Oakham School has marked a major milestone by celebrating 50 years of co-education with a special event for its alumni.
Old Oakhamians (OOs) across the first few years of co-education from 1971 onwards returned to their former school to celebrate the joint education of both boys and girls with a chapel service and afternoon tea.
During the chapel service, headmaster of Oakham School, Henry Price, spoke about the school’s history whilst OO Jonathan Stevens, who left Oakham in 1979, shared his stories of when the school first became co-educational.
Stevens said: “It was certainly a very memorable year in 1971 when Oakham became co-educational and for all of us, it was life changing as we made friends for life.
“Co-education was a pioneering decision and there were a lot of discussions at the time about how things such as lessons, uniforms and sports would be implemented. Whilst it was a very different time, with shyness and cultural differences to overcome, this awkwardness certainly didn’t last long, and everyone adjusted very quickly.”
The afternoon tea was served outside Round House, the first purpose-built girls’ boarding house, which was erected in the 1970s on what was School House tennis court.
Amanda Roberts (née Gibson), who attended the school from 1974–77, said: “I joined Oakham as a co-educational school from an all girls’ school and it was a breath of fresh air; we were treated like adults and it felt like a more normal environment.
“For those of us who first joined, to pave the way for future female pupils is a great feeling and one that we’re very proud of.”
In September 1971, 17 female boarders moved into College House, accompanied by 10 day girls. By 1979, the school had grown significantly in size and was well on its way to gender parity, with 420 girls making up 45% of the pupil body.
Price said: “This is a fantastic milestone for Oakham School and our first event with the Old Oakhamians was a great way to celebrate 50 years of co-education.”
The afternoon tea event marks just one of many celebrations planned over the academic year, including a series of talks from OOs. The school will also be releasing a series podcasts on what it means to be a co-educational independent school.