The purpose and place of a girls' school education

The purpose and place of a girls' school education

By Linda Douglas, Principal of Ruyton Girls' School 

A century and a half ago, girls’ schools were a response to the lack of educational provision for girls. In today’s world, successful girls’ schools, such as Ruyton, offer a wide range of co-curricular activities and academic opportunities free of gender stereotyping. We meet the learning and wellbeing needs and preferences of girls with our holistic approach. In a world where equality and inclusion are sadly lacking, we know that as a girls’ school we empower young women. We provide the dual emphasis on excellence in education and on the empowerment of girls, placing value on each student's potential as an individual; her sense of self and wellbeing, skill development and academic achievement, leadership learning, co-curricular engagement and the formation of character and strong values.

The purpose and place of girls’ schools now and into the future in this country cannot be underestimated for our young women. In 2021, Australia dropped to 50th on the Global Gender Gap Index, a decline of 35 places in just 15 years. Australian women and girls still need to fight for a safe and fair community, as we have seen so clearly in the past 12 months. We have seen brave women raise their voices, take action and make a difference. 

There is evidence that girls achieve more when they are given their own dedicated place to develop. In single-sex schools, girls: 

  • are less likely to conform to a priori gender stereotypes 

  • are less constrained in their choice of subjects 

  • show a greater propensity to take risks and innovate 

  • perform better in examinations 

  • have more opportunities to show leadership and 

  • are more successful in the job market. 

Importantly, single-sex settings provide girls with the level playing field they deserve. 

One argument often made by co-educational settings is that if the world is free of gender bias, then schools should reflect this. This argument ignores the persistence of structural obstacles and stereotypes that females face in today’s world. As a school, we do not seek to replicate this world but rather to prepare our students to navigate and subvert such obstacles. In co-educational settings it is boys who often set the tone and the culture, monopolising discussion, taking more dominant roles in both group work and practical exercises. Girls may adopt roles that reflect others’ views of them and narrow their choices, both academic and co-curricular. In a co-educational setting, girls may also be assumed to be ‘less problematic’, with the strong correlation between high motivation and high anxiety in girls then being overlooked. In girls-only environments it is girls’ needs and preferences that come to the fore. 

At Ruyton our teachers focus on working with and challenging our girls who often seek security in structures and schedules. We are able to challenge risk aversion and encourage adventurousness, within an affirming environment. We give girls space to develop a strong sense of themselves and their personal value, nurturing the confidence to make their own choices, free of any sense of a predetermined script. 

Our learning environment as a girls’ school, including both curricular and co-curricular opportunities and our VCE Coordinate Program with Trinity Grammar School, Kew, is specifically designed and dedicated to the development of confident, courageous, creative and resilient young women. Our challenge is to look outwards at what is happening in the world, and inwardly; to know our students, to understand their needs. To provide them with life and leadership skills and challenging experiences that prepare them for a rapidly changing world; opportunities to take risks, to know their values and live by them. 


Whether you choose to take a School Tour, attend an Open Morning or meet our Principal, Linda Douglas at a Principal’s Conversation, you will gain an insight into Ruyton and the opportunities available for your daughters. For more information, please contact Nadine Hibbert, Director of Admissions, on (03) 9819 2422 or email 

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