Two Sydney boys schools are heading for co-education. The response couldn't be more different.

If you were to visit one of Sydney's most prestigious private boys' schools this week, you would find a series of miffed parents and alumni outside the institution, holding placards, some even tearing up. 

What is the source of their frustrations you may be asking? It's that their beloved school, Newington College in Sydney's Inner West, has decided to start to allow female students to enrol. 

Interestingly though, another private boys' school in Sydney has also recently made the move to co-education. And the school community's reaction tells a completely different story.

Newington College goes co-ed. 

Back in November, Newington College announced its intention to shift to co-education across its kindergarten to year 12 program. They have exclusively taught boys since the school was founded in 1863, and currently they charge fees of up to $42,200 per year. 

The School Council said the decision was not made lightly, noting that it was enacted to boost diversity and "life-readiness" at the College. 

"This decision has been made to ensure the college remains a vibrant, contemporary institution, in step with the society it is part of," they said.

The staged shift to co-education will start in the junior school in 2026 and for high school students from 2028, with the College fully co-educational by 2033.

Watch: Newington College alumni share their feelings. Post continues below.

Video via 7News.

The decision however was met with backlash from some parents and students, and even former students and parents whose Newington kids finished their schooling decades ago.

As the students returned to school this week, the protestors decided to have their voices heard, some claiming the move is "virtue-signalling" and "woke-type principles".

"It's all part of this sort of woke, toxic masculinity type palaver," one alumni said.

"I just think it's ridiculous that after 160 years of thinking it's a good idea to have a boys-only school for the development of boys through every developmental part of their lives without being influenced by considerations of what they should look like or how they should act in front of girls … why is that wrong after 160 years?"

Another man, struggling to hold back tears said: "Well I'm an old boy of the school, and my son is also an old boy. The intention was always that I'd have a grandson - but I won't bring him to a co-ed school."

Many complained that the move to co-education represented an unacceptable change to the school's culture.

One placard read: "Boys will become second class citizens. Co-ed equals less diversity."

A sign at Newington College. Image: AAP.


Others feel the decision means there will be fewer boys-only schools for Sydney parents to choose from. For context though, Sydney has approximately 60 schools for boys-only and over 50 schools for girls.

On another side of Sydney though, a similar situation is occurring - but with a vastly different reaction.

'Broad support' for co-education at Cranbrook. 

For well over a century, Cranbrook - a private school in Sydney's East - has been boys only. But recently the school made the decision to become fully co-educational from years seven to 12 within less than a decade. 


"There is broad community support for co-education at Cranbrook," the School Council said. "Many see the transition as being a necessary and inevitable step forward in the context of a modern society. By introducing co-education in year seven, students are able to grow together during their secondary education in preparation for the senior years."

Mamamia has been told that the co-ed proposal has had strong support from younger alumni, as well as parents of current students. 

As one Cranbrook parent says: "I'm so happy they managed to get a green light on the co-ed plans. It's ambitious and progressive. They have some very experienced and qualified people to oversee it, so it's all positive as far as I'm concerned."

As per Sydney Morning Herald, almost two dozen recent head prefects wrote to the School Council, saying private boys' schools foster attitudes and behaviours that are no longer acceptable in broader society. 

One ex Cranbrook student tells Mamamia: "For the most part everyone is in favour of the change because it just makes sense. The whole world operates in a co-ed way from the first day of uni or work. If anything it's just going to teach and promote maturity from a younger age. And yes, I'd definitely still send my kids to Cranbrook."

Another former student had similar feelings, saying socialisation in a neutral setting like a school is important for growth.

"The upholding of the school's tradition should be a forgone consideration when considering the positives that a co-ed school can bring, namely having boys and girls interacting in a controlled school environment rather than only a party filled with drugs and alcohol."


The only real issue the school community has had over the decision is the likelihood of increased congestion and parking chaos, with the added student numbers in mind. 

But as for concern about co-education... it's minor. 

Plenty of schools throughout Sydney, and even across Australia, have been moving towards co-ed, including St Pauls and Randwick Boys. In Sydney's North, Barker College completed its transition to full co-education in 2022. 

A female former Barker alumni spoke to Mamamia, noting that she started at the College in Year 10, after coming from an all-girl's independent school. 

"When I arrived at Barker most of the boys there had never been in a classroom with a girl, and barely knew how to socialise with girls. I think across the board going all the way through your education without interacting with the opposite sex isn't a great thing, considering that's not what the real world is like at all," she notes. 

Of course, not all Newington alumni and parents are against the co-ed move. In fact, some are all for it.

One mother tells Mamamia that her son previously went to Newington, something she "almost now feels ashamed to say".

"My feelings are that of embarrassment for the way people are carrying on. I am also a teacher, so I could go on forever about this topic," she notes.

"The school has made an excellent decision to move with the times and if I were an 'old boy', I'd be proud that 'my' school was responding in such a positive way by moving forward with the times."

With AAP.

Feature Image: AAP.

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