Tuesday, 18 February 2020

30 girls to join former boys only school

AT least 30 girls will start at the Oratory School in Woodcote when it becomes co-educational in September.

About 20 of the newcomers will join the lower sixth form, making up about half of the year group. The remainder will either join year 7 or year 9, some on scholarships.

They will all be based at Wootten House, a new girls’ boarding house named after the school’s first pastoral matron Frances Wootten.

She was personally appointed by the school’s founder St John Henry Newman, who was canonised by the Pope last year.

About half of the girls have a connection to the school, either through a brother or having attended the co-educational Oratory Preparatory School in Goring Heath. Some also took part in school drama productions when a girl’s role was required.

The independent school says the proportion of girls should increase annually.

It currently has about 300 pupils and this could grow to 500 over the coming years but the school may restrict the number if it feels the close-knit atmosphere is being lost.

The Catholic boys’ school announced it would be going co-educational a year ago.

Headmaster Joe Smith, who was previously head of the prep school, said the move reflected a national trend and most parents were in favour.

Dr Vicky Fogg, who is overseeing the transition, said: “We’ve had a fantastic response from girls since we made the announcement and have had lots of visits to look around or attend taster days.

“We’re still enrolling because girls have historically signed up for school a little bit later than boys and had more input into where they go.

“Obviously none of the first intake will be leaving in 2021 so the number of girls could potentially double next year.

“We’ll ensure they form a tight unit at their house and the junior girls will be tutored together while the older ones will be tutored alongside their male peers.

“We’ll organise low-key social events like table tennis tournaments to connect them to their wider year group. There will also be lots of opportunities in sports like cricket, which is very up-and-coming for girls.

“Everyone’s very positive and excited about it. This is such a beautiful location and we’re pleased to be able to welcome all pupils who want to attend — it’s the final step we need towards becoming a modern, forward-thinking school.”

Meanwhile, the school is offering free taster sessions in real tennis.

It has one of only 48 courts in the world for the sport, which was once known as royal tennis.

It has a team of professionals who manage its real tennis club and make their own cork-centred balls.

Beginners need only wear comfortable sports clothes and suitable shoes. Racquets can be provided.

Two years ago, Prince Edward, a royal tennis enthusiast, visited the school to play several matches to promote the sport and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

For more information, email pros@ortc.uk

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