Should the City of Portsmouth Boys’ School stay an all-boys institution, or should it go co-educational?
Arguably the two most powerful women in Portsmouth say the school needs to change, but can’t seem to agree on the way forward.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt is adamant the door should not be opened to girls and has urged the council to halt plans to change the school’s intake.
Instead she wants to see it become a single-sex technical college with a Royal Navy cadet unit.
Meanwhile Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones wants both sexes to attend the school as she believes that would improve standards and fill places – only around 450 of the 900 offered are being taken up .
Her vision is of the school turning into a university training college for teenagers wanting to be engineers and scientists, with big industry names such as BAE Systems as sponsors.
So who is right? Well everybody can see the need for change of some kind. As Cllr Jones says: ‘The school is seriously under-performing and it’s on the verge of having governors step in.’
It’s also running at only half its capacity. There is evidence to suggest that boys’ schools that have gone co-educational have both increased their numbers and improved their exam results by the addition of girls to their classrooms.
So it’s no real surprise to discover that headteacher Mike Smith wants to go down the co-educational route.
But Ms Mordaunt’s case has its merits. She points to a skill shortage in industries such as engineering and believes turning the boys’ school into a technical college would help to address that.
As for parents, the results of a consultation seem to show that they are against a move to co-education by two to one.
The council has a difficult decision to make. The pros and cons of going co-ed must be carefully weighed up before a final decision is made next month.
But the overriding consideration must be whether any change is good for the school’s pupils.
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