In 2019, six of the Times’ top 10 independent schools were named as single-sex girls’ schools, yet many parents remain curious – and cautious – about the relevance of girls-only education in the 21st century.
Dr Kevin Stannard, Director of Innovation and Learning at the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) considers this in his booklet ‘Why (and how) girls thrive in girls-only schools’ (GDST, 2019). In this publication, he draws on research in saying that ‘there is strong evidence that girls-only education leads to higher academic achievement, greater diversity of subject choice, stronger self-confidence and resilience, and enhanced career progression’. His executive summary comments on a number of behaviours exhibited by girls in single-sex schools, stating that these girls:
- are less likely to conform to a priori gender stereotypes,
- are less constrained in their choice of subjects,
- show a greater propensity to take risks and innovate,
- perform better in examinations,
- have more opportunities to show leadership, and
- are more successful in the job market.
These points are reiterated in the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) online article ‘The Benefits of Girls’ Schools’ (GSA, 2020), which states that (in girls-only schools) there is ‘no such thing as a girl’s subject or a boy’s subject and girls are free to follow their inclinations with little of the pressure they might otherwise feel’. In these schools, they say, girls are ‘75% more likely to take Maths A-level, 70% more likely to take Chemistry and two and a half times as likely to take Physics’.
The positive effects of girls-only education do not follow automatically from the separation of the sexes and, as Dr Stannard rightly cautions, ‘single-sex education, to be successful, must be more than an organisational device – it needs to be underpinned by a set of principles, and articulated in a set of practices, whereby girls are nurtured, challenged and empowered’.
This is certainly the case at Northampton High School where, in 2019, our Sixth Form students were 248% more likely to take Maths A-level, 214% more likely to take Chemistry and over five times as likely to take Physics when compared to national statistics for girls, yet they went on to secure university places in a huge range of disciplines including Film, Fashion, History, Music and Literature.
In 2020, these disciplines extended to Aerospace Engineering, Global Sustainable Development, Marketing and Neuroscience, but 2020 has been an extraordinary year and our students have had an extraordinary education: with examinations cancelled, they may have been tempted to put their feet up but, true to their spirit and that of the school, they took the opportunity to engage in masterclasses led by our own staff and those from across the GDST.
They collaborated with others as they focused on preparation for university and undertook real-world training, including courses in Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Fashion Design and Scriptwriting. In addition, they completed MOOCs (massive online open courses) delivered by universities across the world, and many gave their time to supporting local communities through the COVID crisis.Without doubt, they were prepared for independent study and confident in their abilities and individuality.
Being a part of the GDST, a family of 23 independent schools and two academies that boasts 19,000 pupils and over 70,000 inspirational alumnae, including Samira Ahmed, Olivia Colman and our very own Anne Fine, is an undoubted advantage to our students.
To be mentored by a highly successful and experienced GDST alumna, to partake in trust-wide events and competitions or to simply converse with like-minded students across the country is a benefit that our girls enjoy and celebrate.
Northampton High School places great emphasis on the knowledge and nurture of the individual, living each day by the Girls First philosophy of the GDST. Here, girls have the freedom to be themselves in a safe but forward-thinking environment, to take advantage of the excellent opportunities on offer and to be the very best that they can be.
To lead this school is a privilege and a pleasure, and I would encourage families to get to know our extraordinary school community.
To find out more call Northampton High School on 01604 765765 or visit www.northamptonhigh.co.uk