Girls who attend girls’ schools more confident, research shows

New research indicates that girls who attend single-sex girls’ schools are more confident and more emotionally in control than girls in co-educational schools

New research indicates that girls who attend single-sex girls’ schools are more confident and more emotionally in control than girls in co-educational schools.

The report, An Analysis of Mental Toughness at UK Independent Schools, is being released today at the Girls’ Schools Association’s (GSA) annual Summer Briefing for headteachers. The event will cover other topics such as Everyone’s Invited, universities and the TPS.

The findings show the pandemic may have exacerbated any gaps and differences that already existed, with girls who are more mentally tough potentially having an advantage in dealing with the pandemic compared with less mentally tough girls.

The new meta-analysis, by AQR International, delves deeper into its mental toughness research from 2017, together with new research undertaken during the pandemic.

It analyses the responses of girls in single-sex GSA schools, compared with girls in other schools. The findings indicate that girls in GSA girls’ schools generally possess higher mental toughness scores than girls in state and independent co-educational schools, particularly for emotional control and confidence.

The GSA girls in general have greater commitment, greater control – particularly emotional control – as well as greater confidence, both in terms of confidence in their abilities and their inter-personal confidence.

This […] may well explain why girls in girls’ schools typically tend to do better academically, and are more likely to choose to study STEM subjects, than girls in co-educational schools – Donna Stevens, GSA

Donna Stevens, chief executive of the GSA, said: “This is a fascinating insight to the environmental impact of a single-sex school on girls’ confidence and emotional resilience and may well explain why girls in girls’ schools typically tend to do better academically, and are more likely to choose to study STEM subjects, than girls in co-educational schools.

In separate research undertaken recently, GSA girls’ school headteachers took the adult version of the same mental toughness test which indicated that, as a group, they are highly resilient, with a level of mental toughness significantly higher than average.

Seventy-six per cent of GSA headteachers took the test, which produced a mean total mental toughness score of 6.46, which is consistent with research on mental toughness profiles for senior leaders in other sectors. The heads scored particularly highly – 7.31 – for control, which reflects a sense of self-worth commonly described as a ‘can do’ spirit’.

“The level of resilience indicated in GSA heads should inspire great confidence, in any parent, in their ability to lead their schools calmly and robustly through challenging times, as indeed we have seen during the pandemic,” said Stevens.

AQR chief executive, Doug Strycharczyk, added: “Differences in mental toughness may well have widened during the pandemic. Any government ‘catch-up’ scheme would do well to take this into account.”

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