St Peter's Prep Schools are monastic, with both Girls and Boys Prep schools, while from Grade 8, St Peter's College becomes co-ed. Prospective parents often ask why the lower and higher grades are schooled differently and whether one or the other model is more beneficial. In truth, despite rafts of research, neither model has been proven to advance student progress more than the other.
According to Rector Greg Royce, St Peter's school leadership does not lean towards either the same-sex or co-ed model. "Our primary focus has always been on retaining an ethos built over many years and providing equal opportunities for both sexes in an inclusive learning environment," he says. "Most importantly, we believe that parents should have the choice.”
The founder of St Peter's Boys Prep was a former Headmaster of St John's Prep, who aimed to create a model similar to that of St John's. More than 50 years later, the Girl's Prep was established in response to a demand from parents who wanted their daughters educated in an institution of a similar ethos, also monastic and with very high standards. It was also convenient for parents who had siblings at other girls schools. Although the Prep Schools share a campus, they have continued as monastic educational environments ever since.
Monastic Prep Phase
Research shows that boys are more active than girls as pre-adolescents and are generally noisier, while girls are often more compliant and prefer stillness while learning. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that boys are also more likely to get involved in cultural pastimes like Choir or Drama in a single-sex setting where they are unlikely to be labelled as ‘sissies’. Girls are similarly more likely to participate in traditionally male-oriented sports in a monastic environment. St Peter's Prep same-sex learning model accommodates both the perceived difference in learning styles and the participation in non-traditional activities from the earliest learning stages.
"Many parents advocate co-education as the natural and sensible way for boys and girls to grow accustomed to socialising together,“ says Royce, "While our Senior pupils interact daily, our Juniors have plenty of opportunities to intermingle on cultural activities such as music productions, before joining the co-ed College community. We believe that whichever model is used, their understanding of relationships is actually formed by the behaviour of the adults around them, both in their homes and at school. We have an interesting position at the moment where our Girls Prep is headed up by a male Head, and the Boys Prep is about to be headed up by a female Head, so the cross-gender influences are most definitely at play in both.”
Some research has shown that girls in a co-ed environment tend to downplay academic achievement in the presence of their male peers. However, the emphasis placed on instilling a culture of empowerment, positive education philosophy, and self-realisation in the foundation phases at St Peter's, ensures that pupils enter their College phase confident and secure in their own abilities, with a healthy disregard for stereotypes.
Co-ed Secondary Phase
The College was established in 1998 as a day school, which meant that graduates from St Peter’s Prep Schools needing a boarding option went elsewhere. Even today, around 50% of Prep graduates choose a boarding school for their secondary phase. From an intake perspective, it made sense to combine both genders at this level, so from Grade 8, St Peter's pupils continue their education in a co-ed environment.
“I strongly believe that we have a unique model at St Peter's which gives our students the benefit of experiencing both a monastic and a co-ed environment at an age-appropriate stage of their schooling, “ says College Headmaster Rui Morais. “In a high school environment, students need to grow together and challenge each other. They have to share and learn from each other. There are a lot of theories supporting either monastic or co-ed models, but our overall conviction is that students should not grow up ‘alone’.”
While there are some differences which have been in place from the founding of the schools, one of which is the different models in the Prep and College; Morais points out that the overarching similarities underpinning the relationship between the schools are highly valued; namely the St Peter’s name/brand, an Anglican ethos, and shared values Resilience, Responsibility, and Respect (Prep) and Resilience, Responsibility, Relationships and Respect (College).
“As the Headmaster of a co-ed High School, I feel that the intrinsic value of co-ed schools is invaluable, “ adds Morais. “The social interaction and inherent lessons contained therein are, by definition, integral to receiving a holistic education. A counter-argument could well be that single-sex schools allow for higher levels of concentration and, consequently, better academic achievement. However, the world is not a single-sex world, thus we believe that our students are more socially aware and well-adapted for ‘the real world’.
Of course, no two pupils are the same, and a child's personality should influence the decision. Some are better suited to a co-ed environment, and others to a monastic environment; hence there is a need for both co-ed and single-sex schooling, “ he adds.
Royce agrees, "Suitability is assessed again on graduation from the Prep School. If co-ed is really not the right choice for a particular pupil at the College level, we will advise the parents to explore alternative options. Whether you prefer a monastic or co-ed approach is an individual preference. If, however, your choice is to educate at St Peter's, you can rest assured that everything possible is done to make sure that the pupils graduate as well-adjusted, responsible and confident young individuals, with the ability to tackle real-world issues like patriarchal bias, discrimination and inequality with impunity," he says.