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Irish Times Article- Girls and boys cross decades-long gender divides as single-sex schools go mixed


After 135 years of being a single-sex school for boys, St Joseph’s on the northside of Dublin was one of several schools that began welcoming girls as a newly co-educational school last week.

Incoming first-year student Jack D’Arcy felt it would be “basically the same” though “because people are people”.

D’Arcy attended an all-boys primary school before, but “had friends who are boys and girls, from a club and from the school across the street”. Lacey O’Flaherty, also entering first year, jokes that her only worry about school at St Joseph’s was “opening the locker”, as she had difficulty with it in her first couple of days at the school and she didn’t want to be late for class.

It was not mixing with boys that she worried about, rather “moving to secondary school”.

“I went to a co-ed school before. I liked mixing with boys and girls. I find it the same,” she says.

Originally a Christian Brothers school when it opened in 1888, St Joseph’s in Fairview was handed over to Edmund Rice in recent years. But it remained an all-boys school.

Then it became part of the PTech programme, an industry-led initiative that allows students to integrate elements of degree-level learning and paid work experience in their post-primary education, which is when it became clear that girls were interested in attending.

“The siblings of the boys at our school were interested. They were coming in on open days and the families wanted them to go to the same place,” says principal Séan Stack.

Some of the boys from the primary “started going to other schools in secondary to be with their siblings” too, he says.

“There wasn’t a need for a social change, but it was to do with keeping the families together. A question came up of, ‘well, why wouldn’t you take girls?’ And we didn’t have an answer. Tradition has to have reason,” Stack adds.

The preparation took about 2½ years, Stack says, starting at board of management level, before going on to the school trust and then the Department of Education to assess feasibility.

“But really it starts when you ask what staff and students think. We were lucky enough that at all steps, families were very excited. Staff felt it was a big change, but they believed in it,” Stack says.

The school conducted surveys of its students and the boys’ response was “overwhelmingly positive”.

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