Original article appeared on AdelaideNow.com.au.
Striking a gender balance is proving tricky for some of SA’s big name private schools, say new figures, but they are slowly solving their girl shortage.
Many coeducational private schools are struggling to attract enough girls to create an even classroom balance – but gender equity is on the way up. An analysis of enrolment data for 22 prominent Adelaide private schools has found 15 have more boys than girls. Of those 22 schools, 13 report their percentage of girls has risen between 2016 and 2021. St Michael’s College and University Senior College have the largest gender disparity.
At St Michael’s, males make up 64 per cent of the cohort, while at University Senior College, girls account for 66 per cent of students. St Michael’s first coeducational secondary cohort began in 2008 and its primary campus began transitioning towards educating both sexes last year. Flinders University College of Education Adjunct Associate Professor David Curtis said Adelaide’s larger number of girls’ schools than boys’ campuses was contributing to the imbalance in coeducation enrolments. He said some of the city’s coeducational schools were previously boys-only and enrolment patterns reflected an intergenerational effect, with families sending their children to the institutions where they already had connections.
Boys make up about 53 per cent of Scotch College’s population, with the number of extra males slowly decreasing. Next year, the college celebrates 50 years since it welcomed girls alongside the boys. Principal John Newton said the junior school had a larger gap between male and female enrolments, but in the senior school, the numbers were more even. Dr Newton said students learnt that the world would prosper with strong co-operative relationships and respect between the genders.
“As we see more female CEOs and better representation at the highest levels of any organisation we’ll learn the value of genders working together and that will have an impact on schools,” he said.
The make-up of the general population is also a factor. At the 2016 Census, there were 105 school-aged boys for every 100 girls.
Sacred Heart College has 1066 boys and 838 girls on campus – a gender imbalance principal Steve Byrne said was slowly levelling out following the school’s merger with Marymount College. “Our year levels have 330 students and with such a large number of students it’s a matter of simply ensuring balance in classes. You … ensure that the environment is safe and well managed,” he said. Sacred Heart’s former boys-only middle school had many more enrolments than Marymount before the 2017 merger. Immanuel College is bucking the trend, welcoming more girls in 2021 than boys. But that wasn’t always the case – in 2016, the school population was 54 per cent male.
Alex Dimos and Andrew Nunn wanted a mixed school for their children Zoe, 17, and Lucas, 15, choosing Scotch even though they both attended single-sex campuses as children.
“We both enjoyed school, but we have come a long way in a short period of time – it is becoming more and more clear that equality matters, and it matters on a global scale,” Ms Dimos said.
“I also believe we need to sharpen our communication skills with all genders, particularly now as technology is interfering with face-to-face opportunities.
“Why would we wait to teach these important skills when our children finish school?”