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Band of brothers... but not for long

Shakespeare's all-male alma mater has caused a tempest with its plan to admit girls. Rachel Morris reports.

The school that taught Shakespeare to write wants to admit girls for the first time in its history.

King Edward VI school in Stratford-upon-Avon is seeking permission for girls to study in the sixth form. But the proposal from the voluntary-aided grammar is causing controversy locally and it will have to be approved by the Office for the Schools Adjudicator.

It is generally accepted that William Shakespeare was educated at the school, whose beginnings can be traced to 1269. It became King Edward VI in 1553.

At present there are 450 boys at the school, with numbers due to rise to 470 next term. The school wants to admit up to around 30 girls in the two sixth form years from September 2005.

It originally made the proposal last year but a schools adjudicator said there should be more talks between local post-16 providers about working together.

Warwickshire county council and some schools are opposed to the plan, saying the change would have a detrimental effect on other education providers.

The final decision will now be made by Alan Parker, a schools adjudicator.

King Edward VI head Tim Moore-Bridger said: "We are extremely frustrated because quite frankly we don't understand the objections.

"We are offering choice and diversity and not taking anything from other schools."

Mr Moore-Bridger said: "We are committed to being a single-sex school up to the age of 16.

"But we think our boys would benefit from having a small number of girls in the sixth form. We think providing that sort of female perspective would be academically and socially beneficial.

"We believe we have something special, that is different from any other school, and that there are girls who would want to come and take advantage of that."

Mark Gore, assistant county education officer, said Warwickshire wanted to promote colloboration between post-16 providers in Stratford.

He said he was concerned that the plans might weaken sixth-form provision elsewhere.

Mr Gore said the council had to look at opportunities for all pupils in the area and consider all options including one institution providing subjects for students in another, a joint sixth form or merging schools.

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