Godolphin School in Salisbury has announced it is to accept boys for the first time in its nearly 300-year-history.
The well-known girls’ school has said it will also be taken over by the United Learning group as it moves towards a co-educational model.
United Learning is a national network of 90 state-funded and private schools, including Surbiton High in Surrey.
It has historic roots in girls’ education but in recent years has aquired numerous state-funded schools and academies.
A letter from Godolphin’s chair of governors, Sir Nick Pope, addressed to parents and guardians and seen by the Salisbury Journal, said that “the sector faces uncertain times” due to “tough economic forecasts and associated cost of living implications, and potential VAT pressures on schools”.
The switch to co-education follows the trend for girls’ schools to accept boys in a difficult financial climate. There have also been announcements of high profile closures, including that of The Old Palace School in Croydon, which prompted accusations of sexism.
Godolphin has been an all-girls school since it was founded in 1726 and educates pupils from three to 18.
Starting in September 2024, Godolphin Prep will welcome both boys and girls across all year groups. Godolphin Senior will offer a co-education from September 2025.
Sir Nick Pope added in a press release to School Management Plus: “Our move towards co-education is a response to strong demand from local families, reaffirming our unwavering commitment to educational excellence.
“In recognition of a world that values gender equality and collaboration, we are proud to be the only day and boarding independent school in Salisbury offering co-education, for 3 to 19 years.”
Jenny Price, head of Godolphin added: “This decision marks a pivotal moment in Godolphin’s history. Our founder, Elizabeth Godolphin looked to the future in her commitment to the education of girls.
“By extending our welcome to boys, we aim to enrich our school community with a broader range of perspectives, talents, and experiences. We look forward to an exciting future for Godolphin as it looks to write the next chapter in its proud history.”
Chief executive of United Learning, Sir Jon Coles, said: “As a group with a strong track record of running successful schools across the country, we are particularly pleased to be welcoming a school with such high expectations, strong ambitions and long-standing traditions as Godolphin into our family.”
Godolphin will join the group from February 1, 2024.