Horsham girls' school governors oppose proposals to admit boys

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Governors of a Horsham girls’ school facing proposals to admit boys are putting forward strong opposition to the change.

West Sussex County Council is currently seeking public views on proposals to switch Millais School from all-girls to co-educational.

But now the Governors of the school are appealing to parents to back them in opposing the change.

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In a document to parents, the governors say: “This proposal does not have the support of the Millais School Governing Body.”

Governors of all-girls Millais School in Horsham are opposed to proposals to admit boysGovernors of all-girls Millais School in Horsham are opposed to proposals to admit boys
Governors of all-girls Millais School in Horsham are opposed to proposals to admit boys

They go on: “We believe passionately that there is crucial space in Horsham for both coeducational and single-sex options to co-exist, so choice is maintained, and excellence can thrive.

"Supporting single-sex education does not negate the value of co-education, it is about respect for the educational approaches and recognition that different students thrive in different environments.”

They add: “We have a unique heritage as Millais has been a girls’ school for 80 years in the town. Our ethos, beliefs in the value of educating girls in a single-sex environment have sustained high outcomes over the many, many years. Consistently we have contributed significantly to creating the educational excellence which is celebrated and cherished not only by students, parents and staff but also is recognised by West Sussex County Council ‘as providing a high-quality education offer’ which has emerged from to its unique ethos, and culture.”

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Their fundamental objection to changing to co-ed, they say, is that it “removes the important choice of a girls-only education from families in the Horsham area and beyond. This loss of opportunity is significant and will be to the detriment not only of the current students but also future generations of girls and women.”

Millais, say the governors, “has always sought to challenge rather than reflect and reinforce the gender inequalities which still remain within our society. And our singular focus on creating opportunities for girls to excel within and beyond the classroom is a philosophy which supports the experience of many women who have risen to top of their professions in sport, business and academia.

“Many of our students excel at huge range of sports because they are encouraged to pursue their interests and supported to achieve. And they do without the very real pressure that so many girls experience when boys are watching or are present.”

In single-sex schools subjects are gender-free which, say the governors, removes the barrier that STEM is not for them. “Girls select, study and achieve success in all those areas traditionally the preserve of the boys and go on to successful careers in the tech industry.

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“Our experience at Millais supports this view with many of our former students excelling in careers related to science, technology engineering and maths.

“We believe that girls should have the opportunity to be educated separately, not because they need protection but because they deserve a level playing field.”

The governors also say that they do not accept that the proposal to change Millais is ‘the pressure for additional secondary places especially for boys’ because there is a decline in global, national and local birth rates which is likely move swiftly through to the secondaries “who will gain some capacity.” Millais’ capacity, they say, has allowed it to develop an innovative scheme called Blossom for girls with autism.