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Expansion of Co-Ed School Zones Reflect Shift Away from Single-Sex Education

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There is growing interest in co-education, and no family should have to face leaving their local area to access a co-educational high school.

All families in Sydney can enrol their children in co-ed public high schools from 2025, amid a broader shift away from single-sex education in Australia.

Intake areas were expanded for 20 co-ed high schools in New South Wales (NSW) so more families will have access.

Education Minister Prue Car said the adjustment responds to a surging demand for non-traditional schooling.

Over 120 schools and 300 families of students were consulted.

Member for Summer Hill Jo Haylen said Inner West families pushed for the adjustment for years.

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She added families in Summer Hill now have two co-ed high school options: Dulwich High School of Visual Arts and Design, and Marrickville High School.

“Life is co-ed, and parents and students should have access to a co-ed school option.”

Sydney Schools Expand into ‘High Demand’ Co-Ed K-12

It’s part of a trend where top Sydney schools are offering parents more access to co-ed education.

St. Mary’s Cathedral College recently announced it will accept enrollments for both boys and girls from Kindergarten to Year 12 in 2025.

St. Mary’s initially educated girls until 1967 before it became an all-boys school.

Sydney Catholic Schools Executive Director Tony Farley mentioned the move meets an exceptionally high demand for co-ed Catholic schools throughout the Archdiocese.

“Parents are looking for schools that get great academic results while providing excellent opportunities in music, sport, the performing and visual arts,” he said.

“The extraordinary levels of early interest clearly indicate that this school is set to be in high demand, becoming a coveted choice for Sydney families.”

It follows Newington College in Sydney’s inner west announcing in November its plan to switch to co-ed for its kindergarten-to-year 12 program by 2026.

The school, with fees reaching $42,200 per year, has exclusively educated boys since its establishment in 1863.

Protests Against Co-Ed

However, about 25 parents and alumni protested outside the prestigious 160-year-old private school against its decision to admit girls for the first time, a decision made to promote diversity and prepare students for life.

An anonymous parent at the protest expressed concerns that the change would result in poorer academic results.

“You’d be mad to send a girl to a boys’ school that’s going to have 200 boys and 100 girls,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s going to benefit the boys either.”

Many people said it would harm the school’s culture.

“Old Newingtonian” Tony Retsos, who intended to pay for his first-born grandson to attend, said some parents had enrolled their children based on its exclusive boys-only status.

Fellow alumni Robert Orr added the decision would reduce the options for Sydney parents seeking boys-only schools.

“I suspect it’s for virtue-signalling, woke-type principles, which I’m dead against,” he said.

Traditional Views Fuel Co-Ed vs. Single-Sex Schooling Debates

Traditional perspectives on social norms between boys and girls drive contentious debates over co-ed versus single-sex schooling, University of Sydney authors argue.

“It’s about access to specific resources and experiences,” Professor Helen Proctor said.

She explained that elite boys’ schools have gathered resources over time tailored to what they think boys are interested in and what they believe is best for them, including sports facilities, curriculum, behaviour management, and “old boys” alumni networks.

“Many of these schools have spent decades marketing themselves as uniquely qualified to educate boys (or a certain type of boy). So it’s not surprising if some in these school communities are resisting change,” she said.

Further, Dr. Kellie Burns expressed concern about Newington protesters who think the move towards “inclusivity and gender diversity” will make boys “second-class citizens.”

“This echoes a refrain common in anti-feminist and anti-trans backlash movements, which position men and boys as vulnerable in a world of changing gender norms. This overlooks the ways they, too, can benefit from the embrace of greater diversity at school,” she said.

The authors attempted to quash findings from a recent NAPLAN study commissioned by Catholic Schools NSW, which showed that single-sex schools outperformed co-ed schools.

The advantage was “generally greater for boys schools than girls schools”, the study said.

“Schools are complex and diverse settings. There are too many variables (such as resourcing, organisational structures and teaching styles) to make definitive claims about any one factor. Many debates about single-sex vs co-ed schooling also neglect social class as a key factor in academic achievement.”

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