Following the Reformation, Catholic families seeking to educate both sons and daughters in their faith faced many challenges. The penal laws proscribed the creation of Catholic schools in England and forbade parents to send children abroad for education. However, such was the determination to provide Catholic schooling that families were prepared to break the laws and meet the expense of fees and travel. The convents established schools for several reasons. For some orders it was part of their religious purpose to educate girls, others saw it as a means of educating future members, and all needed to secure their convents financially and be self-sufficient. Schooling provided varied significantly. This article, drawing mainly on manuscript sources from convents and some of the families with daughters attending convent schools, considers the scope of the provision of girls' education in the ‘exile’ period and offers some preliminary insights into the experience of pupils.