Can confidence be taught? How an all-girls education can empower girls and prepare them for their futures

Students laughing with their friends at Wakefield Girls' High School in Yorkshire.

Empowerment is the foundation for success at Wakefield Girls' High School in Yorkshire. - Credit: Nick Harrison

21st century feminism is a concept that has galvanised an authority and respect for the modern woman. But, what does it actually mean to be a young, empowered female growing up in today’s society? 

Heidi-Jayne Boyes, head of Wakefield Girls’ High School in Yorkshire, speaks to us about how an all-girls education can equip girls with the skills to self-advocate in the future workplace. 

Q: Why is it important to encourage confidence levels amongst girls so early on?   

The national average of confidence drops by 30 per cent for girls between the ages of eight and 14. Hormonal changes and puberty can impact a child’s perception of themselves, and this can consequently trigger comparisons to others. 

Mixed gender schooling can present issues of gendered stereotypes, where boys can dominate and girls can feel anxious and overwhelmed. This type of anxiety can induce feelings of self-doubt which can ultimately undermine a child’s ability within school which will affect the way they carry themselves in the future. 

While the advocacy of women is improving, young girls are still inflicting high pressure and expectations on themselves, especially with the rising influence of social media. Confidence facilitates progress and achievement for students within both their academic and personal lives, so it is vital to encourage our girls to promote themselves without fear or anxiety. 

Equipping girls to be their best selves and to passionately advocate their abilities is a highly valuable and transferable skill which they can utilise in the future workplace.

Wakefield Girls' High School in Yorkshire encourages a community ethos where girls can empower and support each other.

Wakefield Girls' High offers various opportunities within its curriculum designed to improve the confidence of its students. - Credit: Nick Harrison

Q: What do you think it means to be confident for girls? 

It’s earned from our own experiences - and opportunities are key to helping girls develop confidence. Everyone finds confidence in different areas and can articulate that inner confidence in diverse ways, whether that be through music, sport, STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) or creative learning. Here at Wakefield Girls’ High, we focus on each individual, providing them with the tools and a huge variety of diverse opportunities to nurture their own personal development. 

Ultimately, there are no set criteria for what confidence is. For one student, it may be speaking in front of an assembly, but for another, it may be putting their hand up in class. Empowerment isn’t defined by the standard of others, it’s about self-assurance and self-belief within the individual person. 

Confidence is not something a girl can achieve in one singular moment – it's an appreciation for their own personal journey: the opportunities they’ve grasped, mistakes they’ve made, and ultimately using their self-doubt to push them into achieving their goals.

Girls socialising and communicating with each other at Wakefield Girls' High School in Yorkshire.

Wakefield Girls' High encourages honest and open conversations about success and failure amongst its pupils to prepare them for the future. - Credit: Nick Harrison

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Q: How do Wakefield Girls’ High School support and encourage this empowerment? 

The future truly is whatever students choose to make it. The school works with each student to develop their skills, qualifications and to grow their confidence. Our new house system is facilitating an agenda called ‘10 per cent braver’, which encourages each girl to gradually push herself a little out of her comfort zone over time. This focuses on improving the individual, rather than comparing themselves to the confidence and achievements of others. 

We encourage our students to face difficult challenges, exposing themselves to something that may be uncomfortable or unfamiliar to them. Team building exercises, peer mentoring, sports team representation, leadership roles and providing school tours to prospective parents are just a handful of the opportunities our school offers to help develop students’ confidence in a way that’s right for them. 

Wakefield Girls’ High School has a community ethos, placing its students in a safe, all-girls, collaborative environment where they can build inner confidence and pursue their goals without judgement or fear of a mixed gender environment. 

Visit wgsf.org.uk/wghs-senior for Wakefield Girls’ High School, or wgsf.org.uk/wghs-junior for Wakefield Girls’ Junior section for more information on how we support our students. 

The school can be reached on 01924 372490.