Number of schools switching from single sex to co-ed increases significantly

Department of Education says 25 schools have turned co-ed since 2020

The number of schools which have switched from single sex to co-ed has increased significantly since 2020, new figures from the Department of Education show.

Twenty-five primary and post-primary schools had made the transition to co-ed status in the past three years, the department said.

The growing trend is often due to parental demand for their children to attend the same primary or secondary school, and for a broad range of subjects to be available to their children, for example, some single sex boys schools may not offer home economics, while some single sex girls schools may not offer subjects such as woodwork or construction studies.

Parents also sought the convenience of being able to drop their children to one school instead of two.


Brian Moore, principal of Rathdown School, a former all-girls private school in Glenageary, Co Dublin, which began admitting boys for the first time in 2022, said the transition at his school followed surveys of parents and local schools, along with analysis of wider trends and educational outcomes in Ireland and abroad.

“By far the biggest reason for parental demand to have boys and girls educated together is simply that they want them to mix, culturally and socially,” Mr Moore said.

“The other reasons, like the convenience of the same school or the subject choices, are certainly there, but they’re minor compared to that,” he said.

Prior to the transition to becoming a co-ed school, Rathdown already offered subjects such as home economics and tech graphics, and “didn’t need to make any changes to our curriculum” when admitting boys, Mr Moore said.

There are other communities where parents are happy with their single sex schools for boys or girls as they are performing well and there is no push to change them.

“I have worked in single sex schools, including Rathdown before it was mixed, and their community were perfectly happy with that. I would advocate for choice and what the school community and parents want is what they should be able to do,” Mr Moore added.

There is usually a consultation process to gather the views of local parents before schools become co-ed. Any application for a change of status must be first approved by the school patron (often the local Catholic Bishop).

The next step in the process is for the school patron to submit a change of status request to the Department of Education. The Department of Education cannot change the status of any school from single sex to co-ed without the agreement of the patron.

Generally speaking, the Department of Education “looks favourably” on requests for schools to change from single sex to co-educational. However, requests can be declined if it will cause a lack of places for boys or girls in the place where the school is located (for example, if a town had two boys’ schools and just one girls school, then a move by one of them to co-ed could result in a shortage of places for girls).

Figures from the “find a school” service on show 132 boys national schools, 96 girls national schools and 2,895 mixed national schools.

The figures show 97 boys post-primary schools, 124 girls post-primary schools and 514 mixed post-primary schools. All of the 137 special schools are mixed schools.

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Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times