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Our Lady's Catholic
High School

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All Girls' school is best!

What are the benefits of attending an all girls' school?  We believe that at Our Lady's we give you the best possible environment to develop, progress and thrive both academically and socially.  

Girls at single-sex schools achieve better GCSE results

Alice Sullivan, director of the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, at the UCL Institute of Education, in London, said: "We found that girls from single-sex schools were more likely to take male-dominated subjects such as maths and science at school. Girls who had attended single-sex schools also had slightly higher wages than their co-ed peers in mid-life."

BBC News 28 January 2016 reported that: "Girls at single-sex state schools in England get better GCSE results than those in mixed schools, according to an analysis of the most recent exams."

There is a range of research that indicates that girls not only gain better outcomes if they attend an all girls school, but also that they select different subjects and able to develop greater confidence and ambition away from the added social pressure of a co-ed environment.

RESEARCH: Girls at single-sex schools

Girls at single-sex schools - summary of research

Research compiled and published by Ipswich Girls School  


This document summarises some of the research that is available on the achievements, aspirations and choices of girls and young women in single-sex education.

Girls at single sex schools choose from a broader range of subjects, without gender bias.

  1. A 2002 National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER02) study indicated that in girls' schools, pupils were less likely to follow stereotypical subject choices, and were more likely to opt for science and resistant materials at GCSE and less likely to take traditionally female options such as food technology, German and French

  2. NFER02 also noted that girls in single sex schools stood a much better chance of being entered for higher-tier papers in Maths and Science (up to 40% better chance in the case of science)

  3. NFER02 quote: Girls' schools help to counter traditional stereotyping

  4. A 1998 OFSTED summary of research on gender and educational performance demonstrated that girls from single-sex schools were more likely to study maths or the physical sciences at A level than those from coeducational schools

  5. Research conducted by Andrew Stables in 1990 indicates that girls aged 13-14 in single sex schools are more likely to express an interest in maths and science than their peers in coeducational schools

  6. The take up of Medicine and Dentistry at University by GDST girls in 2004 was particularly strong at 10.86% compared to 2.6% of all girls nationally; and the percentage of GDST girls taking Physical Sciences remains above the national figure. This was particularly marked that year as a result of an increase in the take up by GDST girls compared to a fall in take up by girls nationally.

  7. A study by the Institute of Education using 1958 and 1970 cohort data showed that 'going co-educational' did not provide both sexes with access to a wide range of subject areas - 21% of girls and 10% of boys in 1974 claimed never to have studied science, and 26% and 25% never to have studied art.

  8. At A-Level, 40 per cent of GDST girls who sit a science subject get an A in that subject.

  9. The ATL refers to evidence that pupils in single-sex schools enable both boys and girls to develop broader, less gender-stereotypical subject preferences and aspirations. However they conclude in a report that 'Just as with the issue of achievement, cross-cutting factors (such as the type of school, the social characteristics of its intake and the age of the pupils) cloud the evidence about the effectiveness of single-sex schools in broadening pupils' aspirations and subject preferences.'4

Girls perform better academically at single-sex schools

  1. A study by the Department for Education and Skills shows the proportion of A grades achieved at A-level in all-girl independent schools was, on average, 10 per cent higher than that of girls in co-educational independent schools, in a number of subjects.

  2. NFER02 shows that girls in single sex schools achieved much better results than their peers in coeducational schools, after controlling for prior achievement and other background factors.

  3. NFER02: GCSE science scores for single sex pupils are over 1/3 better than their coeducational peers.

  4. Geoffrey Underwood's 1997 study showed that 8 year olds performed better at language tests in girl-girl pairs. The results were 50% lower for girl-boy pairs.

  5. 'The publication of national levels of achievement at GCSE and A-Level has fuelled debates about the merits and/or limitations of single-sex and co-educational schooling. Current league tables appear to show that, broadly speaking, pupils (but particularly girls) who attend single-sex schools tend to obtain higher results.'

  6. Girls have continued to outperform boys at GCSE and 2005's provisional exam results show 60.8% of girls are gaining at least five A*-C grades, against 50.8% of boys.

Single-sex schools provide a better social environment for girls

  1. The Institute of Education found that girls' confidence was improved at a single sex school

  2. A large scale American Study , shows that single sex schools improve adolescents' overall academic development, by enabling them to separate social and peer group pressures from academic concerns and providing a range of female role models.

  3. Smithers and Robinson report that in schools which had recently changed from single-sex to coeducational, teachers reported that on the whole pupils enjoyed the co-educational environment more, but that the girls seemed less concerned to do well and to assert themselves.

  4. In an Australian research project girls in co-educational schools were much more likely to rank themselves in the bottom half of the class whereas girls in single-sex schools were as likely as boys to rate themselves highly.7

  5. There is research showing that single-sex groups can be very useful both for equal opportunities initiatives and for supporting vulnerable and disaffected students therapeutically and pastorally. For instance, Audrey Osler and Kerry Vincent have highlighted the ways in which girls' groups in mixed schools can benefit socially excluded young women.

  6. FT: 'a growing movement in the United States argues that boys' and girls' brains develop differently, so they benefit from separate teaching styles. In Britain more and more mixed schools are using single-sex classes because of ongoing concerns over boys' results, which have consistently lagged behind those of girls.

Girls educated at girls' schools go on to greater success in whichever walk of life they choose

  1. Confidence: Brenda Despontin, president of the Girls School Association states that parents want their girls feeling confident and comfortable about who they are and this is achieved through single-sex education

Girls in a single-sex environment enjoy sports more, are less self-conscious, and are more likely to participate in physical activities.

Research shows that women are far more self-conscious than men when taking part in sport and physical activity . About a third of girls don't like others to see how they look when taking part in sport and physical activity. A girl whose main motivation is enjoyment, rather than changing their weight, is far less likely to feel self-conscious about taking part. Girls are less self-conscious when their friends take part. For these reasons, being watched while doing sport can be excruciatingly painful for some girls and women. Some may prefer to participate in female-only activities and/or to perform in venues where they cannot be observed. These factors also make some girls and women very reluctant to wear tight-fitting and/or revealing sportswear; some would rather not do sports at all than face the embarrassment.

Girls who participate in physical activities at school are more likely to continue to do so as adults

'It is crucial that children start young - an active child is likely to become active adult. If children get into the habit of sport and physical activity being a part of their everyday lives then they are more likely to stay fit and healthy for life. If a girl does not participate in sport by the time she is 10, there is only a 10% chance that she will participate when she is 25 years old.'

Girls involved in team sports learn more physical skills

The ability to work as a team is a vital skill for life that can be nurtured through sport. Giving children the chance to get involved with others provides a sense of belonging, whilst challenging them to work together, thinking of others, and they feed off each other's energy and enthusiasm. The trend of students turning away from competitive sports in many schools [is] being reversed - that it is hugely beneficial for the majority, but provision must also be made to provide opportunities for physical activities for those it does not suit. An important aspect of competitive sport is that it teaches children about victory with humility and taking defeat with good grace.

Research compiled and published by Ipswich Girls School

Find out about some of the women that inspire us: Inspring Women

In more recent times, with the rise of social media and an obsessive attitude towards physical appearance and sexuality, an all girls' school provides a nurturing and safe environment.  

In 2016 the House of Commons published a report about schools and the scale of sexual harassment stating that: "Widespread' sexual harassment and violence in schools must be tackled." The report outlines evidence that:

  • almost a third (29%) of 16-18 year old girls say they have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school
  • nearly three-quarters (71%) of all 16-18 year old boys and girls say they hear terms such as "slut" or "slag" used towards girls at schools on a regular basis
  • 59% of girls and young women aged 13-21 said in 2014 that they had faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year

Source: House of Commons Report: Women and Equalities Committee Sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools - Published on 13 September 2016