=Ravenscourt Park Prep School Head of PE and Games Chris Bryan discusses the benefits, on and off the sports field, of a 2017 move to co-ed sports

There are moments in the development of a school where a relatively simple change to the curriculum can have a dramatic effect on outcomes. Moving from a single-sex to a co-educational sports programme at Ravenscourt Park Prep School (RPPS) was one such moment.

RPPS is a co-educational school for 420 children on the border of Hammersmith and Chiswick and located the south side of Ravenscourt Park. For a London school, we are very fortunate to have access to the park’s facilities for our sports programme. These include bookable grass spaces, tennis and netball courts and an Astroturf.

In common with the majority of preps, we used to follow a traditional sports programme from Year Three. Boys participated in football, ruby and cricket while girls played netball and rounders. If girls wanted to play football and cricket, they had to join clubs outside school – and an increasing number were doing just that. If we were going to meet the needs and interests of our pupils, we needed to make a change to the sporting options available within the curriculum, and not just to tag on a couple of additional after-school clubs.

Ravenscourt Park Prep on why co-ed sport is a game changer
An increasing number of girls were joining football and cricket clubs outside school before the move to co-ed sports at RPPS

In 2016, I put the case for change to the Headmaster Carl Howes and he agreed. The new programme was launched in September 2017. For children in Years Three and Four, all sports were now played together. There were blocks of time allocated for netball, rugby, football, rounders, cricket and cross-country. After feedback from the children, hockey was added for Year Four. Children in Years Five and Six were given the opportunity to select the sports that they wanted to play each term, and the number of fixtures against other schools increased.

“We have seen a mutual respect for the sporting interests and abilities among the children – this attitude is also reflected in the classroom”

Initially, there were concerns that it would be challenging to find other schools willing to bring along co-ed teams. We also worried that the increased numbers of sporting disciplines on offer would reduce the time available for specialist coaching. Neither of these concerns have been realised. Many local schools have been delighted to provide mixed teams, or to permit our co-ed teams to play rugby against all-boys teams. As for sporting achievement, our U11 Netballers recently qualified for the IAPS finals for the second time in two years. Other teams are frequently placed in local tournaments, so we have not seen any diminution at the top level. This is also reflected in continued sports scholarship awards to senior schools.

What of the other benefits? Children now participate in a minimum of three fixtures per term, so all enjoy representing their school in a team. We have seen a mutual respect for the sporting interests and abilities among the children – playground football involves boys and girls, as does shooting practice at the netball posts. This attitude is also reflected in the classroom – there is never any fuss if boys and girls are partnered up to work on a collaborative task.

With last year’s Euro triumph for the Lionesses, and runner-up positions for women’s cricket and rugby teams in the 2021 World Cups, there has never been a better time to make these sports available to girls as part of the core sports curriculum. This has also coincided with the emergence of national successes in ‘non-mainstream’ men’s sports. And, in this increasingly co-ed world, why not involve boys and girls together in sport until the age of 11?

Ravenscourt Park Prep School rpps.co.uk

Further reading: Broomwood on our children’s need for more exercise