Dr Challoner’s Grammar School has recently told parents it will be opening up its sixth form to girls from December, 2016. This letter presumably indicates that the ongoing consultation period announced in the recent press release is seen by the school as a formality. It was ever thus with alleged consultation periods, so no surprise there.
Clearly schools are in competition with each other to attract pupils and with them the accompanying funding that enables schools to operate effectively, particularly at a time when the education budget is squeaking in tune with all nationally funded activities. But the reasons for this initiative offered by DCGS would lead one to suspect that the benefit of adding the promised 23-ish girls to the 200-plus boys who will be entering Year 12 in 2016 would accrue mainly to the boys and the school’s budget. The school has already stated that the single sex education model is preferable for students aged 11 to 16 but says it feels that girls should be allowed access to the “excellent education” that the boys enjoy in the sixth form. Perhaps a little disingenuous? Only 23 of them? Might it not be rather the case that those few girls give DCGS the opportunity to save subject provision in areas where girls might boost numbers thereby making that provision viable? The argument that the plan prepares sixth form boys for life at university is not compelling either. The world in which I went to an all-boys school is long gone. The existing close co-operation with Dr Challoner’s High School is likely to prepare them more reliably than a couple of dozen female sixth formers. And whilst one can see that the so-called civilising presence of girls in an all-male school might be of advantage to the boys thereby civilised, one wonders whether the educational and pastoral needs of the girls rate highly in this initiative.
For some years now the schools have operated a broadly consensual and unified approach to admissions. One can only imagine that Dr Challoner’s High School might view this foray into poaching its potential sixth form as less than desirable. The end result could be harmful to the existing co-operation between our excellent secondary schools in this corner of Buckinghamshire.
I sincerely hope this does not presage detrimental boat-rocking amongst schools, the majority of whom see the hard earned status quo that has evolved over decades as worth preserving.