Developing the confidence to succeed in life is something we take very seriously at Blackheath High. Girls tend to underestimate their ability; even very bright girls can avoid taking risks if they think they might fail. Fear of risk taking can be a huge problem for them and we believe that we can help them to overcome this and build their self-esteem and confidence.
We do this by encouraging them to undertake activities that will challenge them and push them out of their comfort zones. This is why most of our girls participate in activities such as sport, the DofE Award Scheme, drama, public speaking and debating, even if they’re nervous. Girls can let their emotions get in the way of their desire to do something and we show them how to overcome fear so that it isn’t allowed to hinder their learning and progress. The key to success for girls is confidence and the confidence developed through overcoming fears and taking on challenges, spills over into all areas of their life – including the academic.
A single-sex education also help to support the development of confidence in girls. Girls have more freedom to be themselves – choosing the academic subjects and activities that they are really interested in. There is much research evidence to show that girls perform better and achieve more widely in an all-girls school.
All girls’ schools allow girls to develop a positive image of themselves at a time when they are vulnerable to self-doubt. These years coincide with the equally important years for boys, in which they are testing out their strength and seeing how they can influence the world around them. Here we can focus on what benefits girls, there is no conflict of interest. We are interested in what allows them to grow in confidence through the sometimes difficult years of adolescence; what helps to foster self-belief, and what protects them from voices that would make them doubt their ability. I believe that most girls benefit enormously from being in an all-girls school, where they can be constantly returned a positive image of their capability, their promise and their value to the world.
Below is a link to an interesting article from two leading female journalists about the nature and origins of what they identify as the ‘confidence gap’ that appears to limit many women’s prospects in the workplace. It quotes Carol Dweck on the qualities that schools tend to reward but which don’t necessarily work in later life: “If life were one long grade school, women would be the undisputed rulers of the world.”