Oakham School’s Headmaster Henry Price discusses how a co-educational environment can help pupils develop as confident communicators

Communication is an essential instrument when it comes to developing confident and compassionate young adults. In striving to equip our boarding and day pupils with the skills they need to thrive in life, one of the most important things we can teach them is how to be good communicators themselves. 

We communicate in every aspect of our lives, with everything from talking to our friends about our weekend plans to asking for help on a question we do not understand. At Oakham, we provide an education where pupils learn to think for themselves and develop their own strong moral compass. In doing so, they are shown how to practise care and empathy, develop the courage to stand up for what is right, and learn to listen to one another.

Oakham School on co-ed confidence
Co-education teaches young people to listen to one another, develop empathy and recognise the value of a diversity of ideas, says Oakham Head Henry Price

Co-education and the diversity of ideas and opinions shared among the sexes plays a vital role in this. A deeply embedded co-ed ethos and structure is one of the fundamental pillars of Oakham School. It not only allows girls and boys to live, work and grow up side by side, but also to learn from each other whilst appreciating their strengths and weaknesses, and enjoying each other’s company.

As one of the first independent schools in the UK to become fully co-educational in 1971, we have seen countless benefits and successes from this legacy in the years that have followed. Throughout the milestone celebrations, we have witnessed many Old Oakhamians and staff, as well as current pupils, share their experiences of how learning in this environment has helped them to develop into more confident adults.

To quote the then Headmaster John Buchanan himself: “A school should be co-educational, because education must prepare for life”. For me, this is an absolutely vital message, as co-education gives pupils a truly rounded education, with boys and girls living and learning together, and then taking that learning with them when they leave. Given the fact that men and women are constantly in contact with one another throughout all stages of their lives, it’s important that they have the communication tools to build professional and personal relationships and be confident in doing so.

“Co-education gives pupils a truly rounded education, with boys and girls living and learning together, and then taking that learning with them”

Looking back at when co-education was introduced, Old Oakhamian Jonathan Stevens (’79), said: “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. We were all very proud to be part of a forward-thinking School which always ensured everyone had a sense of belonging”.

As we delve into the history of the School, it is also important that we keep a focus on what lies ahead and consider how co-education can benefit future pupils. A combination of outstanding pastoral care and a well-rounded, cross-curricular education shapes pupils into confident, grounded and responsible adults who are fully prepared to be involved and supportive of one another. 

Reflecting on her own experience of co-education, current Year 13 pupil Grace commented on the benefits that come from this environment. “I’ve found co-education through my years at Oakham School really great. I think that it’s refreshing to be able to meet with different people with different perspectives in order to achieve a truly collaborative environment, in which you can experience what everyone has to offer.”

Oakham School oakham.rutland.sch.uk

Further reading: Pangbourne College on assessing a school’s wellbeing markers