Scotland’s last single sex state school is holding weekend ‘transition’ classes as it prepares to accept boys.
Notre Dame High School, in Hillhead, Glasgow, was subject to a heated campaign from current and former pupils who wanted to reject boys being accepted.
The girls’ school was cited as giving kids a confidence boost they would not have had in a co-ed environment.
But, for the first time in 120 years, boys will be accepted in August.
Teachers are being given additional training on how mental health varies in presentation between the sexes, with psychologist also being brought in.
Harris Ali, 12, will be one of 49 boys starting in S1 – in the same class as his cousin Aizah Rasul, 11.
Four of his sisters attended the school and loved being in a single sex environment – prompting mixed emotions for mum Nasreen who believes it gave them a head start.
She said: “It was a bit of a shock when it became a mixed school and a bit sad as well because they loved coming to an all-girls school.
“One of my daughters is a chemistry teacher now and says Notre Dame gave her the confidence study science that she doesn’t believe she would have had anywhere else.
“It definitely was a sad day when the announcement was made it would stop being a girls’ school.”
Harris said: “It’s kind of weird because it’s going to be all girls but it will be nice to make new friends.”
Aizah added: “We don’t know any different because our primary schools are mixed and it will be nice to be in my cousin’s class.”
Head teacher Rosie Martin and depute head teacher Liz Henderson have been working with staff to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Four Saturday mornings sessions have been held with P7s as the final step in a process that has also seen teachers liaising with primary schools to form new bonds between establishments.
Parents have not been allowed into the school due to coronavirus safety restrictions but virtual meetings have been held.
One concern had been that the school would slump in popularity once it lost its unique status – but the opposite has happened.
There are 140 spaces in S1 and Notre Dame received 200 requests for places, with 20 placing request appeals due to go before city councillors this week.
Martin said: “So a lot of disappointed families didn’t get a place at Notre Dame. That’s very new for us.
“We’ve never had that level of interest in our school before.”
As well as being a historic step for the new pupils, the transition also affects the older pupils – many of whom fought vigorously to keep the school single sex.
She added: “I think that our young people are very resilient and we’re very proud of the fact they felt they had a voice in the campaign to say what they felt passionately about.”
By Sarah Ward and Catriona Stewart