Winchester College, one of Britain’s oldest and most prestigious private schools, will open its ancient doors to girls for the first time in its six-century history, it announced on Tuesday. The school, founded in 1382 in Hampshire, southern England, said the move was part of “a new vision and significant programme of change”. Britain’s other famous top fee-paying schools such as Eton and Harrow still only admit boys and have faced calls to change the policy. Winchester, which counts finance minister Rishi Sunak among its former students, currently educates around 700 students who are so-called “boarders” living on-site.
Girls will only be admitted to the sixth form — the final two years of school, for 16 to 18-year-olds. They will be able to choose between sleeping on site or attending as day pupils. The first female day pupils will arrive by September 2022, with boarders following by 2024. “Today’s announcements are the product of discussions over many years and I am delighted to take them forward,” headmaster Tim Hands said in a statement.
He told The Times newspaper that discussions about admitting girls had spanned 122 years — “notably speedy in our terms”, he said. Winchester, which charges around 42,000 pounds (US$57,000, 47,000 euros) a year in fees, also said it would grow its bursary offerings to students from poorer backgrounds, aiming initially for a 25 percent increase to supporting 150 pupils by 2024.
It is also planning to expand its online learning to provide “greater opportunities for collaboration” with state-funded schools. Winchester’s other famous former students include India’s former cricket captain Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and Joss Whedon, the screenwriter and film director behind the “Avengers” movies.