It will be all change at a girls’ school next year when boys will be admitted into the senior section for the first time in almost 100 years.
The governing body of Ockbrook School has decided on the move after research showed that more parents generally wanted a mixed-sex education for their children.
From September 2013, boys will be admitted into year seven for the first time since 1915 and the independent school will build up the numbers of male pupils over seven years.
Head teacher Alison Steele said: “Last October we opened our Grangemount nursery and junior school, which has plenty of boys attending. Their parents are anxious for them to continue at Ockbrook and until now they would have been forced to take their boys elsewhere at the age of 11.
“Boys and girls mix naturally in our junior school and we think the gradual move to co-education will enable us to build a strong family feeling in our senior school.”
Mrs Steele said the new arrangement would not mean drastic changes at the school in order to accommodate boys.
She said: “We already have separate toilets and changing rooms that can easily become designated for boys and girls and plenty of sports facilities.
“There are plans for more classrooms on the site already, which will easily take up the extra pupil numbers this will generate.”
Mrs Steele estimates that allowing boys into the senior school will result in pupil numbers increasing from 400 currently to about 550 over the next seven years.
She said: “This will mean we still remain relatively small and that everyone will still know each other, which we feel is important, as well as keeping class sizes small.
“Hopefully, this change will bring benefits for everyone.”
Senior pupils will be taught in mixed classes, although existing girls at the school will continue to be taught in single-sex groups.
It is possible that more staff will be taken on as numbers increase, according to Mrs Steele.
The change has required the permission of the Moravian Church, which is a trustee of the school.
The Rev Robert Hopcroft, chairman of the school’s governing body, said: “Over the coming months we will invest in appropriate resources to ensure all our pupils benefit.
“We feel that more and more parents are seeking a balanced educational experience for their children.”