such a long way to go?
Convenient inertia
‘Convenient’ is probably too kind a word to describe the collective failure to see the negative experience of most women in regard to economics, employment, public life and business. Nonetheless,
the word convenience points us in the right direction if we want to explain the stifling inertia many women experience in their quest simply for equality.
There are many fair-minded and decent men, but there are also large numbers who would rather see inequality and exploitation anywhere except on their own doorstep. And since men still have more power and influence than women, it’s often their perspectives which have the most weight. ‘Women’s equality’ may not be a taboo subject, but it is certainly a sidelined one.
There’s always something more urgent and important to address…
Economic analysis
So let’s start to approach this, seriously, another way. Let’s look routinely and quite expressly at how women and men fare in the
economy and the corridors of power.
In other words, let’s have an Economics which uses gender as an analytical tool in the same way that other Social Science analysis does. Only once the unspoken taboo had been broken did social scientists begin to perceive the realities of gender impact, direct and indirect, on society itself.
Moves in the right direction
Big steps are being made, with the introduction of equality standards for all English local authorities.
As part of these standards, Gender Impact Assessments, required from April 2007, are to be the vehicle through which the Women and Equality Unit and the Department for Trade and Industry is bringing into sharp focus the issue of gender in relation to the Government’s Public Service Reform.

Start them young
Government policy, excellent in intention though it may be, is one thing. Taking matters seriously in wider society, even if there are sanctions for not doing so, is sometimes another.
The next steps are to ensure that Business / Enterprise Studies and Economics embed gender differentials into their curriculum from the very start. This should be as much a part of the Economics (and other) GCSE curricula as it already is the Social Science one. Early on is the best place to start.
And at the other end of the scale corporates at every level should be required to give much more ‘gendered’ (and other diversity-linked) information in their annual reports. Business moves where its pocket takes it, and the bottom line here is exactly that, the visible bottom line. At a time of claimed skills
shortages, becoming gender conscious is good for business, as well as good for people.
Progress?
There are small initiatives such as the idea of the Conference Diversity Index, and also some much larger pointers to the future which thread through this train of thought.
In 2006 the London Business School launched the Lehman Brothers Business Centre for Women, with the intention of providing solutions for the challenges that businesses face in attracting and retaining talented women.
Signs of success
But alongside the urgent necessity to get more women to the very ‘top’ we need to ensure that most of them don’t stay much nearer the bottom.

The costs of gender inequality impinge on us all. There are a few thinkers and scholars who have established a baseline here, but only when gender is a clearly articulated part of mainstream public consciousness, politics and business will we really be getting somewhere.

A shorter version of this article was published as a letter in The Guardian on 8 March 2007.

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International Mother Language Day

Lips talking (small) 65x79.jpg Today is International Mother Language Day. Celebrated for the first time in the Millennium Year, it is a programme promoted by UNESCO, the 2007 theme being multilingualism.

But why is it important?

The promotion of multilingualism lies at the heart of International Mother Language Day. Introduced in 2000 by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 21 February is the day in the year when we are asked to recognise the uniqueness and significance of the 6,000 languages known to humankind.
In doing this however UNESCO has not set itself against the grain of ‘progress’, for the other emphasis on this date is acknowledgement of the value of shared language, of the ability to communicate in more than simply one’s own mother tongue.
Powerful instruments
UNESCO offers a strong rationale for its promotion of mother languages and multilingualism.
These are, it says, ‘the most powerful instruments of preserving
and developing our tangible and intangible heritage…. [helping us to develop a] fuller awareness of linguistic traditions across the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.’
Linguapax
A corollary of this approach is the on-going (since 1986) UNESCO Lingupax project, which aims to promote a ‘culture of peace’ through the promotion of multilingual education and respect for linguistic diversity.
In that respect it seems sensible that people resident in a country learn to speak its main, official language/s, that they are also encouraged to respect and use the language of their immediate culture, and that schools offer those who wish it the opportunity to learn languages which may be culturally and geographically far
removed from immediate experience.
Idealistic but important
Idealistic and architypically platitudinous these notions may be….. but who could deny the truths behind them?
The need to talk meaningfully and insightfully with one another has surely never been more pressing.

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Single-Sex Schools Or Classes? What’s The Longer Term Impact?

Girls & boys learning science (small) 90x140.jpg Recent figures confirm that girls are doing better at school (and university) than boys. Single-sex classes within co-ed schools are not however generally seen as a way to resolve this inequality. But how much do we know about the longer-term impact on men and women of single-sex or mixed gender teaching?

Increasing concern about the higher academic achievement of girls than of boys in the U.K. has again raised the issue of single-sex classes (or even schools) as the norm.
Reasons for this concern are interesting, given the historical lack of concern* when girls under-performed relative to boys (and given also that even highly women still earn much less than their male counterparts). Nonetheless, current concerns are both legitimate and pressing.
[* With honourable exceptions – e.g. the fourth letter by Edward Brotherton in this 1864 Manchester Guardian correspondence.]
There is an uncomfortable feeling, overall, that the underperformance of boys is likely to lead to a larger disaffected ‘underclass’, than when things were the other way around.
And we can add to that the obvious consequence of
underperformance, in restricting the availability of talent to the economy, whether this be a male or female issue.
‘Solutions’?
For these reasons, as well as for reasons of equality of opportunity as such, much debate has recently occurred on the subject of mixed-sex and single-sex classes and schools. The general (but not unanimous) opinion on the basis of available evidence, it seems, is that there is little impact either way.
Frankly, I have my doubts about whether this analysis is adequate.
The evidence over many decades is that women do significantly less well economically and professionally than men, if you look at mature outcomes. And this happens even for people with the same qualifications. In other words, any initial advantage
diminishes as time goes on, almost regardless of family, parenthood (men become parents, too) and much else.
Early impacts
But there is one element of background which seems to make a difference, for women if not for men – and that is the ‘space’ in the secondary years which single-sex classes offer girls, to learn (some) things independently of boys.
It seems, especially in the more mathematically-related curriculum, that this helps girls; and it probably also helps in terms of self-determination and a conviction that it’s OK as an independent person to go ahead and do things with one’s life.
Certainly, this was a major indicator, in research undertaken quite early on by myself and others looking at how women scientists hold their own.

And perhaps the same applies to boys. If the girls aren’t there to talk about all the soft stuff in class, maybe the boys would have to have the courage to talk about it themselves – which could be an important help when ‘real life’ catches up with them in later adolescence and adulthood.
Balancing different agendas
There is a suspicion that some schools prefer mixed teaching because they see the girls (more mature and less disruptive?) as a stabilising influence on the boys. But this is not an equitable way forward and two wrongs do not make a
right.
I’d go for the so-called ‘diamond’ arrangement – segregated teaching for some core subject in the early years of secondary school – but not, if at all possible, for totally separate schools for girls and boys. There can surely be a middle way.
Even more critically, I’d make sure that analysis of research findings routinely extends beyond formal education to life outcomes, so we begin to understand more fully ‘what happens’ when individuals receive single-sex or co-ed teaching in their formative years.

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