Parents trapped: Williamstown High School ‘girls only’ classes scrapped

A number of parents and students are disappointed that Williamstown High School will not run ‘girls only’ classes next year.

A number of parents as well as former, current and future enrolled students of Williamstown High School are ‘disappointed’ after learning the school will not be running ‘girls only’ classes next year.

In a letter obtained by Willy and Hobby, which was sent from the school to parents on October 31, Williamstown High School bayview campus principal Tamy Stubley said that due to ‘enrolment demand’ all Year 7 homegroup classes will be ‘co-educational’ in 2019.

“We have made this decision to best meet the needs of our community and to ensure the ratio of male to female students in each class is balanced. As a result, the Girls Only class will not run in 2019,” she said.

Following the announcement, Willy and Hobby has been inundated with messages from parents and students from the school, with one parent claiming they were ‘misled’ because the school sold them their preference for Girls Only classes just a few months ago.

“We are very disappointed at the news of no Girls Only classes, given the information night just a few months ago really pushed this format, it was stressed it was an integral part of the school’s focus,” they said.

“From the information we received the only part of this long-standing offering that was in debate was if there would be two classes rather than just one. We know of several girls from Williamstown Primary who had selected this preference.”

“Having lived in the community for some 25 years it has been a significant part of school selection for a lot of families, and our daughter was very keen to pursue this avenue. To say we are disappointed and feel mislead is an understatement.”

“The SEALP will go ahead and most likely some of these students won’t even be from the immediate zone, yet the local families with a wish to have a Girls Only option and this option was sold on the open nights, is removed without a second thought.”

Willy and Hobby was contacted by another ‘disappointed’ parent who claims that Williamstown High School provided them with no reason for the late notice, also claiming that no forewarning of the policy change was ever made.

“My disappointment is primarily at the very late notice, and not necessarily that the decision has been made for the reasons expressed – although it has been expressed in your letter with very little information,” they said.

“It could not be said that such a decision was not available many months ago at the time when applications were made, and gender ratios would have been clear to you and those involved in the decision making.”

“The issue with the late notice is that students like ours who chose WHS based primarily on the Girls Only class being available, now have very limited opportunity to apply to other schools that offer girls only classes.”

After attempts to seek comment from Williamstown High School were unsuccessful, Willy and Hobby contacted State Member for Williamstown Wade Noonan who confirmed the decision was made by the school council.

“I’ve always respected the independence of school councils to make hard decisions such as these. In other words, school councils, rather than local politicians are in the best position to determine how the school should cater for the collective interests of their entire student population,” he said.

Mr Noonan makes a valid point about hard decisions and what is in the best interests of the wider community, especially if you consider the difficulties that the school could potentially face under its current arrangement.

For example, you may have a boy and a girl living in the same street in Newport, and the girl gets a place under the girls only stream, and the boy misses out because the school has hit its enrolment ceiling and they may live right on the edge of the school’s catchment.

Williamstown High School first introduced Girls Only Homegroups – a unique program that offers girls single-sex education within a co-educational setting – as part of the amalgamation with Point Gellibrand Girls’ Secondary College in 2001.

The colleges chose to honour the educational setting of a single-sex school that had been running for 75 years, and ‘maintain its commitment’ to girls-only education through the Girls Only Homegroups program.

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