Co-education

Girls have been educated at Eltham College since the first cohort joined in the early 1970s to study A Level Economics, a subject that was then not offered at their own schools. Over the years, the number of girls has grown in the Sixth Form, with each year group contributing widely to the life of the College. From County and Regional Netball Champions, to Head Prefects, and also articulate and brilliant academic students, Eltham’s Sixth Form girls have flourished, and, in turn, boys have benefitted from their presence in the classroom, on stage or in the concert hall.

Education, and the society for which we prepare students, have both changed beyond recognition over the past 45 years since girls first joined Eltham College. With that in mind the Governors have agreed that from September 2020 Eltham College will move to become fully co-educational. Girls and boys will benefit together from all that Eltham College has to offer as we prepare them for the changing and challenging world in which we live.

In today’s society it is imperative that we prepare students for the co-educational world and opportunities that they will face. The best way of doing that is to extend almost 50 years of co-educational experience for the benefit of students throughout the school.

Our aspiration is that everything that parents and students currently enjoy about Eltham College – the outstanding academic teaching, balanced with unrivalled pastoral care, the focus on individuals and superb Music, Drama, Sport and co-curricular opportunities – will continue.

Girls will be able to apply for entry into Year 3 and 7 in 2020, with a view that the school will be entirely co-educational by 2024.

With a change to the College’s structure undoubtedly there will be questions raised and we have attempted to answer many of these in our FAQs below.

Why is the school doing this?
The overwhelmingly positive experience of our Sixth Formers suggests that welcoming girls into the school at other age-groups will improve the educational experience for both boys and girls. Our Sixth Form has also shown us the valuable social experience which co-education provides, with girls and boys collaborating in natural and constructive ways.
Research also shows that boys and girls benefit pastorally in a co-educational environment – the presence of boys can reduce the formation of cliques and isolation that may be apparent in all girls’ schools, while the presence of girls has been shown to make boys more considerate and tolerant.
Moreover, since I have been at Eltham College, many families have expressed regret that their daughters could not experience the academic, co-curricular and pastoral excellence which Eltham offers before Sixth Form, or conversely that a single sex school might not fully prepare their sons for the wider co-educational world.
When will the school admit girls?
The Sixth Form will continue to accept applications from boys and girls. Girls wishing to apply for entry to Year 3 or Year 7 may do so for September 2020 onwards.
Will girls be able to join the school at any other time?
Occasionally ‘ad hoc’ places become available in other year-groups. Girls will not be admitted to these year-groups until that year-group is already co-educational. On this basis, girls will be welcome to apply for Year 9 places for 2022.
Does this mean there will be fewer boys’ places or that the school will grow larger?
The Headmaster and Governors remain committed to ensuring that the school remains small enough that every student is known and cared for as an individual. The Junior School will not grow further; we will continue to retain either two or three forms of between 18-20 students in Year 3, and no more than three forms of between 20 and 22 students in each of Years 4 to 6.
In the Senior School, one extra form group will be added in Year 7 to create five form groups of circa 22 students each. This will take the year group from just under 100 to around 110 students. This marginal growth will ensure that, at around 110 students per year, the emphasis that we have always placed on individual support where every student is known will continue. Once the Year 7 intake is established at five forms, additional form groups will not be created in Year 9 and, if the year-group is full, there will be no entry into Year 9 once the school is fully co-educational.
Therefore, over time, there will be a corresponding reduction in the number of external Sixth Form places available, in order to keep the school relatively small. The Sixth Form primarily exists for students who have been part of Eltham College all the way through. Sixth Form tutor groups will continue to have the same number of students (i.e. around 12-14 students) in each tutor group.
Will this lead to a change in the admissions policy for Junior School students to the Senior School?
There will be no change in the admissions policy for Junior School students. As at present, students who make sufficient progress in the Junior School will continue to be admitted to the Senior School without the need to sit an entrance exam for the Senior School. This will rightly mean that, during the transition, existing boys in the Junior School will take priority over external candidates, despite the overall reduction in boys’ places available from 2020.
Will this lead to a change in the admissions policy for students wishing to join the Sixth Form?
There will be no change in admissions procedures to the Sixth Form. The expectation remains that students will move smoothly into the Sixth Form if they achieve the necessary grades at GCSE.
For external candidates wishing to enter the Sixth Form, the process for applying will also remain the same. However, from 2025, we anticipate a significant reduction in the number of places available to external candidates in order to keep the size of the Sixth Form at an appropriate level. Priority for Sixth Form places will continue to be given to our own, by then, co-educational Year 11 student body.
Will there be a change in sibling policy?
Yes. The Headmaster and Governors believe that Eltham College should continue to serve the local community as this brings benefits to students through stronger friendships and support networks. As it will now become more competitive to gain a place at Eltham College or at Eltham College Junior School, where two students achieve a similar score in an entrance exam, priority will now be given to the student who already has a sibling in either the Junior or Senior School.
Is the school becoming co-educational to boost results or to deal with falling numbers?
On the contrary! Eltham College saw record GCSE results last year, well ahead of local co-educational and single sex competitor schools. Similarly, applications for places at every entry point are at their highest ever level.
Is the school changing to pay for the Turberville building?
No, the Turberville building project is fully funded. We are halfway through the build and are confident that the project will be delivered on budget.
Will there be fewer boys’ places?
Yes, over time there will be fewer boys’ places in the Junior School. However, by increasing the year group size slightly in the Senior School, we expect to off-set some of the loss of boys’ places here.
Won’t growing like this negatively impact the school’s pastoral care by making it easier for students to fall through the cracks?
The Junior School and Sixth Form will not grow; the rest of the Senior School will grow by approximately 10% over the next three years. Numbers will not change exponentially and the new model will be carefully phased in. The school will therefore remain smaller than most of its competitors in Croydon and Dulwich and will still be a relatively small independent school for London.
Eltham College will maintain its commitment to pastoral care for every single student, for example by keeping small form groups and adding a new form in each of Years 7-11 as co-education flows through rather than growing the size of current forms. We will also retain and grow the invaluable house system giving excellent vertical integration and support.
The new Foxbury Wellbeing Centre will be completed in 2019 providing a focal point for pastoral care, with two nurses, counsellors, the chaplaincy, and the SEND team complementing the support from our excellent team of form tutors and teachers.
Surely Eltham’s excellence in sport will suffer by going co-educational?
Co-educational schools like Reed’s, St John’s Leatherhead and Wellington College have long shown that it is possible to continue to compete at the highest sporting levels as well as providing sporting opportunities for all students. Eltham College and Eltham College Junior School already benefit from almost 70 acres of shared grounds, an existing dance studio, sports centre, additional sports pavilions, swimming pool, weights room, tennis courts, netball courts and hockey astro. Applications have already been submitted to Bromley Council to build a second hockey astro, an artificial rugby pitch and to develop the hockey, cricket and rugby facilities at College Meadow and the London Marathon Ground. In other words, our facilities will support both the highest level of sporting excellence and the widest level of participation. Our unique partnership with the Elthamians Rugby, Cricket and Hockey clubs will mean that we remain committed to offering access to a higher level of coaching than at other London day schools. The recent improvement in netball coaching has already meant that Sixth Form girls are South-East Regional champions, defeating both single sex and co-educational schools like Bromley High, Sevenoaks and Benenden. Outstanding coaching will therefore continue to be integral to the way we develop sport for both boys and girls.
Won’t co-education introduce a raft of new pastoral issues earlier in the school?
Research suggests that both girls and boys benefit from a co-educational environment. The existing Wellbeing Team of nurses, counsellors and the Chaplain already have experience of co-educational issues, both from previous roles and from working with the students in our Sixth Form. Ann Massey, the Pastoral Deputy Head in the Senior School has extensive experience of working in a girls’ school and Vikki Meier, the Pastoral Deputy in the Junior School, has worked previously in co-educational schools – as have all members of the Senior Management Team across both schools.
Will the House system or the Christian heritage and values of the school change?
Not at all; we will retain the four houses of Chalmers, Moffat, Livingstone and Carey along with all the benefits that the house system brings through community, competition and peer support. The Headmaster and governors remain committed to honouring and retaining the values of the Christian heritage of the school.
How will the change affect the school’s academic provision? Will it mean bigger classes? How will teachers cope with the change? Won’t girls be distracting to boys?
Eltham College’s commitment to academic excellence will remain the same. The vast majority of our professional and highly competent staff have experience of teaching co-educationally and many have joined recently from other leading co-educational schools such as Alleyn’s, Sevenoaks and Highgate. Of the staff who have joined in the last five years, nearly 90% have taught previously within a full or partially co-educational model. Alongside this wealth of co-educational experience in the Common Room, dedicated senior members of staff in both schools will oversee the integration process.
Girls and boys have learnt successfully alongside each other in the Sixth Form at Eltham College for over 45 years; extending that opportunity and provision will extend that success. The presence of girls will also bring additional benefits, for example to both Music and Drama productions across both schools.
Boys and girls do not distract each other in lessons any more than girls distract girls or boys distract boys. If anything, co-education will improve the learning environment for both genders, providing a range of views, promoting mutual understanding and encouraging beneficial challenge.
Students now live in a digital age whichever school they attend, and, as such, pastoral issues around matters such as inappropriate communication are a focus in any school. Students at Eltham College are already taught about how to be responsible in this area and will continue to be educated and supported within a wider pastoral framework.
Will there be adequate other facilities to accommodate this change?
In addition to the sporting facilities, both schools already have access to an Art Gallery and a full sized Theatre facility. The new Turberville Building opening in January 2019 will provide new Music classrooms, new Mathematics and Language classrooms, a Sixth Form Centre, seminar room and Careers Department integrated with the Development Office. The dining hall is also being reconfigured this summer to enable speedier queuing and an even better break and lunch-time experience.
The new Foxbury Medical and Wellbeing Centre will be the focus for the medical and pastoral care teams, boasting two school nurses, specialist counsellors, a chaplain and SEND staff, all of whom have experience in pastoral care for boys and girls. Additionally, improved changing facilities and new toilet facilities will be introduced from 2019 for both boys and girls.