Twenty Years of Co-educational Boarding

For the next generation of adults, being empathic towards one another will be key to tackling some of the extreme ideals and opinions that are having a negative impact on the world we live in. A mature co-educational boarding school provides an environment in which to foster such empathy.

Dr Andrea Saxel, Deputy Head Pastoral

This academic year we celebrate 20 years of full co-educational boarding. We were founded for the sons of local farmers in 1865, with just 12 boys on the register. Fast forward to 2020 and we’re a thriving community of 670 boys and girls.

From allowing St Catherine’s girls in to play active roles in music and drama at Cranleigh in 1960, to celebrating the opening of the fourth girls boarding house, Martlet, in 2019, Cranleigh’s journey to a fully co-educational school has been a remarkable one.

The initial proposal to go co-ed was drafted in 1997, with the aim to introduce girls gradually in September 2000, with a full integration by 2005. However, in 1999 places were filled early due to high demand, anticipating the success of the past 20 years. 

Lots of changes have taken place over the last two decades under three Headmasters. Girls first joined the boy’s houses at Sixth Form in the 1990s, there are now four dedicated girls’ houses to match the four boys’ houses and they take part in every aspect of school life together.

Academic lessons and some sports are mixed sex, pupils all eat together in dining hall and cheer each other on in house activities. This ensures great support for every competition, whether it be hockey, maths or chess.

The paired houses provide that sense of family and togetherness that makes the school special, and the fact that it is a small school with less than 700 pupils means that everyone gets to know one other. It makes the environment very much more supportive.

Simon Bird, Deputy Head

Virtually the entire fabric of the day is co-educational: lessons, Music, Drama, Chapel, Debating, meals, Duke of Edinburgh, Scholars’ Society, Prefects, Student Council, Dance. So too, a surprising amount of sport, academic clinics, lectures, overseas trips are all encompassed under Cranleigh’s dedication to a co-educational ethos.