Newport grammar school set to launch consultation on plans for co-education

A historic Shropshire grammar school is set to launch a formal public consultation process next month over plans to become fully co-educational.

Headmaster Gary Hickey and Head of Sixth Form Charlotte Harman
Headmaster Gary Hickey and Head of Sixth Form Charlotte Harman

Haberdashers’ Adams school announced plans to staff, pupils, parents and alumni earlier this summer with the aim of the new Admissions Policy being in place for the Entrance Test in September 2023, with the first cohort of girls arriving in September 2024.

The school, established in Newport in 1656, already has a well established a co-ed Sixth Form but hopes to expand its opportunities for girls.

“We are very aware, as a 400-year-old grammar school, there’s a lot of tradition here,” said Headmaster Gary Hickey. “But tradition can always evolve and every tradition has to start somewhere.

“It was 30 years ago that we first saw girls come into the Sixth Form here so, in many ways, we are already a co-educational school. We are just planning that all the way through the year groups now. It’s the next piece of evolution, which is important. It’s about getting the right balance. Keeping tradition is important and integral to the life of the school, but it’s also about realising things do change in society.”

He added: “We need to reflect the society and the world we are in, in terms of things such as equality and diversity. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify a single-sex education. We have to take a tangible step in regard to preparing our young people for the world they will be living in.

“By continuing to provide the broad and varied curriculum we already do, but in a co-educational setting, all our children will learn to be more confident, resilient and compassionate young adults. We have many outstanding facilities for girls already in place for the Sixth Form and look forward to welcoming girls from September 2024."

Reaction so far to the plans has been positive from pupils and parents.

Mr Hickey added: “One of the questions raised was are we as a school disadvantaging boys with this move? If we look at this in terms of recent history then the answer has to be no. In 2004 the intake was 650, and we are now 1,075, which shows a near doubling of capacity in a 20-year period.

“Furthermore, if we reflect on the school development in recent years, with new teaching blocks, increase in the size of the Sixth Form, and a new House, all have added capacity. So the impact on the opportunity for boys has to be taken in both a historical and geographical context, as in terms of numbers our school is giving more boys a grammar school opportunity now than it ever has.

“Ultimately though, if we want, as a society, to strive for gender equality, create a diverse and respectful community, encourage more girls into STEM subjects, and foster respect and tolerance across all sexes and genders, then surely the question isn’t why shouldn’t we be co-ed, it’s why aren’t we?”

And Charlotte Harman, Head of Sixth Form, who will oversee the integration of girls, added: “Having girls in the Sixth Form has been a huge success and we are looking forward to the new opportunities and perspectives that having girls throughout the school will bring to the school community.”

The consultation will be opened on the school website on December 1.

The outcome will be publicised after the closing date on January 13, 2023.

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