From the Revd Richard Martin SIR – May I, as the former chaplain and head of religious studies at Magdalen College School, Oxford from 1992 to 2002, send my heartiest congratulations and thanks to Nick Thomas for his trenchant column (March 20) about the ill thought out proposal to admit girls to the sixth form?
We are told there is a “consultation period” but also that it is a done deal. The arrogance of this is matched by the cavalier attitude shown to the two excellent independent academic girls’ schools in Oxford with whom the school has enjoyed excellent relations and co-operation until now, as well as the large independent co-educational school. The effect of this proposal will be to remove the possible choice of a boys’ school, so parents who want one will have to go to Abingdon or the Oratory at Woodcote.
Of course, it is presented as a plan merely to expand the sixth form, but in nearly every case of a school that has done this, the pressure to admit younger girls becomes overwhelming in a few years, so the boys are deprived of the security of a male environment which so many of them desperately need for their formative years in these days of family breakdown. On a very restricted site, it will also mean fewer places for boys in the long run. And they are already heavily over-subscribed.
An indication of the changes the boys (who are strongly opposed to this proposal) face was provided by someone at the recent old boys’ dinner, who stridently proclaimed: “Oh, we’ll have to do something about that sixth form common room. Too smelly and full of testosterone.” The ladies’ powder room beckons.
Incidentally, following last year’s innovation of the admission of “partners” numbers were well down at the dinner this year, many having also stayed away in protest at this proposal. It was all very sad.
Yours faithfully, RICHARD MARTIN By email