Single-gender classes at St. Michael's - a unique feature in the area of Paderborn - “Learn separately - live together as a community”
For both school administration and teachers, education refers to the entire human being as an entity of body, mind and soul on the basis of Christian conception. At St. Michael’s school the staff has a personal interest in seeing to the academic education of the pupils but also in developing their individual character and empathy to make sure the child entrusted to their care will grow into an independent person, able to participate well in social, cultural, economic and political life, responsibly following their own path. The teachers want to encourage and challenge each student to discover and improve their full potential, accept their weaknesses and to constructively deal with failure.
Teachers and pupils spend a great amount of time in school. Therefore St. Michael’s School is not only regarded as a place to work and learn but has been turned into a comfortable and welcoming place to live, study, have a rest, meet friends or simply talk.
St. Michael’s School is committed to providing an education based on Christian faith and the love of God. Living out the Christian faith palpably influences the daily school routine, e.g. by saying a prayer in the morning as a good start into the day, regular worship, various offers made by the team of pastoral care, a social work placement and the subject of RE as mandatory subject throughout the child’s entire school career.
A well-organized religious education program is very effective in assisting students understand the role of faith in the world and helps to implement this Catholic concept. The children will take responsibility for human beings and nature as part of God’s creation, take part in spiritual retreats for several days and go on a social work placement for 2 weeks.
The team for pastoral care offers a number of workshops, e.g. by supporting parents of adolescent children in their daily struggles and defusing impending conflicts at home, or simply by lending an ear to a troubled student. Guidance counsellors are always happy to listen to the students’ requests, questions and concerns, even beyond their fixed consultation hours.
At St. Michael’s boys and girls have been educated in single-gender classes since 2012/2013. During their first 5 years in school they will learn in separate groups before entering Senior High School. After that girls and boys will study in co-educated classes according to the subjects they have chosen.
The reason for this teaching concept is that boy and girls between 10 and 14 show major differences in their development and interests. They learn at different speed, and their necessities are unequal, too. Studies have revealed that boys, for instance, sometimes lag behind in linguistic development whilst girls might need a different approach to science. In single-gender classes teachers can direct their holistic pedagogical teaching accordingly. This way both groups have the chance to develop their strengths and talents without pressure caused by gender-related competition. Girls for instance can try out team-building, gender-specific sports unconditionally whilst boys can enter into competition to satisfy a typical characteristic behaviour pattern of adolescent boys. The children have the chance to develop a stable gender identity. In class there is less pressure for them to prove themselves in front of the opposite gender.
“Learn separately - live together as a community”
For more than 350 years St. Michael’s Private Grammar School was a single-gender school for girls. The school was founded in 1658 by the Augustine canonesses, who wanted to pursue the idea of their founders Pierre Fourier and Alix le Clerc - founders of the Order Congrégation Notre Dame – to enable girls to receive a continuous accredited education.
In 2012 a change in the school agency was accompanied by numerous far-reaching modifications to this successful and reliable concept: The Archbishop of Paderborn took over the responsibility for the school, hence allowing for a number of innovations to take place: the duration of a lesson was changed and the first single-gender boys class was admitted to St. Michael’s School.
St. Michael’s offers a different but successful education; but this does not mean that the contact between boys and girls is out of bounds. “Learn separately - live together as a community” is one of the main guidelines of this concept. In their free time the children have plenty of opportunities to get to know each other, to make new friends and to do all the things they would do in a school with co-educative classes. The mono-educative concept shall only apply to their school education, not to their personal lives.