Notre Dame High: Views sought on future of girls' school

By Jamie McIvor
BBC Scotland education correspondent

  • Published
Pupils at Notre DameImage source, Glasgow City Council
Image caption,
Notre Dame High emphasises the quality of education it provides

A consultation on the future of the last state school in Scotland which only admits girls has begun.

A number of options for Notre Dame High in Glasgow are being considered.

One would mean that boys would start attending the school, although another would see the school remain single-sex.

Any changes to the entry criteria at Notre Dame High would also have implications for three other secondary schools - John Paul, St Roch's and St Thomas Aquinas.

If a decision to alter Notre Dame's catchment area or character is made, it will not happen until next year at the very earliest.

The options in Glasgow City Council's consultation are:

  • No change
  • Retain the all-girl status but alter the catchment area
  • Start admitting boys and alter the catchment area

At present, boys and girls can attend Notre Dame Primary - both are automatically entitled to a place at St Thomas Aquinas secondary but girls also have the option to automatically go on to Notre Dame High.

A significant proportion of the students at Notre Dame live outside the catchment area and attended other primaries - families specifically wanted their children to go there so made placing requests to the council.

Any move to admit boys is likely to be fought passionately by many parents of current students and some former pupils.

All-girl schools: Good or bad?

Image caption,
Clare Clark is a former pupil who says the school encouraged her to study science

Clare Clark is a former pupil of Notre Dame High who believes she benefited from education in the single-sex school.

"I found it positive," she said. "I thrived in that environment.

"I was a pupil that did all your kind of science subjects.

"I've Highers in the all the sciences, which maybe I wouldn't have done if I went to a boys' school."

Margaret Brown has a daughter attending Notre Dame, as well as another daughter and a son.

She can see how her son might benefit from being able to go but does not want radical change to the school.

"I am sad that I cannot send my son to such an amazing school," she said.

"However, I would never ever change the status to co-ed and allow my son to go and risk changing what the school does for our girls.

"I come from a view with a saddened heart for my son but of a love for the empowerment that the school gives to my daughter."

The arguments by campaigners on each side touch on a number of topics:

  • Whether same-sex education is still appropriate in this day and age
  • Whether there is sufficient demand for a girls' school to justify having one
  • Whether girls actually benefit from a same-sex environment or whether other factors alone, such as the quality of teaching and the personal backgrounds of students, explain the school's success
  • Local catchment areas

In the event that a decision was taken to start admitting boys, it would in practice be "phased in" as each new group of S1 students were admitted. A current S1 student would therefore be in S3 at the earliest before any possible changes took effect.

That means there would be little chance of any current student sharing a class with boys.

The consultation runs until 26 May. A number of public meetings are due to be held in the coming weeks where representatives from both sides will be able to answer questions.