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Study reveals benefits of all-girls schools

Susie O’Brien and Donna Coutts, November 2, 2020 6:45PM Kids News

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Girls repairing a motherboard in the classroom. Women are still under-represented in STEM careers. media_cameraGirls repairing a motherboard in the classroom. Women are still under-represented in STEM careers.


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Girls at single-sex schools outperform their peers at co-ed campuses, new data shows.

There is less bullying and less skipping class and fewer friendship fights at single-sex schools, according to a new analysis of international educational data.

The report, commissioned by the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia, was conducted by Macquarie Marketing Group using OECD* data.

It found girls from single-sex schools reported a positive difference on 227 out of 314 measures, or 72 per cent.

These include higher scores and more confidence in science classes, better academic engagement and a greater sense of school belonging than girls at co-ed schools.

Girls learning with girls also reported a higher intention of completing a degree or doctorate – 69 per cent at same-sex schools intend to go on to tertiary education compared to 51 per cent of co-ed girls.

“Strong academic results have always been a hallmark* of single-sex schooling, but this report also reveals, crucially, that girls’ wellbeing benefits enormously from an all-girl environment,” Loren Bridge, executive officer of the Alliance of Girls’ Schools, said.

“The data shows that 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 their schools compared to girls from coeducational schools,” she said.

“Women are still hugely under-represented in STEM careers, so the data that girls from all-girls schools demonstrate notably higher engagement and interest in science and mathematics is an important finding from the analysis. Girls can so easily be cut off from opportunities when they opt out of STEM,” Ms Bridge said.

In addition, 31 per cent of girls at same-sex schools report never or hardly ever being disrupted in class compared to 21 per cent at co-ed schools. More girls in same-sex schools also report that they don’t have problems in science classrooms (43 per cent) compared to co-ed (31 per cent).

Ms Bridge said the study was done analysing data independently collected by the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment.

Two school girls presenting their work to the class with their teacher watching media_cameraThe study analysed data independently collected by the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment.

Marise McConaghy, principal at Strathcona Girls’ Grammar in Victoria, agreed students from a single-sex setting “are often shown to display greater self-esteem, ambition, and willingness to try new things”.

“This is demonstrated in their enthusiasm and participation in a broader range of subjects – including those that are traditionally male dominated like STEM – their positive relationships with their peers, and overall self-confidence,” she said.

Research released in 2017 by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) analysed NAPLAN results from 2010-2012 for students in year 3, 5 and 7.

The analysis suggested that while students in single-sex schools are significantly more likely to outperform students in co-ed schools, single-sex schools on average provide no better value-add over time than coeducational schools.

In a report about the research, ACER’s Katherine Dix concluded that the argument about single-sex versus coeducational schooling may be less relevant in the future as numbers in single-sex independent schools are declining at a rate that would indicate they won’t exist within a generation.

“Australian Bureau of Statistics data show that the proportion of students from independent schools attending single-sex schools fell from 31 per cent in 1985 to 24 per cent in 1995. By 2015, this proportion decreased further to 12 per cent of students, based on analysis of 2015 My Schools data. If this trend continues, there will be no single-sex independent schools in Australia by the year 2035,” Dr Dix wrote.

Students in a school hallway media_cameraIf recent trends continue, there will be no single-sex independent schools in Australia by 2035.


  • OECD: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an organisation with representatives from 37 countries formed to stimulate the world’s economy and trade
  • hallmark: distinctive characteristic


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  1. What percentage of girls at single-sex schools reported a positive difference?
  2. What were the findings on being disrupted in class?
  3. Is Marise McConaghy’s school co-ed or single sex?
  4. What data did the ACER research use?
  5. Are single-sex schools becoming more or less popular over time?


1. Write a letter
‘The numbers in single-sex schools are declining at a rate that would indicate they won’t exist within a generation’.

This research indicates there are many positives for female students both academically and in their student welfare when they attend single-sex schools. Given that the numbers attending these schools are declining, what practices could co-educational schools adopt from single-sex schools to help improve the performance and well-being of their female students?

Write a letter to a school principal of a co-educational school asking him/her to consider some changes to the school structure to help improve the outcomes for girls. Use the data in the article to support your ideas and give reasons why it is important to improve the academic and well-being outcomes for girls.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability, Critical and Creative thinking

2. Extension
The article presents a number of statements that relate to research conducted into girls’ academic performance and well-being at same-sex schools compared to co-educational schools.

After reading the article, what questions does it raise for you?

Think carefully about what the data says. Come up at least 5 open-ended questions (questions that have a number of possible answers) that this data makes you think about, that might need further investigation before major decisions about the structure of our schools is considered.

Some examples include:

How do boys’ grades compare in single-sex and co-educational settings?

Is learning improved in all subject areas?

Once you have your 5 questions, come up with some possible answers to your questions, based on your schooling experiences.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability, Critical and Creative thinking

Should All Schools Become Single Sex To Boost Academic Performance?

The article shows that stronger academic results occur in single-sex schools. Go through the article and highlight any evidence that will help support your side of the argument. Then write a persuasive text either agreeing or disagreeing with the activity heading: Should all schools become single sex to boost academic performance?

Don’t forget to read your text aloud when you finish to ensure it makes sense, is grammatically correct and is convincing. You will need to use your VCOP, especially your emotive language.

See if you can up-level any of the text before you present it to your teacher, convincing them to agree with you.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you believe single-sex or co-ed schools are better? Who for? Why?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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