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Why an all-girls’ prep school is ‘girl heaven’


Sarah Wicks, Headmistress of Knighton House School

Girls in the modern world

In recent years, the world has changed and so have expectations for girls. Girls grow into women who are expected to balance many different roles later in life. I believe that we can give girls the best start by educating them in the right way as they grow up, giving them a secure, free environment in which to develop and learn at their own pace, with the right level of challenge and support. 

In a single-sex prep school such as Knighton House, our job is to celebrate how girls do things, ensure they are valued, and affirm them as individuals regardless of all the other elements around them. We work hard to achieve the right balance of healthy active outdoor lifestyle and strong academic results to develop charming, brave and passionate pupils within a warm and supportive community. 

The learning environment – where happiness creates success

The vision that has sustained us for the last 65 years has been around providing a ‘home away from home’, where girls can flourish in an atmosphere of security, encouragement, space and freedom. An all-girls’ environment allows us to do this without the pressure, social distraction and anxiety that a mixed environment can create. The girls can grow at their own pace, free from stereotypical notions. It is often said that a single-sex education allows pupils to be themselves until later in life. A girls’ school is often smaller than its co-ed counterpart and this in itself enables more tailored education.

Girls in all-girls’ schools are free to pursue academic excellence in any area they choose, including in the 'gender atypical' areas of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Statistics show that girls from all-girls' schools are more likely to study STEM at school and pursue university studies and careers in STEM fields.

From a teaching perspective, an all-girls’ environment allows a real understanding of how girls learn. Research has shown that girls can be more passive and accommodating when learning in a mixed environment. Boys often need a more active approach, whereas girls need more reassurance. In a single-sex school the teaching staff don’t need to compromise on their approach but can give real focus to nurturing talent in the right way and give the girls the confidence in all subjects, free of any gender stereotypes. 

Warm and supportive community

The pastoral perspective of any prep school is very important.  We pride ourselves on having great experience of understanding girl-related pastoral issues and creating a warm and supportive ‘family’ around the pupils. Over 25 years' experience of working in an all-girls' boarding environment has shown me that between the ages of 11 and 13 girls are particularly vulnerable to friendship issues, as they learn to deal with new emotions and sensitivities. Girls at this age can vary enormously in both physical and emotional maturity, and guiding pupils through this sometimes difficult transition is a key part of the tutor's or matron's role. Through gentle and sympathetic understanding, girls learn how to resolve conflict in a calm and reflective manner. A crucial part of a boarding school education is learning how to live comfortably with other people.

Confident girls

In a single-sex environment there are no expectations that pupils should fulfil traditional gender stereotypes in the subjects they study, the activities they participate in or the careers they pursue. For example at a girls' school, a girl occupies every role: every part in the play, every seat on the student council, every position on every team. Pupils are surrounded by positive female role models, on the staff, in the parent body, including our first female Chair of Governors, and among the alumni. At our recent 65th anniversary celebrations, it was a great thrill to talk to former pupils – dynamic young women, successfully pursuing a broad spectrum of careers in medicine, law, technology, land management and theatre production, among many others.

That is not to say that our leavers are not prepared for life beyond an all-girls' prep school. More than half of our leavers go on to large co-ed senior schools and have no issue coping with the transition. Instead they have the confidence to continue to be themselves, not to be distracted from their goals or persuaded from their passions; a confidence which has been nurtured in a loving and supportive environment.

Success comes from giving them leadership, building confidence, independence, integrity and an instinct to achieve. We want our girls to embrace the world of the twenty-first century but with character strengthened by traditional values. We prepare them for the challenges but try to keep them protected from the pressures of it for as long as possible. We allow them to enjoy being girls while they can, while developing in them the qualities and ambitions to become successful young women.


Sarah Wicks became Headmistress of Knighton House in 2014. She came to Knighton House 20 years ago and served as Deputy Head from 2005. She previously taught at the Royal Masonic School in Hertfordshire.
Preparatory schools
School Address Phone Type PR Weblink
Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JA01963 440314Bo, D, M, 2½-13
Orwell Park SchoolNacton, Ipswich, Suffolk. IP10 0ER01473 659225Bo, D, M, 3-13 
Swanbourne, Milton Keynes, Bucks. MK17 0HZ01296 720264Bo, D, M, 3-13
King's Hall SchoolKingston Road, Taunton, Somerset. TA2 8AA01823 285921Bo, D, M, 2-13 
Old Buckenham Hall SchoolBrettenham, Ipswich, Suffolk. IP7 7PH01449 740252Bo, D, M, 3-13 
Dean Close Preparatory SchoolLansdown Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. GL51 6QS01242 258001Bo, D, M, 2-13 
Chafyn Grove SchoolBourne Avenue, Salisbury, Wiltshire. SP1 1LR01722 333423Bo(7-13), D, M, 3-13 
Wokingham, Berkshire RG40 3AB0118 978 9881Bo, B, 8-13
The Park School Yeovil Somerset BA20 1DH01935 423514Bo(8-18), D, M, 3-18 
Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 9QA01747 857 800Bo(7-13), M, 3-13
Abberley Hall SchoolWorcester. WR6 6DD01299 896275Bo(7-13), D, M, 2-13 
Highfield & Brookham SchoolsHighfield Lane, Liphook, Hampshire GU30 7LQ01428 728000Bo(8-13), D, M, 3-13 
Aysgarth SchoolNewton-le-Willows, Bedale, DL8 1TF 01677 450240Bo(8-13), D, B, G(3-8), 3-13 
Walhampton School, Lymington, Hampshire, SO41 5ZG01590 613 303Bo(7-13), D(2-13), M(2-13), 2-13
Cottesmore SchoolBuchan Hill, Pease Pottage, RH11 9AU01293 520648Bo(7-13), M, 4-13 
Durweston, Blandford Forum, Dorset DT11 0PY01258 452065Bo(7-13), D(3-13), B(3-7), G(3-13), M(3-7), 3-13
Forres Sandle ManorSandleheath. Fordingbridge. SP6 1NS01425 653181Bo(7-13), D(2-13), M(2-13), 2-13 
Snows Ride, Windlesham, Surrey GU20 6PF01276 472115Bo, D, B, 7-13
Moor ParkRichards Castle, Ludlow, SY8 4DZ01584 872342Bo(7-13), D(0-13), M(0-13), 0-13 
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