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News > 35 Years of Co-education > Co-Education Memories from Headmaster, Mr Morris

Co-Education Memories from Headmaster, Mr Morris

John Morris started teaching at Hymers College in 1980 and was Deputy Headmaster at the time the school became co-educational

I well remember a discussion I had with Bryan Bass (OH Staff 1983-90) regarding co-education soon after his arrival as Headmaster in 1983. He and I were asked to judge the Junior Drama Competition and we quickly decided on the winner; however, we thought it would be polite to make it appear that we had thought about it for longer, so we spent the next twenty minutes discussing the pro and cons of co-education at Hymers. Most of the staff at the time were much in favour, in spite of the fact that most of us had taught only boys up to then (apart from the few girls we had in the Sixth Form), but the Governors, particularly some of the Old Boys, took several years of persuasion. A few of the male teachers had concerns, too, wondering if you could call girls by their surnames, as, clearly, boys could not be addressed by their first names! And how would it affect the rugby results?

A lot of planning went into the introduction of girls, and I think we got most things right. The one bad mistake was to design changing rooms with communal showers! The girls refused to use them and the whole thing had to be re-designed. Mary Chorlton (OH Staff 1987-2006) always much enjoyed telling us that if we had had a women on the design team, such a basic error would not have been made! Girls’ uniform took up a lot of discussion time - it must have been ok, as it has outlasted all the people who decided on it! Should we introduce what were thought of then as “girls” subjects, such as needlework and domestic science? We did not have the space and facilities, but we did not want boys and girls doing different subjects anyway.

It was amazing how smoothly things went. In Year 9 there were only about 10 girls, so we put them all into one class; in Years 7 and 8 we had two co-ed and two all-boys classes in each year. This prevented there being a very small number of girls in any one class. Although, in my time as Headmaster, the numbers did not quite get to 50-50, we did very soon reach almost equality of boys and girls.
Finding the right teachers for the introduction of girls was crucial. Peter Bingham (OH Staff 1984-95) and Jennie Thomas (OH Staff 1985-96) oversaw a very smooth transition in the Junior School. In the Senior School, in Mary Chorlton (Senior Mistress) and Rebecca Glover (OH Staff 1989-94, Girls Games) we had the ideal people – sympathetic but tough, ready to fight their corner and great role models.

I don’t remember any real problems – perhaps I have rose-tinted spectacles! Everything was good. It did take a bit of work to rid some boys of their sexist views, but gradually, I think, these mostly withered away; we all got used to using first names for boys and girls; the girls did not seem to be oppressed by initially being outnumbered; girls’ sport quickly took off, and, surprisingly, the boys rugby, with fewer boys in the school, got even better. Nearly all of us believed the move to co-education was the best thing that had happened to the College for a long time, and even the Old Boys who had opposed the idea were later pleased to see their daughters and grand-daughters becoming pupils. The results were all positive – attitudes became less macho, a more natural environment, a more relaxed and, I think, friendly atmosphere, fewer disciplinary problems, improved academic results. Perhaps, some of these would have happened anyway, but I think being a co-educational school helped to foster them.

John Morris, Headmaster 1990-2006

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