History of girls at St George’s
The ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, said that Co-education creates a feeling of comradeship. He advocated teaching of both the male and females sexes in the same institution without showing any discrimination in imparting education.
With over 383 girls and 526 boys on the School roll, the number of girls is now at its highest since the College changed from single sex to co-educational almost twenty years ago. And we are now celebrating 50 years since St Maur’s Convent girls arrived at the College to do their A-Levels.
Thinking of St George’s now as we enter the 2017 / 2018 academic year it’s very difficult to imagine a school with no girls. Girls and boys at St George’s is what you would now automatically expect to see, in both the classrooms, sports fields, theatre and music rooms – all fully integrated in their daily school life with one another. Never in their wildest dreams would they have ever thought the two could have been segregated. But prior to 1967 St George’s was an all boys’ boarding school, while St Maur’s Convent was the home to local Weybridge school girls.
On speech day, 1967, the Headmaster, Rev. Peter Murtough, announced plans that there will be a link-up between St George’s and St Maur’s. During the 1967 / 1968 school year 19 Sixth Form girls from the Convent will be doing their A Level courses at the College. Peter Murtough is quoted saying in the Georgian Issue No. 205 “That this is only the start”. We can see fully integrated co-educational Sixth Forms and the idea is not only sensible on economic grounds but also from the standpoint of social manners and graces.”
In the Georgian Magazine, Issue 2016, dated January 1968 there is a fascinating article written by SA Allen about the arrival of the girls at St George’s. We would like to share with you a few extracts:
“The first thought when the girls of St Maur’s Convent entered the school, was that it would surely be a very daunting experience for them, just nineteen young women varying in age from 15 to 18 surrounded by 500 boys.
In fact it seemed they very quickly overcame their initial qualms, and soon settled down to their new form of scholastic existence. Instead, the greatest effect of this experiment in co-education was found to be among the boys. When the girls worked in the library, the number of boys studying there rose astonishingly; boys from their cubicles now found it pleasanter to work in the library.
Girls were invited to attend and speak at the various Saturday morning Debating Societies; also a joint Debating Society between the two schools was set up to meet a few times each term. To help this further in this direction came the School Play in which both boys and girls acted, and which was viewed by both schools. Girls were encouraged to support the school rugby matches, and boys attended St Maur’s for such things as discussions with parents on social problems and the SVP Community Service.
It is probable that the introduction of girls into the school had benefits in the educative as well as in the social field. First, it meant the presence of new minds in discussion. Secondly, it meant, in many cases, not just new minds, but completely new points of view based on a feminine approach to life. This was probably most true on the Arts side, for example, in literature and the social sciences. Girls, therefore made valuable contributions both in and outside class. Thirdly, there is the possibility too that the presence of the girls introduced a bit of healthy competition into the work.”
Nowadays at St George’s we firmly believe that friendships develop in a very natural way in our co-educational environment. This happens as we offer such a wide variety of activities, societies and clubs, in which both girls and boys take part. Friendships develop naturally because they are so accustomed to mixing amongst each other from a very young age.