Home Hybrid Learning Why this Sydney boys school switched to co-ed after 200 years

Why this Sydney boys school switched to co-ed after 200 years


Why this Sydney boys school switched to co-ed after 200 years

Earlier this month, St Mary’s Cathedral College in Sydney announced it will be welcoming girls to its campus next year after 200 years of educating only boys.

The alma mater of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will transition to a Kindergarten through Year 12 co-educational model from Term 1 in 2025 following close community consultation.

The move comes Randwick Boys and Girls High Schools, currently co-located on adjoining sites, will combine to form a co-educational high school in Randwick in 2025. The same year, two single-sex campuses at Penshurst Girls and Hurstville Boys in the Georges River College will each become co-educational schools.

In 2022, elite Sydney private school Cranbrook also announced it would be transitioning into a co-educational school, appointing former St Catherine’s teacher Daisy Turnbull to lead the way.

Below, The Educator speaks to St Mary’s Cathedral College principal, Kerrie McDiarmid about why the school is making the move to co-ed, and what it will mean for teaching and learning at the campus moving forward.

TE: This is quite a significant moment in the school’s rich, 200-year history. What were the main factors that motivated the decision to transition St Mary’s Cathedral College into a coeducational school?

The Sydney Catholic Schools decision to expand the College to a full Kindergarten to Year 12 coeducational school was a response to both parent demand within the St Mary’s Cathedral College community and families across Sydney. St Mary’s has been home to both boys and girls in the past with the last group of young women leaving the school in 1967 and we are excited to once again welcome girls back to the College.

We draw students from many parts of Sydney and feel privileged to provide a high quality Catholic education that seamlessly blends our traditions with our pursuit of excellence. This move to coeducation reflects a commitment to expanding this opportunity to more families and acts as a reminder of our rich history.

TE: What are the greatest challenges and opportunities the St Mary’s Cathedral College expects to face as this transition takes shape, and how will it impact the school’s educational approach going forward?

The expansion of our College represents an opportunity to provide this approach to learning to more students. Our enhanced primary offering will afford students and families a seamless transition from their early years into our unique middle school program, which reflects our innovative approach to learning that embraces the city as a classroom.

One of the colleges’ greatest opportunities for students is its proximity to Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD), which has resulted in the formation of partnerships with the city’s most recognisable and renowned institutions.

Students are minutes from the Art Gallery of NSW, the Australian Museum and Hyde Park Barracks, which provide an extension of their everyday learning and present an unparalleled opportunity to establish collaborative and reciprocal relationships with esteemed organisations and institutions spanning the arts, business, the judiciary, and politics.

Just as close is the Domain and Royal Botanic Gardens and a little further on the Sydney Opera House and beautiful Sydney Harbour.

TE: You mentioned that parents are looking for schools that offer not only academic excellence but also opportunities in music, sport, and the arts. Can you provide more information on how St Mary’s Cathedral College plans to incorporate these aspects into its coeducational curriculum?

The College is proud of its rich musical tradition with hundreds of students undertaking music tuition across all year groups. St Mary’s is home to our world class Cathedral Choir where students have the opportunity to engage in a choral program that is led by internationally renowned Music Director, Daniel Justin. In line with the announcement of the schools move to coeducation, we are excited to confirm the expansion of this opportunity to our female students with the introduction of a girls choir. 

Our forthcoming performance space at the William Street campus will allow us to expand our already established Performing Arts offering. 2024 will see the introduction of the St Mary’s In Residence Program, which sees partnerships with established and celebrated Artists and industry leads, providing students with opportunities to engage with experts in their fields thus affording them the experiences and tools to make informed decisions about the pathways they take at school and beyond.

St. Mary’s actively participates in the Sydney Catholic Schools’ intersport program, offering students a wide array of opportunities to engage in competitive and representative sports.

TE: The media release mentioned the purchase of an additional campus on William Street, which is no doubt a significant development for the school. Can you elaborate on the plans for this new campus?

The school’s expansion has been enabled by Sydney Catholic Schools acquiring an additional campus on William Street, only a few minutes walk from the College. This is a game-changer as it allows us to grow our school and provide additional learning spaces where our students can thrive. 

Learning experiences will be enhanced with the William Street site providing state-of-the-art multimedia facilities, bespoke art spaces and a learning environment that bridges the gap between school, the tertiary sector and the world of work.

Not only will students have access to these new facilities as they move across campuses, but also the unique opportunity to utilise the city as their classroom, with the curriculum incorporating collaborative partnership programs with leading cultural and economic institutions including the Australian Museum.

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