Do girls do better in girls' schools?

Single sex or co-ed schooling

A study of Value Added scores by the Good Schools Guide shows girls really do learn better in girls’ schools than in co-ed ones.

Yet co-ed schools thrive in areas where many girls' schools have met their demise. Could it be the lure of testosterone is greater than the lure of test results?

Girls schools - The evidence

The research by The Good Schools Guide compared the Value Added results of 71,286 girls (with no recorded special needs) at girls’ state comprehensives to 647,691 similar girls at co-ed comprehensive schools.

The academic achievement profiles of the two groups (girls in girls' schools and girls in co-ed schools) were almost identical at the Key Stage 2 (age 11) starting point.  But between Key Stage 2 and GCSEs the Contextual Value Added scores (which measure pupils’ progress between Key Stage 2 and GCSEs, relative to what they might have been expected to achieve), show that girls in girls-only schools make more progress than girls in co-ed schools. 

Low achieving girls make the biggest leap at girl only schools

The value added scores of girls at single sex schools were higher than their counterparts at co-ed schools among all ability groups – from highest achievers to lowest. The largest increase was among the girls who had performed worst at Key Stage 2: girls who had been low achievers at age 11 had made the biggest leap when they came to sit their GCSEs.

The old debate - single sex v co-ed schools

Girls in girls schoolsThe idea that girls fare better in a girls-only environment has been promoted by groups like the Girls’ School Association and the Girls' Day School Trust. The latter, a collection of 29 independent girls' high schools, says that at their schools take-up of science subjects at A level is twice the national average for girls.
Clarissa Farr, High Mistress of high achieving St Paul’s Girls’ School in London, points out in GSG, WAGs and HABs, written for The Good Schools Guide states,

'We educate them [girls] to see themselves as potential leaders in society, movers and shakers, politicians, thinkers and industrialists.'

The Good Schools Guide has long recognised the quality of many of Britain’s girls’ schools. The guide features almost 1200 schools of which 20% are British girls-only schools in both the state and private sectors. 
Nonetheless, co-education has steamrollered single-sex schooling over the past half century. The number of state of schools where boys or girls are educated separately has declined from 2,500 in the 1960s to about 400 today. Of course it could be natural selection whereby only the strongest and best of the girl-only schools remain.


Deciding what is right for your daughter


Why co-education?

  • It provides a healthier environment mirroring the real world
  • There is less bullying when boys and girls learn alongside each other
  • Girls educated in co-ed schools handle university better
  • Girls learn to treat boys as friends and colleagues
  • Girls in co-ed schools are more likely to be be used to male company and have boys as friends than feel the need to seek out a boy-friend
  • Brothers and sisters can attend the same school
  • Test results show that girls hold their own academically since they are – quite frankly – brainier
  • Co-ed schools are better for females with male brains
  • Many females feel stifled in all female-environments
  • Boys and girls get a greater understanding of how each sex functions - invaluable insight for the world of work. 


Why 'girl-only' schooling?

Girls work harder without boys distracting them

Girls’ brains work differently from boys’ and respond to a different style of teaching

In a single sex environment girls are more likely to take up subjects normally dominated by boys, like maths and sciences

A girls-only environment is more wholesome – less opportunities for hanky-panky with boys

It sets girls up for more promising careers, often in male-dominated jobs. Research from London's Institute of Education in 2007 found that girls who go to girls' schools later earn more than those from mixed schools.

A key study of 425,138 high school students carried out in Israel in 2006 suggested that when there is a big proportion of boys in a class, both boys and girls do worse academically. Results improved as the percentage of girls in a class increased. The biggest improvement in results came when girls significantly outnumbered boys. 

Putting girls in with the boys helped the boys. These researchers did not find a case for mixed schools benefiting girls, and emphatically not when girls are in the minority, as they are in many co-ed independent schools.

Could it be that in co-ed schools, girls’ achievement is being stunted so that boys can do better? 

 The Good Schools Guide Advice Service has experts in this matter and can discuss with you what would be best for your child. 0r 0203 286 6824.



GSG 19th Edition book cover

The Good Schools Guide 19th edition is out now available from our bookshop.

Authoritative, sought-after, truthful...

"It is highly opinionated: the only guide that offers parents a genuine flavour of what a school is like." The Daily Telegraph

Click here to buy online...

The Good Schools Guide on pupils

… we asked what one thing would improve their school. The answer was unanimous: girls! Apparently girls would ‘make the place tidier’ and ‘help with questions’. Dream on chaps.

Subscribe to the Good Schools Guide for just £3.25* a month when purchased as an annual subscription.  A one month introductory subscription costs just £9.99

Subscribers will find detailed exam results and performance information on individual school pages. Visit these 'free to view' schools. Explore results - read our independent reviews*

Invicta Grammar School, Maidstone is a state school for girls aged from 11 to 18, co-ed sixth form

Rokeby School, Kingston upon Thames is an independent school for boys aged from 4 to 13

The Queen's Church of England Primary School, Richmond is a state school for boys and girls aged from 4 to 11.

Swiss Cottage School Development & Research Centre, London is a state special school for boys and girls aged from 2 to 19

Subscribers** to The Good Schools guide can examine:

  • School performance data* for KS2, GCSE and A-level
  • Value-added data* .Does the school make a difference to all pupils or just some?
  • University information*. Details of which universities pupils go on to and what they study.
  • And, for English state schools, make sure you make the right move by examining catchment area data and seeing which schools pupils come from and which schools they move on to. 

*We indicate on a school's page where data is available. We do not have data for schools outside of England.

** An introductory one month subscription costs just £9.99 or subscribe for a whole year for just £39 - the equivalent of only £3.25 per month.


Further reading

From Embryo To Eighteen - How To Survive The Education Highway

Choosing A School Thoughts For Parents

Mix and Match State and Private Education

Coming Into The British School System From Abroad

Sussing Out Independent Schools and Horses For Courses

Choosing A School For A Talented Child

School Open Evenings

Questions To Ask Staff When Visiting A School

Questions To Ask When Visiting A School - Academic Matters

Questions To Ask When Visiting A School - Financial Factors

Questions To Ask  When Visiting A School - Beyond the Classroom

Visiting A School - Questions For Pupils

State School Admissions - How To Secure A Place

Independent School Admissions - Insider Information On Getting In!

Independent School Admissions - It's Not Just Ability To Pay 

SEN Admission To Independent School

The Gifted Child

Independent V State School Education

SEN Survey Response - Are Good SEN Schools Great For All?

Subscribe for full access

Register for our Newsletter...

Go >

...and receive our FREE expert guide to Tutors!