The GSA continues to publish up to date research and information on the advantages of an all girls' education. The following articles are current on their website.
Consider Single Sex
During your search for a suitable school for your son or daughter, do consider the region's single sex schools, the majority of which are for girls.
As Dr Helen Wright, president of the Girls' Schools Association points out, there's good reason for doing so. She says:
" Academically, single sex schools top the league tables despite the fact that co-ed schools are in the majority in the UK. This does not mean that children in co-ed schools cannot match the examination performance of those in single sex schools - of course they can, and do. But what it does mean is that single sex schools punch well above their weight when it comes to public examination results, and this pedigree matters to parents - and young people."
In fact, evidence indicates that boys and girls often benefit from being taught separately. A greater percentage of pupils from Girls' Schools Association schools continue to higher education than is the case in other independent schools.1 Research conducted amongst teachers of English in comprehensive schools 2, for example, found that most teachers acknowledged greater levels of participation in lessons, and increased confidence amongst both sexes, when they were taught separately. This is no surprise - the pressures, fears and anxieties about how to appear in front of members of the opposite sex simply do not exist in a single sex school.
Ofsted has also revealed that girls at single-sex schools are more likely to avoid preparing for 'stereotypically female' careers than their contemporaries in co-educational schools. In a report published earlier this year, they find that girls in single-sex schools, especially those in selective schools, had 'more positive attitudes to non-stereotypical careers'. In these schools, girls did not view any career as being closed to them and felt that women should be encouraged into roles traditionally held by men.
Dr Wright continues:
"To my mind, the real argument in favour of single sex education covers the 'intangibles' about growing up and becoming a confident young adult. This includes all the things it is difficult to measure and quantify, but which, at the end of the day, form the essence of who we are as individuals. Unsurprisingly, parents care most about these elements of their children's education because it is these aspects which contribute most significantly to their children's happiness and confidence, as well as to their ability to make their way in the world with a strong, secure sense of self."
Research from The Institute of Education3 looked at self-esteem in both boys and girls in different gender environments and concluded that the single sex environment that enables children to grow up at their own pace and to learn about themselves as much as about their school work. Single-sex schools create a strong space where girls and boys can learn to feel comfortable with who they are, free of the pressure to conform to stereotypical notions of how girls and boys should or should not be, look or act. Being apart from each other during the school day seems to give both boys and girls greater self esteem - which is, of course, at the root of successful long-term relationships with others, of both genders.
Single-sex schools provide an extra element of choice for parents and their children. Dr Wright concludes:
"The best we can do for our children is to give them and their parents confidence and choice in their education, and single-sex schools provide exactly this. A healthy, vibrant society which values choice in education will always promote the existence of single-sex schools."
What Girls' Schools Do Differently
- Counter mass media influences by freeing girls from the pressure to conform to sexist patterns of behaviour, and providing them with a framework with which to judge the image of girls in today's media. Girls are free to grow up at their own pace.
- Support a 'can-do' philosophy. Girls hold all the senior positions in the school: all the scientists are girls, all the mathematicians are girls. There is no subject area or activity of the school in which girls do not excel. This leads undoubtedly to a 'can-do' philosophy in the school.
- Recognise the qualities of girls and how they learn. Girls' schools are expert in recognising the qualities of girls and understanding what makes them tick and how they learn. This knowledge is built up over years of experience of teaching girls.
- Have an in-depth of understanding and experience in girl-related pastoral issues.
- This experience has led to girls' schools adopting specific girl-centred learning strategies such as
- using relevant real-world applications from girls' lives
- teaching in collaborative and co-operative ways
- calling pupils by their name and waiting for them to reply before moving onto the next pupil
- encouraging risk-taking
- exploring mistakes and acknowledging their value
- teaching alternative solutions rather than just a single right answer to a given problem
- using writing as a means of learning any subject
- explaining through stories
- helping pupils to see themselves as sources of knowledge
- Girls schools celebrate learning without social distractions. They offer an environment in which girls can concentrate on learning without the distraction of boys. Without boys, girls tend to display their intelligence and curiosity regardless of powerful age-determined notions of popularity, attractiveness or negative peer pressure.
- Provide staff that are experts in the teaching of girls.
- Ensure that there is no gender stereotyping of subjects. Girls are more likely to take subjects that are less traditionally popular with girls because subjects don't acquire a masculine or feminine connotation.
- Provide leadership opportunities and models. Girls' schools are institutions where all the leadership positions in the school are held by girls and where girls can find strong role models amongst the staff, ethos and philosophy of the school.
- Celebrate the female perspective. Girls' schools celebrate the female perspective and way of doing things, are places where girls are accustomed to being heard and being valued for who they are, irrespective of what they look like or what they wear. The girls' school environment affirms and encourages young women in their capacities as confident individuals, leaders and agents of social change.
Research into how girls perform in co-educational environments
- Boys dominate teacher time. Classroom observations show that boys answer and ask more questions, hog the teacher's attention and the apparatus, organise themselves more quickly and ruthlessly to their tasks, while girls hang back through shyness or a desire to be helpful and co-operative. Boys are more demanding of the teacher's time both behaviourally and academically.
- Girls are less likely to take intellectual risks and are more passive. They fear getting it wrong, looking silly, being considered stupid, being judged by their male peers and found wanting. They prefer to solve problems by team working.
- Subject choices are more likely to be polarised. In co-educational schools both boys and girls are more likely to choose traditional male and female subjects. This limits choice and aspirations for both boys and girls.
- Girls tend to lose self-esteem and confidence as they progress through adolescence. This is made worse if they are constantly being placed under social pressure from boys. A co-educational environment does not always give them the space and security in which to build up their self-esteem and confidence in their own abilities as individuals.
- Less positive role models for girls. Co-educational schools do not always provide girls with the necessary positive role models through the teaching staff and the general ethos and philosophy of the school that is so essential for building girls' self-esteem and confidence. This is particularly the case for schools that have gone co-educational but where girls are in a minority. These are essentially still boys' schools with all the male traditions and trappings.
- Girls and boys mature physically, mentally and emotionally at different ages. In a co-educational environment this is much more difficult to manage. Girls are likely to lose out, as they tend to mature earlier and may well be held back by slower developing boys.
- Girls can have fewer opportunities for leadership roles in co-educational schools.
10 facts about Girls' Schools Association [GSA] schools
GSA schools educate 94,396 girls in day and boarding schools in England, Wales and Scotland.
40% of GSA schools offer boarding facilities educating 9,729 boarders.
Eight of the top 10 ten places in the 2009 Financial Times A level league table are GSA schools.
GSA schools educate 47% of all girls in the independent sector.
In 34 local education authorities in England and Wales GSA schools offer the only single-sex education provision for girls.
A survey conducted by the Association showed that, compared to all girls nationally, in GSA schools over 70% more girls took A level maths; over 50% more girls took a science at A level; over 90% more girls took a physical science (physics or chemistry) at A level; over 80% more girls studied French, German or Spanish at A level.
Over 94% of girls leaving GSA schools after A levels move onto Higher Education.
GSA schools spent £118.8m during the last year on new buildings, equipment, and refurbishment amounting to £1,265 per pupil.
GSA boarding schools invested £13.8m on boarding accommodation amounting to £1,432 per boarding pupil.
Over a quarter of pupils in GSA schools receive some assistance with fees from their school.
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