Why girls' only?
“Schools should be set up to challenge, not simply to reflect and reinforce, the gender asymmetries that still pervade the wider world …..” K Stannard, MA PhD, Director of Innovation & Learning, Girls' Day School Trust
To suggest that the removal of boys from a girl’s educational environment disadvantages her in the ‘real world’ we believe to be incorrect. We contend that single sex education better prepares girls for the world. The world may be mixed gender but is a long way from being gender-equal. An all-girls environment gives girls the freedom in school to define themselves free from societal stereotypes , expectations and pressures. This 'world as it should be’ instils self-belief, confidence and purpose within each girl. Our girls expect to be respected and to be heard. And they are – in School and then in life.
We encourage girls to meet, engage and compete with boys as equals. There are opportunities, as part of scheduled activities, to interact, negotiate, discuss and learn with boys. We collaborate with local and national schools in a variety of activities from language debates to chess tournaments. These in School activities complement the girls’ wider social lives, where family and out of School activities allow for mixed-gender interaction.
To find out more about cross school collaborations please use the button above.
We firmly believe that a girls’ only education is more important than ever in today’s challenging world and at the core of all that we do is the need to give girls the self-belief that they can achieve anything they set their minds to. Our girls leave St Catherine’s secure in the knowledge that with the necessary hard work and commitment, they will succeed.
The benefits of a girls' school
We believe a girls-only education gives girls the confidence to find their voice. Sceptical, intrigued or convinced, we invite you to read below and visit the School to learn more and hear the views of our students.
- Stronger Academic Performance and Better Results
- No gender stereotypes
- Tailored teaching
- Opportunities for Leadership
- Active lives
- Career ambitions
Stronger Academic Performance and Better Results
“An all-girls learning environment provides the motivation, self-belief and resilience for girls to feel confident about their abilities in maths and science. They are more assertive, willing to take risks, ask questions and make mistakes.” Ms Bridge Executive Officer of Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia.
There can be no denying the fact that year after year girls’ schools are found at the top of the exam league tables. Girls academic results are stronger in a single-sex teaching environment and across all subjects. Why?
Single-sex education gives girls a voice. Essential to any classroom is the ability of the teacher to convey information and engage the class in discussion and debate to assess understanding. There is interesting evidence around gender interruption rates in mixed-classroom settings. Academic researcher Sadker, 1994, evidenced unconscious bias by staff in a mixed school setting resulting in greater allowance of interruptions to teaching by boys. She noted the disruption to teaching and teachers allowing boys to interrupt girls. While this may be unintentional, it also points at boys' greater tendency to disrupt teaaching, requiring more teacher focus to address interruptions. This pattern of gender disparity is also reported by Synder, 2014, revealing boys were three times more likely to interrupt than girls in mixed gender groups.
Achievement is lauded in girls' schools not laughed at. We know girls and boys mature at different rates, from an education perspective. In our Pre-Prep classrooms, and throughout the School, girls settle quickly, work collaboratively and make important connections between the areas of their learning.
As girls continue up the School in a girls-only classroom, interruptions are less likely allowing girls to focus and have all the ‘airtime’, allowing them to voice their contributions. Free of gender stereotypes and social pressures, girls speak openly in class and assert their ideas and opinions. They are free to admire academic ability, support each other's ambitions and strive to achieve. It is this environment, where the girls have the confidence to take academic risks, that ensures their academic attainment exceeds that of their co-ed counterparts.
This is clearly evidenced by our exam results and the destination of our our leavers which demonstrate the breadth of subjects our girls go on to study at a range of Universities, both in this country and overseas.
No gender stereotypes
“..in an all-girls learning environment, free from gender bias or social pressure from boys, girls thrive in what have been traditionally regarded as male-dominated subjects”. Ros Curtis, President of the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia commenting on the Monash University research.
Disrupting gender bias - St Catherine’s girls are free to study whichever subjects interest them, free from the notion of gender stereotypes, both inside and outside the classroom. Whether they want to study A Levels in Further Maths, Physics and Photography or History, Economics and Biology; the choice is theirs and no consideration is given to ‘boys subjects/girls subjects’ or ‘I’d be one of just a few girls.’ Within the classroom at St Catherine's over 60% of the Sixth Form study Maths, Further Maths or STEM subjects which is a statistic which more than ‘bucks’ the national trend for girls within the coeducational system.
By removing gender stereotypes and by instilling in the girls the motivation, self-belief and resilience to be the only ones to define their choices, we disrupt gender bias. All girls’ schools are addressing the societal challenge to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions and in science and technology careers. Our comprehensive programme of returning alumnae provides an incredible range of role-models to inform and inspire the girls’ ambitions.
In girls’ extra-curricular choices, if Prep School girls want to join Construction Club or the String Quartet or Senior girls wish to join the Textiles or Astrophysics Club, the Football team or Wind Band or all four …. they can. The girls have the freedom to make choices about their extra-curricular activities without gendered peer pressure. Please refer to Facebook and Instagram to see the breadth of opportunities – undefined by stereotypes – available to your daughter.
“Girls are more collaborative, they like lessons to be more discussion-based.” Caroline Jordan, former president of the GSA
Single sex schools allow girls and boys to be taught in a way which suits their respective stages of development, interests and learning styles.
Girls tend to prefer a more discussion-led learning environment taking a collaborative approach to many tasks. Our teachers are used to making group debate, team-working and co-operation an integral part of the girls’ experience, recognising how powerful it is to enhancing their learning.
There is a tendency for girls to be more focused and methodical in their work than boys. As such, teachers tailor the speed of delivery and the structure of lessons to respond to this gender trait.
Some girls aim for perfection! They want to please and can resist the message that ‘mistakes help us learn’ and feel discouraged when they don’t achieve top grades. As such, how feedback is presented to the girls, in both a group setting and individually, can be carefully tailored in a girls-only environment to ensure that girls’ confidence is not negatively impacted.
Being able to tailor our teaching to girls’ style of learning, coupled with the wide range of subjects offered, means that by the time the girls are studying for their A Levels, we can design a bespoke timetable to ensure you daughter’s lessons interest and inspire her.
“..the frequently reported gender difference in confidence levels between men and women in the workplace does not exist for girls educated in girls’ schools”. University of Queensland, ‘Hands Up For Gender Equality’, 2018
Both the early years of Prep School and the teenage years are formative and critical to the development of a girl’s personality and character. Being in a girls-only School allows our students a safe space in which to shape their own identity. Girls can focus on themselves and realise their potential without feeling pressured or bound by societal and cultural norms or expectations. Girl’s schools enable girls to grow as individuals in their own right, not as they perceive themselves in relation to boys.
Girls grow up under huge pressure, exacerbated by media and social media, to conform and compete. These pressures influence their sense of self and self-worth. We cannot fully protect girls, but we can choose to allow them, at school, in these critical years, to be freer from these preoccupations, giving them more room to express their true selves.
In this environment, we encourage girls to understand their strengths, be proud of their achievements and, whilst they are incredibly empathetic and supportive of each other’s endeavours, naturally we encourage them to blow their own trumpets appropriately, too. We nurture, encourage and support their self-belief and confidence throughout their school career.
In the classroom the girls are free of subject stereotypes like ‘boys do Further Maths, girls do humanities’; it is cool to stretch yourself, and there are no limitations on learning. A girl’s self-belief is further reinforced in the classroom as she has the confidence to take academic risks and be rewarded with excellent results.
For more information about how we support girls’ wellbeing and self-esteem in the Prep School click here, and in our Senior School, when girls are navigating the years of adolescence, please click here.
“..girls at single-sex schools generally enjoy school more, experience less bullying, have fewer disruptions in class, make friends more easily, and feel more like they belong at the schools…” Analysis by the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Austalasia.
Here at St Catherine’s the girls are provided with an encouraging and nurturing environment which allows and supports them in taking risks, which in turn develops their resilience so vital for the wider world. Fundamental to the girl’s confidence to take risks is ensuring that they are comfortable in themselves and with their teachers.
It is only by taking risks and making mistakes that we as humans are able to learn and move forward. A classroom free of gender expectations of academic strengths and weaknesses and without fear of embarrassment or labelling allows girls the freedom to experiment, test their assumptions and expose their limitations. In short, to learn.
Taking part in extra-curricular activities also pushes them outside their comfort zones as does initiatives such as The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, and our overseas Trips & Tours programmes, from visiting CERN to Cambodia, and our Year 9 Australian School Exchange Programme.
Opportunities for Leadership
“Girls’ schools are incubators of new and better ways of thinking and being. We all recognise the value of empathy, we understand the importance of ‘soft power.” Heather Hanbury, in her President's address to the GSA Heads' Conference, Nov 2022
With the United Nations Gender Equality Snapshot reporting that women held less than 1 in 3 management positions around the globe and only 28% were in leadership positions we know leadership roles in School allow girls to explore how to lead and their strengths in this area.
In a girls’ only School there is no forced selection of one Head Boy and one Head Girl, one male Science Prefect and one female Science Prefect. All our girls take leadership roles as Prefects or Subject Mentors and deliver them in their way, be that collaboratively, authoritatively or creatively, influencing through persuasion and co-operation. Every role has a job description and each reports to and works closely alongside a member of staff who will interact with her as a young adult. We are modelling the world we want to see. Our girls grow up expecting to be listened to and respected, to lead and to be decision-makers. We prepare them to assert themselves and to value the quality of their insights and opinions. They can confidently hold their own and defend their right to be at the table. The young women at St Catherine’s are catalysts for change; they will move us to a more equitable world.
We must also not underestimate the power of role-models in shaping aspirations either. At St Catherine’s, girls regularly enjoy talks, seminars, workshops and networking events with alumnae. From a Sweaty Betty Textile Designer to a Professor of Aeronautical Engineering, from a Frontline War Correspondent to an Environmental Policy Maker, these and so many other women open up a world of opportunity and possibility for our confident girls with no shortage of ambition. To find out more about the careers of our alumnae click here.
“Single sex education can improve student performance, be it Maths skills and self-confidence, test scores and college attendance, or grades and pass rates.” Laury, Lee and Schnier, 2019.
It is widely proven that physical exercise is critical to young people’s physical and emotional wellbeing and that participation supports academic achievement. At St Catherine’s over 70% of girls age 11 to 18 represent the School in a sports team and all take part in some kind of recreational sport until 18, too.
Studies have shown that a girls-only School environment supports girls being involved, competing individually and as a team and maintaining their fitness. Women in Sport in 2022 reported the national picture of 1.3m girls dropping sport, citing the causes as a fear of being judged and a lack of confidence. There is no judgement amongst the girls and their confidence is built through team sports which are integral to School life at St Catherine’s. Nor do they stop sport in order to be spectators at the boys' sports events.
Team sports give our girls such critical life skills as discipline, leadership, teamwork and resilience so advantageous for leadership and life success.
“Graduates of girls’ schools are six times more likely to consider studying maths, science and technology and three times more likely to consider engineering compared to girls who attended co-ed schools”. International Coalition of Girls Schools research.
It has been estimated by the World Economic Forum, that the global gender gap for Economic Participation and Opportunity will not close until 2173. In the UK gender parity stands at 76% . It is therefore more critical than ever that we ensure our girls fulfil their potential, are taught leadership skills and are prepared for the world after school.
A girl’s only environment, free from University subject or career stereotypes, supports confidence, resilience and ambition. It allows us to focus absolutely on guiding our girls through the steps necessary to achieve their academic and professional aspirations, whilst also developing the soft skills so necessary in today’s workplace.
The careers of our alumnae are as individual as each girl’s educational journey through St Catherine’s. Here are just a few:
- Samantha Knights KC, from lacrosse lover to international human rights lawyer.
- Abike Looi-Somoye, from violin overtures to Amazon robotic operations engineer.
- Xylona Lam, from PR Prefect to Nomura’s ESG expert.
- Carly Brown, from crafting Leavers’ videos to a career in Freelance TV and Film editing.
To find out more about the careers programme at School please click here.
Collaborations & Partnerships
We believe in educational collaborations that give our girls the opportunity to work alongside their peers in local schools.
We have established links with RGS Prep, Tillingbourne Junior School, Bramley Infant School and Gosden House. Our purpose is to give our girls the opportunity to partner with boys and girls to extend their learning, benefit from sharing facilities, develop their teamwork skills and to support their interpersonal skills.
We plan joint activities across the curriculum, in music, science, English and the creative arts. Collaborations occur across the calendar year.
Recent events include:
- Year 5 enjoyed a Forensic Science workshop and practical experiment with RGS Prep in their Science Lab as part of Science week in March 2023.
- Year 6 enjoyed a DNA workshop and extracted DNA from strawberries and bananas.
- Year 1 explored the Science Fair at RGS Prep finding out whether smell affects taste, whether sound travels quicker through water. Our girls certainly came away with a deeper understanding of the great variety of connections in everyday life.
- Pre-Prep joined a story-telling workshop with Bramley Infant School
- Tillingbourne visited for Year 4 and 5 Super Science Workshops in our WonderLab
- Year 5 St Cat’s students and Year 4 RGS Prep boys took part in a healthy eating lesson making spicy cous-cous in our brand-new Culinary Arts studio.
- Year 5 girls to visit RGS Prep in the Summer term to work on a number of DT projects (details TBC early in the Summer Term).
- Year 6 enjoyed a Forensic Science workshop and practical experiments with RGS Prep in their Science Lab
- U2 & L3 performed “Melodic Magic at Gosden House in December 2022
We believe in educational collaborations that give our girls the opportunity to work alongside their peers. Our goal is to provide academic events, debates, careers talks and cross-curricular sessions to allow the girls to extend their learning, help them understand how to work as a mixed team and to support social interactions.
We have long-established links with schools such as Charterhouse, Guildford County, Cranleigh and Winchester College. We are a member of the Guildford Partnership of Schools, Schools Together 11-18 working across 20
Recent events include:
- Choral singing with George Abbott male Cantores Choir for the Association Concert
- An ‘Aspiring Medics’ careers seminar with the Royal Grammar School
- French, German and Spanish Debating Competitions with Charterhouse, Reeds and City of London Freemans.
- Spanish cookery evening – with RGS hosted at St Cat’s in our brand-new Culinary Arts Studio. The dishes were Spanish and only conversation in Spanish was allowed!
- The Guildford Classical Association Latin and Greek Reading Competition with 8 schools including Lord Wandsworth, Sir William Perkins School, Surbiton High School, RGS and Guildford High.
- RGS and St Cat’s Classics Quiz, Pizza Evening and Careers lecture
- George Abbott male Cantores Choir and St Catherine’s Choirs joined for a musical workshop with Voces8, performing in the evening in St Cat’s Auditorium with these professional musicians.
- The Articulation Art History Prize – debating in Woking against students from schools across the country
- Inter-School debating at the English Speaking Union National competitions.
- U3 – Fundraising Disco
- L4/U4 – Fundraising Disco
- In The 6 – our Sixth Form – girls have a Michaelmas Ball organised by The Charities Board.