For a confident girl, choose a girls’ school.

09 May 2013

Some parents feel unsure about a single sex education for girls. They say it’s old-fashioned and out of touch. ‘Boys exist in reality and girls need to learn to cope with them’ is a common cry. But are these perceptions out of touch with reality? Are girls’ schools in the 21st century actually the best investment you can make to secure your daughter’s future?

Talk to the Year 13 girls at Leicester High about misconceptions towards girls’ schools, and you hear their real experiences of single sex education today. ‘If old-fashioned means that I have values and morals, then good’ says Grace. Ffion, who has been at Leicester High from 3-18, said: ‘Technically I shouldn’t know any boys then, but, of course, I do. I meet them through family, friends, and at weekends when I have different activities and go out.’ In fact, all the misconceptions about girls’ school obscure their huge advantage over mixed schools: they build girls’ confidence and self-esteem. The truth is that girls’ schools offer the most expertise when it comes to teaching and understanding girls. Varina, who joined at Year 9 said: ‘My confidence has taken off here. I don’t need to be quiet anymore; I can have an opinion and I am heard. The classes are small and we are encouraged to think and speak up’. There is a chorus of agreement with this sentiment. These are girls who will stand up for each other and themselves. Many have noticed that when they socialise, they are often more feisty and sure of themselves than girls from mixed schools.

So how is confidence ‘taught’ at Leicester High? There are three main ways.

First, the atmosphere of a girls’ school is different. Leicester High feels unique as soon as you walk in the door. It’s calm, tidy, and feels safe with a friendly atmosphere. It’s not huge, so everyone knows each other, but it’s not so small that it can’t field great sports teams. (The U16 badminton squad are second in the East Midlands in 2013). The girls feel at home, they feel safe and they feel happy and valued. This is so important, and yet so often underappreciated.

Secondly, they are ‘allowed’ to do everything on offer. From knitting to fencing; physics to art; debating to DofE;  German to chemistry. Being a girl is irrelevant. It doesn’t affect anything they choose to do. Being themselves, and being allowed to discover freely their potential is what matters. It is no coincidence that the ‘boy’ subjects of maths and the sciences are the most popular at Leicester High. In co-ed schools, girls taking these subjects are always a minority.

Thirdly, the opportunities at Leicester High are wide-ranging and challenging, and being a smaller school it is virtually impossible to be side-lined. The girls are encouraged to complete the Gold DofE expedition in Year 11, a year earlier than most schools. Also, DofE is open to everyone with no limit on numbers. Outdoor education is growing too: canoeing in France, a three Peaks challenge in Yorkshire and a new woodland Early Years area are all 2012/13 developments. Girls organise events, they run societies, and they extend themselves and discover what they are good at, wherever their forte lies.

Confidence, it can be argued, is as important as academic ability and success. But both are vital for securing bright futures for girls. Along with being the best at badminton in the East Midlands, Leicester High also has the highest A level results in the East Midlands. Producing strong and confident women with good A level results is clearly what Leicester High can do. There is nothing old fashioned about that; in fact there is everything 21st century about it.

Leicester High School