Single-sex schools: girls in a class of their own for optimism

The Australian / 15 February 2021

As reported in The Australian

Mission Australia’s annual Youth Survey examines the issues of concern to young Australians aged 15 to 19. In a report prepared for the Alliance, data from Mission Australia’s most recent survey, has revealed favourable outcomes for girls attending single-sex schools during the pandemic year of 2020.

A report combining the data of 2,670 female students attending Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia member schools has demonstrated that girls attending Alliance schools scored better than the national average for girls aged 15 to 19* on key areas of the 2020 Youth Survey including mental wellbeing, life satisfaction, educational attainment and professional aspirations.

As reported in The Australian:

More than 60 per cent of girls attending single-sex schools indicated they were happy or very happy with their lives — lower than the 66 per cent satisfaction rate reported by males but higher than the 54 per cent reported by all females.

Girls attending single-sex schools were also less likely to ­report mental health concerns — 37 per cent compared to 43 per cent of all females. Only 20 per cent of male respondents reported mental health concerns. Study aspirations were also higher among girls attending single-sex schools, with 88 per cent planning on obtaining a university degree compared to just under 70 per cent of all Australian females.

Sports participation was also sustained throughout 2020, with 74 per cent of girls attending single-sex schools playing regular sport — on par with boys’ participation rates and ahead of all ­females at 69 per cent.

Similarly, students from girls’ schools were less likely than the national female average to be extremely or very concerned about coping with stress, body image, family conflict, social media, personal safety, suicide, LGBTIQA+ issues, drugs and alcohol.

Overall, girls from single-sex schools were also less likely than the average female to report mental health concerns (37.2% vs. 43.3%). Conversely, 61.3% of girls from Alliance schools indicated feeling happy or very happy with their life compared with 54.4% of all female respondents.

Loren Bridge, Executive Officer of the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia said that these results were a testament to the hard work that Australian girls’ schools put in during 2020 to bolster support for the mental health and wellbeing of students and staff.

‘There is no doubt that keeping the whole school community connected and on track throughout online learning was challenging. Girls’ schools were able to leverage their already strong pastoral care programs and technology platforms to respond quickly and flexibly as the situation continued to change throughout the year,’ said Ms Bridge.

Despite the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey’s findings suggest that students who attended girls’ schools remained enthusiastic and confident about the opportunities that life after school has to offer them.

Loren Bridge said academic research already demonstrates that girls who attend single–sex schools are better prepared for and dedicated to seeking out the pathways that can put them on a fast track to professional growth and success.

‘The findings of the Mission Australia survey affirm existing research, revealing that students at girls’ schools are more likely to feel extremely or very confident in their ability to achieve their study or work goals after they finish school, much more so than girls attending co-educational schools’ said Ms Bridge.

‘In addition, academic research on the benefits of an all-girl education shows that girls experience less bullying, make friends more easily, and feel a stronger sense of safety, belonging and connectedness to their school community than their co-ed counterparts.

‘Mission Australia’s 2020 survey also supports these findings with girls at single-sex schools experiencing higher life satisfaction scores and reporting lower levels of mental health concerns,’ she said.

Image courtesy of Toorak College

The full report is available to members, please email [email protected]