The all-girl advantage

The evidence is unequivocal – girls simply do better in a single-sex environment.

At St Cuthbert’s, we believe all-girl schools are more relevant today than ever before, which is why we choose to remain one of the few independent, single-sex secondary schools in New Zealand.

In the words of Fiona Cottam, our head of Senior School and Deputy Principal:

“I’ve taught in co-ed, all-boys and all girls schools. Without a doubt, the all-girl environment gives girls the absolute freedom to be who they are, without tension. Importantly, girls don’t fall into traditional gender roles or stereotyped academic pathways. We see them tackling and excelling in traditionally male STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). Being less self-conscious makes girls more open to asking questions, having a go and taking risks they wouldn’t necessarily take in a co-ed environment.

Girls learn at an early age, that anything is possible for them”.

St Cuthbert’s ‘gets’ girls and the school is geared exclusively for them. From learning sports to pastoral care, girls’ needs are at the very centre of everything we do.

For example:

  • Specialist teachers: We attract the very best teachers who specialise in, and choose to teach, only girls. They understand that in a mixed classroom, boys are less inhibited and will typically participate more vocally and fearlessly. Girls are more considered and self-conscious, so often hold back. An all-girl classroom lets them teach wholeheartedly in ways that enable every girl to be her best.
  • Can-do attitude: Through their most formative years our girls see female leadership in action every day. They can’t help but develop an inner belief that gender is no barrier to achievement. Younger girls watch the older girls leading, senior girls see inspirational women leading. The message every day is clear: your aspirations are not limited by gender.
  • Academic performance: Girls’ schools are leading the way in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education. Graduates of girls’ schools are six times more likely to consider majoring in math, science, and technology and three times more likely to consider engineering compared to girls who attended co-ed schools.
    (Source: National Coalition of Girls’ Schools)
  • You have a voice: At girls’ schools it’s natural to speak your mind. A recent survey found that nearly 87% of girls’ school students feel their voices – their opinions – are respected compared to 58% of girls at co-ed schools. (Source: National Coalition of Girls’ Schools). Our girls find their voice in a safe environment, and to learn how to use it at a young age.
  • Freedom: Our all-female environment encourages giving things a go without fear of failure or embarrassment. Whether it’s trying hockey for the first time or fancy dress for house sports, having the freedom to be yourself is an invaluable attribute for life.
  • Belonging: We watch the all-girl environment forge stronger friendships and deeper bonds. This carries on as girls travel through life together. Their professional networks, loyalty and supportive sisterhood is extremely powerful.
    While our girls thrive in the St Cuthbert’s environment, they are not sheltered from the real world. Socially, they grow up closely with boys from other schools, and through events like shared career evenings and fun speed-dating in French, they expand their networks and establish a healthy social balance.

 The facts

  • Girls in single-sex schools were less likely to be bullied than girls in co-ed schools: 1% of girls in single-sex schools experienced bullying compared with about 21% of girls in co-ed schools. (Johnson & Gastic, 2015)
  • Girls in single-sex schools were more likely to participate in traditional male activities than girls from co-ed schools.  (Johnson & Gastic, 2015)
  • American researcher Laura Hart (2015) found that  77.3% indicated that being in the all-girl classes had helped them “learn better”
  • A 2016 study by Victoria Cribb and Dr Anne Haase from Bristol University (UK) found that girls in co-educational schools have lower self-esteem and feel more pressure to be thin than girls in single-sex schools  It was also found that single-sex schools encourage “improved self-esteem, psychological and social wellbeing in adolescent girls”
  • An Australian study found that 82% of participant teachers “perceived single-sex contexts to be more effective in achieving higher student participation and performance levels” in Physical Education (PE) classes (Best, Pearson & Webb, 2010, p. 1021).
  • 79% believed that single-sex PE classes allowed students “to reach their full performance potential”  Factors including distractions, harassment, embarrassment, competitiveness and uneven strength levels had a greater negative influence on students’ participation in PE in co-educational settings. If you would like to access more in-depth evidence please visit the following resources: