ERMYSTED'S Grammar School in Skipton is considering breaking with tradition and admitting girls for the first time in its more than 500-year history.

Although pupils from Skipton Girls High School already attend some A-level lessons at the boys school, if  the plans go ahead, girls will be admitted full time to its sixth form alongside boys from September 2025 - Ermysted's will remain a single sex school for pupils aged 11 to 16 years old.

The school, which a year ago was downgraded by Ofsted from 'outstanding' to 'good', although its sixth form was one of the four out of five areas to remain 'outstanding', says having a co-educational sixth form will bring benefits for all pupils.

Michael Evans, Ermysted's Headteacher, said: “By offering a limited number of places to male and female pupils from other schools we hope to increase choice and broaden access to our excellent post-16 provision here at Ermysted’s.

“Our sixth form offers a unique curriculum and provides subjects and opportunities not found elsewhere locally. This proposal will help us to protect the breadth of our existing curriculum offer and we believe it will strengthen the sixth form experience for all our pupils.”

On Friday last week, the school governors launched a six week consultation to seek the views of parents and the wider community with a decision expected in early February next year.

Under the plans, boys completing their GCSEs at Ermysted’s will continue to be guaranteed a place in the sixth form if they achieve the required exam grades. The number of places offered to external pupils from other schools will be increased - from the current 20 to 35 - and applications will be considered equally from both male and female pupils, who would also need to achieve the required exam grades to be offered a place.

Currently, the school admits pupils in year seven - 11 and 12 year olds; and in year 12 - 16 and 17 year olds. It's 'published admission number' for year seven is 128. Under the new admissions policy, the number of external - students from outside the school joining in year 12 will go up to 35 - an increase that the school says be 'easily absorbed by the existing capacity, in terms of both the space available within the school buildings and the capacity within existing A-level classes'.

George Barrett, Head of Sixth Form at Ermysted’s added: “We have looked at the experiences of other single sex schools around the country that have moved to offer a coeducational environment for A-levels, and the change has been overwhelmingly positive.

“This proposal would enable our sixth formers to benefit from the different approaches that male and female students bring to the classroom and wider school life, providing them with the best preparation for life beyond school. Our younger boys will also benefit from the leadership and role models that a mixed sixth form brings.”

Chair of Governors, Stuart Clarkson, said: “While this is a minor adjustment to our admissions policy, I believe that it will be a significant positive change for the culture of this ancient school. I was a pupil here in the 1990s and girls played an important role in school life as members of our music groups and school drama productions - as they continue to do today.

"Pupils from Skipton Girls' High School do currently study some A level courses at Ermysted's and vice versa - but if this proposal goes ahead it would be the first time that female students were formally admitted as full-time Ermysted's pupils.

“This proposed move will enable girls and boys who are looking for a mixed sixth form environment to access one of the best in the country, which was judged last year by Ofsted to be outstanding.

“Ahead of our final decision we’re keen to hear from as many parents, pupils and local stakeholders as possible as part of our consultation - so please do get in touch and let us know your views."

Robert Heseltine, an old boy of the school, and former school governor, said he could see no reason why girls could not be admitted and not just to the sixth form, but to the whole school.

He said: "I can see no reason why not; it is a bit of an anomaly; and it can only be beneficial to the lads and the lasses."

But Martha Featherstone, Skipton Girls’ High School Headteacher, said the plans made 'little sense'.

She said: “Over the next seven years, the number of post 16 students will fall steadily in the Craven district. It makes little sense to divert resources to create extra sixth form places when we already have sufficient places and excellent provision across the Craven district as a whole.

“As school and college leaders we should be working together in partnership for the good of our whole community, to make current provision the very best it can be for our students.

“At Skipton Girls’ High School, we are proud of the exceptional education that we have provided for students over generations, and we will continue to do so”.

Ermysted’s was founded as a chantry school in Skipton before 1492, making it the country’s seventh oldest state school. It has been at its current site on Gargrave Road in the town for almost 150 years.

To see the proposed admissions policy for 2025-26 and the consultation go to Comments can be emailed to or sent in writing to Mr S J Clarkson, Chair of Governors, Ermysted’s Grammar School, Gargrave Road, Skipton BD23 1PL. The closing date for comments is Monday January 22 2024 at 4pm.