IT is good to see leaders at Ermysted’s Grammar School make a strong case for co-education at sixth form. (Craven Herald, December 14).

My only reservation is that the proposals may not go far enough: I think particularly of towns like Sleaford in Lincolnshire or Hitchin in Hertfordshire where single sex selective schools – rather like ours in Skipton – have come together with provision that is more than the sum of its parts.

Their model of collaboration lets boys and girls remain members of their own school rather than recruiting from one to top up another. It enhances both the range of subjects available and the combinations in which they can be taken, reaping too the benefits of proper co-education, where boys and girls learn from and with each other as Mr Clarkson rightly stresses.

Not quite the same as importing a few token girls into a boys’ sixth form.

For the proposal – despite all the headline fuss - is merely to increase places on offer to external candidates from 20 to 35: of which some might be girls – perhaps up to 20 in any one cohort rattling around a school of 800 boys. For all sorts of reasons this strikes me as a bad idea.

What will be the experience of girls imported as “role models” under constant scrutiny? Being a tiny minority is seldom comfortable.

While sexual banter and harassment can be a disagreeable fact of life anywhere, research suggests that these are more common where the gender balance is skewed against women.

Consider this too from an NHS report of 2023: Both students and teachers report that as a result of sexual harassment, girls learn to ‘take up less space’; to position themselves at the edges (of corridors, playgrounds and classrooms). Girls also adopt strategies to avoid being noticed and singled out for unwanted attention, NHS 2023 Report: Mental Health of Children and Young People).

Not what I’d want for my daughters!

The proposals are at once timid and also perhaps a trifle arrogant: missing the real potential (and complexities) of a wholly co-educational and collaborative sixth form while claiming that for a chosen few girls the chance to study A Levels at Ermysted’s outshines all other options - despite DfE data showing little variance in quality among A Level providers in Craven, where several match - or in some cases exceed - the average A Level points score at Ermysted’s.

Lawrence Denholm

Chair of Governors: Settle College