A consultation started on Monday over changes at one of Yorkshire’s most unique schools, Hull Trinity House Academy, which was a centre for seamanship for centuries.
As well as admitting girls for the first time, the school is planning to relocate to the former Endeavour Academy site on Beverley Road and expand pupil numbers, from 120 to 240 a year.
However a petition on the change-org site, calling on the school, Brethren of Hull Trinity House and Hull Council to reverse the plans, claims these are the first steps on a “slippery slope”.
The petitioner states that it would be “absolutely devastating to students, past and present” to see the school’s heritage “thrown away”.
The only other single-sex school in Hull is Newland School for Girls. He adds: “Making HTHA co-educational would mean that there would be no option for any parents in Hull to send their boys to a single-sex school. Parents should have the right to choose whether or not they want their children to be educated in a single or mixed gender environment.”
The move would be the fifth in the school’s 234-year history – it’s had three in Hull and was also evacuated to Scarborough during the Second World War.
Its last move was in 2013 when it moved away from the waterfront to the University of Lincoln building in George Street to allow it to expand.
The petition states that the 2013 move was “difficult for many but necessary” and left pupils still based in the city centre to attend parades, church parades, and chapel services. It adds: “It is difficult to see how the school intends to maintain these traditions at a new site so far from the city centre.”
However, headteacher Graeme Levitt said they had the backing of the Brethren, the school’s original founders, and he believes that its traditions will be strengthened, with increasing numbers of pupils allowing the maritime element of the curriculum to expand.
He also said it was important to offer their curriculum to girls who could have a career in anything from offshore fisheries to the Royal or Merchant Navy, adding: “Everything that boys can do girls should be able to do”.
The girls would be expected to wear navy uniforms and take part in “every single maritime activity just as the boys would”.
He said: “Although I appreciate people have different views, had women been allowed in the Royal Navy or Merchant Navy, it would have been a co-ed from that point.”
As well as running out of space in their present building, which was only built for 600 students, they don’t have a “blade of grass” outside and have to bus students to sports offsite.
A key driver was also the fact that the city was running out of secondary places, and would be 450 places short in three or four years.