School extends mixed learning up to 11

STEVE DOWNES Greyfriars and St Trinian's-style single-sex education in Norfolk is moving closer to extinction after an independent school agreed to allow mixed learning up to the age of 11.

STEVE DOWNES

Greyfriars and St Trinian's-style single-sex education in Norfolk is moving closer to extinction after an independent school agreed to allow mixed learning up to the age of 11.

And the EDP understands that the county's oldest school, Norwich School, is discussing an historic move to let boys and girls learn together at all ages.

Hethersett Old Hall School will allow boys into its junior section for seven-to-11-year-olds for the first time from next September - extending the decision eight years ago to mix from four to seven.


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But headmistress Janet Mark insisted there were "absolutely no plans" to allow boys to join the girls from 11-18.

Governors at Norwich School, where Lord Nelson and Humphry Repton were among celebrated students during 450-plus years of learning exclusively for boys, could decide soon to go "co-educational" from seven to 16.

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The decision would follow the groundbreaking move 13 years ago to allow girls to join boys in the sixth form.

If the move to mix the sexes at all ages were taken, it would leave Norwich High School for Girls and Thorpe House School in Norwich as the only all-age single sex schools in Norfolk. And there would no school left exclusively for boys of any age.

Three years ago, parents at Hethersett rejected a proposal to allow boys in the junior school.

But in a letter to parents this week, the Very Rev Michael Yorke, Hethersett's chairman of governors, said it was an "exciting new opportunity".

He added: "I appreciate that this decision represents a significant change from the girls-only environment, but the governors are confident that the very

special ethos and nature of the school will be preserved and even strengthened by this move."

The move - which comes as the school celebrates its 70th anniversary - means there will be no more boarding in the junior school.

Headmistress Janet Mark, who announced that she would be retiring in July, 2008, said: "We've been very successful with our mixed pre-prep department and parents have asked if their boys can stay beyond age seven.

"The governors have decided the time is right to make the move."

She said boys would not be allowed in the senior school and added: "I think there's a lot to be said for girls being allowed to develop on their own through adolescence. It allows them to focus on the matter in hand."

Thirty years ago, when Norfolk had grammar schools, there were numerous options open to parents who wanted their children to avoid the distraction of the opposite sex.

The abandonment of the grammar school system closed the door to single-sex education in state schools, and now the option is being limited at independent schools.

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