All-girls' schools are designed to help pupils thrive both in and out of the classroom, with research suggesting they help young women foster greater self-confidence than co-educational schools by helping them to overcome a number of barriers put in place by gender norms.
With a handful of fantastic all-girls' schools in and around Gloucestershire, including Malvern St James just over the border, SoGlos shares five ways a girls'-only education can help pupils to realise their full potential and prepare them for life after school.
Pupils are less likely to conform to gender stereotypes
Gender stereotyping can have an adverse affect on young people of all genders, exposing them to messages about how girls and boys 'should' behave and what kind of things they should enjoy – which can have a lasting impact on their self-image.
Single-sex schools minimise these gender-weighted expectations by educating boys and girls separately. At all-girls' schools, for example, pupils are more likely to continue pursuing sports and subjects that are traditionally dominated by boys in co-educational settings.
Research shows that pupils studying at Girls' Schools Association (GSA) schools are over 70 per cent more likely to study maths and chemistry at A Level, demonstrating a greater commitment to STEM subjects; while over a quarter of girls in GSA schools take at least one language A Level, having more confidence in their abilities to study 'hard' subjects like French and Spanish.
Academic excellence in STEM subjects
Not only are pupils at all-girls' schools more likely to pursue STEM subjects – they achieve a disproportionately larger share of the top grades, too.
While exam statistics vary year by year, the GSA reports that students from its schools who sit A Level physics account for around 13 per cent of all entries and are responsible for up to 25 per cent of the top A-star grades. Meanwhile, Malvern St James reports that over 50 per cent of its Year 13 leavers progress to study STEM-related degree courses at top universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and University College London.
As well as excelling in STEM, the GSA's analysis of the Department for Education School Comparison data for England for the 2018/19 academic year also shows that, on average, pupils in girls' schools outperform those in co-educational schools when it comes to overall GCSE and A Level exam results, too.
More leadership opportunities
Preparing young people to enter a careers landscape where there's still a minority of women in leadership roles, all-girls' schools are geared to give pupils the confidence to take charge, advocate for themselves and make their voices heard.
At Malvern St James, every pupil has the opportunity to pursue leadership opportunities, from becoming a prefect in Prep School through to joining the Head Girl team; taking on opportunities to mentor younger students; or pursuing initiatives they're passionate about.
Encouraging young people to pursue leadership opportunities gives them the chance to learn how to shoulder responsibility, take risks and inspire others, without scrutiny from gendered expectations and ideas about what makes a strong leader.
More likely to participate in male-dominated sports
Just like STEM subjects and leadership roles, it's not uncommon for sports in co-educational schools to be male-dominated – with research from the Youth Sport Trust telling us that girls are more likely to encounter barriers to participation in PE and sports at school, citing reasons like lack of confidence and peer pressure.
As an all-girls' school, Malvern St James seeks to challenge this by giving its pupils access to a wide range of sports and co-curricular activities, helping them to build confidence in traditionally male-dominated sports like football and cricket, as well as outdoor pursuits like rock climbing and snowboarding.
A recent study from the GSA, undertaken at the start of the 2022/23 academic year, has also found that girls at its schools are five times more likely to play cricket than those at another type of school – as well as being 30 per cent more likely to play football, with similar participation levels for rugby.
Pupils empower each other
As well as empowering young people to build their own academic confidence and self-belief in an environment that's free from gender stereotypes and fear of judgement, all-girls' schools are home to a community of pupils who empower each other, too.
Malvern St James, for example, says its younger pupils look up to its older students as leaders and mentors, inspiring a 'can-do' attitude towards learning, which helps them to work towards their goals, cultivate their own interests and discover their passions.