‘Heartbroken’ parents react to Ipswich High School losing all-girls status and admitting boys

The newly-named Ipswich High School, in Woolverstone. Picture: FILM FIXER

The newly-named Ipswich High School, in Woolverstone. Picture: FILM FIXER - Credit: Film Fixer

Parents have reacted with mixed views to the news that Ipswich High School for Girls is to become co-educational, with some saying they are “utterly heartbroken”.

Oona Carlin, head of Ipswich High School. Picture: IPSWICH HIGH SCHOOL

Oona Carlin, head of Ipswich High School. Picture: IPSWICH HIGH SCHOOL - Credit: Archant

The 139-year-old independent school in Woolverstone, now named Ipswich High School, announced on Monday evening that boys will be admitted to the junior school and sixth form from September 2018.

Under the new ownership, which could open the school to boarders, single-sex classes will also be held in ‘key’ subjects from Year 5-11.

• The news means Suffolk will lose its only all-girls mainstream school.

While parents praised the school’s “outstanding” leadership and teaching, with some welcoming the move to accept boys, others criticised the timing of the announcement and a perceived lack of consultation.

The Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) is expected to transfer ownership in November to Ipswich Education Ltd, led by London & Oxford Group.

Julia Barrett, of Ipswich, a parent of a Year 9 pupil, said: “We are utterly heartbroken. The ethos of the school and GDST was paramount to our choice.

“My teenage daughter loves that she is free to climb trees, go off with her friends and make secret dens in the woods, roll down the slopes in the grounds without worrying if her legs flash because there might be boys watching; to play sports freely and energetically without worrying if some boy thinks her thighs look chunky in her skirt; and having decent, heated, in-depth conversations about the wider matters of the world without either girls getting silly or boys taking over.

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“She has absolutely thrived since moving to a girls-only school and we are devastated at the thought of this being cut short.”

Richard Jackson, 40, of Ipswich, a father of a junior student, said: “It may be unsustainable to run a single sex school (but) the manner in which it was released to parents was appalling. There was no consultation or transparency.”

His wife, April, added: “I am completely devastated. Single-sex education is a great benefit to both self-esteem and grades for girls. It will be a massive loss.”

Former pupil Rose Walker said: “I’m completely dismayed. The school’s history and worth is tied to its status as the stand out single sex school in the region and this makes a total mockery of that.”

But former student Victoria Cox, 46, of Grundisburgh, said: “I think it’s good that the school is becoming co-ed because it’s important for boys and girls to be able to work together, share ideas and form friendships as they would in the outside world. It’s a healthier environment for girls to grow up in these days.”

Fees per-term range from £2,852 to £4,658 for 2017/18. They are not expected to change this academic year.

A school letter sent to parents highlighted “increasingly challenging market dynamics in the area”. It said the decision was made after a “long and rigorous process and in the long-term best interests of the school and students”.

Oona Carlin, head of Ipswich High School, said: “I do of course understand that the news of the plans for Ipswich High School will have come as a surprise to parents, and that this will naturally generate a lot of questions within families.

“As head of the School, I would like to reiterate that it is my absolute priority to ensure continuity of the educational and pastoral support for the pupils here at the school.

“I am very proud to have an exceptionally dedicated teaching body and a wonderful caring ethos at IHS; nothing about these values or our level of academic achievement will be changing.

“I would like to reassure all parents and pupils – as well as the wider community interested in our intentions – that all change will be happening sensitively and slowly; it will be fully sympathetic to the fact that our core objective is the provision of a superb education in an exceptional learning environment.

“My door remains open to those with queries.”

London & Oxford Group was founded by Swiss corporation bankers and backed by China Wanda Group, whose assets total around £6billion. It has invested in the London School of Business and Commerce and bought Bedstone College in Shropshire earlier this year.

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