What is a diamond school?

In an article in Independent School Parent magazine, Katherine Jeffrey, Head of New Hall School explains the unique 'diamond school' model that enables boys and girls to thrive.

In a diamond school, children are educated in co-educational classes up to age 11 and again at sixth form. However, from 11 to 16-years-old they are taught in single-sex classes. That is because girls seem to perform better academically in girls-only schools, while boys appear to benefit more from co-education. The diamond model provides the opportunity to combine the academic benefits of single-sex education with the social advantages of co-education.

The main benefits of five years of single-sex teaching derive from the ability to tailor pastoral and academic provision more sensitively and expertly to the needs of young people going through the physical and social upheaval of adolescence. Young teenagers are liberated from the negative peer pressure of having to perform in mixed classes.

The successful creation of a diamond model at New Hall School, Essex, resulted in the school being awarded The Independent Schools Award for Outstanding Strategic Initiative in 2011. New Hall was the first independent girls’ school to adopt this approach and the only Catholic school to do so. Since 2005, the school roll has grown from 580 students to 1,150 today, with a gender ratio of 50:50 from 2010.

Parents often ask how New Hall has changed since taking senior boys. All the major changes have been positive. In particular, the emphasis on team sports that came with the arrival of boys has transformed the sporting life of the school. Girls quickly became jealous of the team spirit, and regional and national success of the boys.

The result has been the meteoric rise of girls’ sports team, alongside the outstanding achievements of the boys. Girls have become more competitive in other areas, without this changing the overall community ethos of the school and academic standards have continued to go from strength to strength.

Katherine Jeffrey is Principal of New Hall School, Essex.