RESEARCH in Colchester has discovered girls do significantly better in lessons when there are no boys in the classroom.

Essex University academics split 800 economics and business studies undergraduates into boys, girls and mixed-sex groups and tested them on introductory courses in economics.

Dr Patrick Nolen and Professor Alison Booth discovered while there was no effect on the scores of the mixed and boys’ groups, the girls’ groups saw a 7.5 per cent boost in their average marks.

One reason appeared to be that girls were eight per cent more likely to turn up for compulsory classes if they were placed in single-sex groups.

However, the experiment showed separating boys and girls had no significant effect on their coursework marks.

One undergraduate, Emilia Matei, 20, said the class she took was the best she had during the year.

“I don’t know whether it was because it was a single-sex class or whether it was the teaching,” she said.

“In the all-girls’ class, you didn’t have to have that much courage to go to the blackboard and answer the question.”

Fellow student Corina Musat, also 20, added: “I think the atmosphere was more friendly and we bonded because we were all girls.”

The research was designed to build upon the findings of earlier experiments with school-age pupils, which showed girls were more willing to take risks and to be competitive when placed in single-sex groups.

Dr Nolen, of the university’s department of economics, said women and girls who were afraid to take risks might be less likely to compete for promotions at work in the future.

He said: “I would like to see policy makers think about this.

“We should be investigating it and intervening pre-market in the environment in which students learn.”

The university students were asked if they were willing to take part in an experiment, but were not given details of the research.