There are so many things to think about when you are looking at prep schools for your daughter. Entrance exams, school fees, and whether to choose a day or boarding school are all usually on parents’ minds, but have you thought about whether a school will help to build your daughter’s confidence?

Girls are growing up at a time where they face more pressures than ever. Social media has a huge impact on girls’ confidence, when everyone else ‘appears’ to be perfect, living a perfect life. The effects of Covid-19 are also still being felt, and girls often need help building confidence as they return to the classroom.

Small, independent girls’ schools are able to offer pupils the support they need to grow in confidence. Read on to find out how they are teaching girls leadership skills, creativity, self-belief and resilience.

Small independent schools offer a nurturing environment for girls who might otherwise get overlooked

Small schools tend to have small class sizes and smaller year groups. This usually means more individual attention and support for students. Educators are able to identify areas that students might feel under-confident in, and spend time helping them to develop. This is a really positive thing for girls, who may get overlooked at bigger schools – especially if they don’t shout the loudest. A secure and happy learning environment helps girls to flourish both academically and also personally.

The pupils at Queen’s Gate, an independent school in South Kensington, for example, have a saying that their school is an ‘un-schooly school’. They are known for being a small, friendly school with a nurturing environment. The School believes that girls who feel happy and secure are able to thrive, becoming confident learners and independent thinkers.

Single sex education brings out the best in girls

Gender stereotypes are usually not a problem in single sex schools. Without the pressure to impress boys, or act in a certain way, girls tend to be more willing to take risks and make bold choices. Classrooms therefore tend to be more dynamic, free, and buzzing with ideas – creating a great learning environment to help girls build confidence.

In both girls’ and boys’ schools, educators are able to make small changes to their teaching style and curriculum to increase pupils’ engagement and academic achievement. For example, in girls’ schools it can be really beneficial to teach books with strong female leads, that speak to the female experience. Girls also learn differently to boys and respond better to working collaboratively. When girls are able to work together, learning becomes more productive and meaningful for them – helping to boost their confidence.

Queens Gate
Queen’s Gate School

Feeling less self-conscious enables girls take part in a broader range of extracurricular activities including sport

From choir to karate, performing on the stage or joining the debating team, extracurricular activities are brilliant for building confidence. In small, single-sex schools, girls are less self conscious about joining in and are more likely to take part in a broader range of activities. This is especially true for sports, an area where boys tend to dominate at co-educational schools.

Mixed sporting activities often have the negative effect of reinforcing gender stereotypes. With no boys to impress, girls are more likely to enjoy sports. Without male classmates around, girls feel less self-conscious about their bodies and are more likely to perform to their full ability. Team sports, particularly, offer girls the chance to learn skills such as leadership and really help to boost their confidence.

The freedom to excel in both academic subjects and the arts helps to empower girls

According to a study from Cornell University (2019), girls achieve better results in maths and science when they have high-achieving girls in their class and are more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree. The research also noted that the greater the exposure to high-achieving boys, the more negative the effect was on girls’ self-confidence and aspirations.

In a small girls’ school, young women are offered the support and freedom to explore a broad curriculum and excel in both the arts and academic subjects.

Queen’s Gate, for example, prides itself on offering breadth, challenge and variety within its curriculum in order to empower girls to adopt a ‘have a go attitude’. The School has specialist teachers in science, six languages, art, music, design and technology, and PE. Teaching groups are small and girls are given a lot of focused attention in order to support them and build their confidence as they learn.

A wider community offers girls more role models

In smaller schools, different year groups tend to have more contact and are able to learn from each other. This can be a really positive thing for girls, as they are able to see the successes of pupils further up the school. High-achieving young women throughout the school, as well as successful alumni, role model achievement and inspire girls to ‘be what they can see’.

At Queen’s Gate, for example, pupils of all ages from 4-18 mix happily and work together. Both the Junior and the Senior schools take advantage of shared resources. The House system at Queen’s Gate also provides the opportunity for older and younger girls to collaborate closely and fosters healthy competition in a range of activities. Having close contact with the Senior pupils helps to motivate the Junior girls, providing them with positive role models.

Smaller private schools are able to offer excellent pastoral care

With fewer students requiring attention, small, private schools often have the resources to offer excellent pastoral care to each child. By creating a support network for pupils to rely on, pastoral care can help to develop confidence and emotional resilience.

Queen’s Gate believes that the wellbeing of their pupils is just as important as their academic education. The School is renowned for their pastoral care and with just one class per year, they are able to offer their pupils a lot of one-on-one attention.

This not only impacts girls’ academic success, but also their social skills, and how they see themselves. This is very important for their confidence as they progress from prep school, to senior school, sixth form, college, university, and into the world of work beyond.