Guide to private schools for girls
At an all-girls school, young women have the opportunity to develop a strong sense of themselves and their abilities in a comfortable environment with staff who understand the unique learning styles of girls and seek to surround them with positive role models.
Each day we challenge and inspire girls to love learning and to shape a better world."
In this type of atmosphere, your daughter can feel free to ask questions, express her feelings, and state her opinions without the restrictions and self-consciousness she may otherwise feel in a co-ed environment. There are great all-girls boarding, Montessori, gifted, special needs, Christian, Catholic, preschools, and Jewish schools.
Video: All-girls independent schools
Many parents find that their daughters feel less pressure at a girls school than they would elsewhere. For many young ladies, boys are intimidating and girls feel a need to worry about their appearance in front of them. An all-girls setting removes a lot of these stresses and allow students to focus on academics first and foremost.
Private girls schools also provide your child with a comfortable forum to discuss distinctly female issues. In a different kind of environment, talking about such things as female body image, expectations, and sexuality might make students feel uncomfortable. However, at all girls schools, the environment facilitates more openness and girls gain confidence.
Benefits of an all-girls education
One of the key advantages of a girls-only school is a sense of empowerment in all aspects of the curriculum. In the past society has dictated that certain subjects such as science or technology are primarily ‘boys subjects’, however when introduced to a single-sex environment, various studies outlined by the National Association for Choice in Education show that girls are more likely to explore non-traditional subjects and to try things they might not otherwise. Consider for a moment how likely it is that girls are willing to take a chance on a different subject when they’re surrounded by peers who have similar experiences as young women and who are surrounded by strong women role models.
According to NACE, teachers can also employ strategies in the all-girls classroom that might not work as well or at all in a co-ed classroom. They recognize differences in the way girls learn and instead of reinforcing gender stereotypes, as can often happen in a co-ed environment where those roles are intensified (what they call 'gender intensification'), they encourage and celebrate the diversity among girls with the understanding that some girls prefer sports and computer science just as much as they enjoy English and arts.
Additional studies have shown that girls in single-sex schools generally perform better than girls in co-ed schools, regardless of socio-economic and ability levels. The Goodman Research Group, who conducted The Girls’ School Experience: A Survey of Young Alumnae of Single-Sex Schools, also stated that 93 per cent of girls school grads are very or extremely satisfied with their school’s ability to provide individualized attention and 80 percent strongly feel encouragement to develop their own interests.
Increased career aspirations
Single-sex schools often give students the confidence to pursue lofty goals both at school and in the work force. 95 percent of recent graduates of all-girls’ schools said that having a career and profession was very or extremely important to them, and 78 percent added that it was very or extremely important that they hold leadership positions in their professional lives as well.
“More than 80 percent of girls’ school grads consider their academic performance highly successful,” says Dr. Linda Sax, UCLA, Women Graduates of Single-Sex and Coeducational High Schools: Differences in their Characteristics and the Transition to College.
Identity awareness and confidence
While many young girls are caught up in self-consciousness, doubt and cattiness, an all-girls’ school can provide an environment to foster sisterhood and self-expression. Girls are able to pursue areas of their choice, surrounded by strong role models to follow.
The National Association for Choice in Education states that, in contrast to boys, "girls generalize the meaning of their failures because they interpret them as indicating that they have disappointed adults, and thus they are of little worth. In addition, because girls view evaluative feedback as diagnostic of their abilities, failure may lead them to incorporate this information into their more general view of themselves." One of the advantages of a girls only private school is that it can adapt to this, recognizing that girls respond this way and give feedback accordingly.
Learn more about the advantages from Elizabeth Falco, Canadian Liaison for The National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, in discover the benefits of all-girls education.
Criticisms of an all-girls education
Apart from the common criticisms that separating children into gendered classrooms is sexist and that it’s difficult to conduct sound research on the benefits of single-sex education, another important area of concern is that girls’ overall social development is hindered by a lack of interaction with boys.
However, a study conducted by Neville Bruce and Katherine Sanders called "Incidence and duration of romantic attraction in students progressing from secondary to tertiary education” in the Journal of Biosocial Sciences found that not only do girls at single-sex schools have just as many heterosexual friendships and relationships as girls at coed schools but that girls in single-sex environments have more control in their interactions with boys, have more autonomy in their personal relationships, and are much less likely to experience an unwanted pregnancy.
At an all-girls school students still have opportunities to interact with boys but they are much more likely to have a broader social circle that includes boys and whom they can choose to interact, instead of their complex social circle being a central focus as is often the case in co-ed schools.
Bullies at all-girls schools
In general, due to a number of factors such as individualized attention, lower student-to-teacher ratio, increased supervision, closely monitored technology, and supportive and inclusive learning environments, private schools have increased resources to better handle instances of bullying or problems before they escalate.
Learn more about bullying in private schools.
Differences in culture at an all-girls school
The overall culture of a single-sex environment compared to co-ed is perhaps felt most strongly during a school visit. Where girls may feel more prone to getting lost in the shuffle or overshadowed by their male counterparts at a co-ed school, among a strong culture of women in the hallways and classrooms each student can feel free to stand out and be herself, empowered to excel throughout her day without the competition of boys.
Things to consider when choosing a girls private school
- What is the school's reputation? Do you have references from other parents or girls at the school?
- What is the school’s educational philosophy (e.g., Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, Montessori)? Do you agree with it?
- Why would you prefer an all-girls education to a coed school?
- How far is the school from where you live?
- Did the tour of the school impress you?
- Does the school have scholarships and bursaries available?
Plenty of all girls schools offer programs from pre-K until grade twelve. And, some schools have both elementary institutions ("feeder schools") that are affiliated with middle or high schools.
For a much more in-depth look into all girls schools, visit one of our annual Private School Expos. Here, you will learn about what you need to know to navigate the private school selection and admissions processes.
Series: Girls Schools
- Benefits of an all-girls' education
- Girls schools: Expert advice
- How single sex schools let kids flourish
- Bright girls, big futures at all girls schools
- Girls' schools encourage girls to be themselves
- Testimonials: What it's like an all-girls school
- Private School for Girls
- Girls alumni: Inspired by a girls only environment