A private girls school in Abingdon has said it has been unable to "align visions" with a rival boys school in the town which is turning co-ed.

St Helen and St Katharine girls school has been in negotiations with Abingdon School, the 20th oldest private British school, for months after the latter announced it will begin admitting girls.

It is a significant break in tradition for Abingdon School, a private school which moved to its current Park Road site in 1870, and has only enrolled male pupils since it was founded in 1256.

The school announced the news last week that its prep school will admit girls as early as this September before the senior school makes the change in 2026.

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Herald Series: Abingdon School

Until now, some lessons and drama productions have been shared in the sixth form with St Helen and St Katharine school, another private school nearby.

St Helen and St Katharine school is currently the only all-girls private school in the town.

The school said in recent months it has been in discussions about “closer” collaboration with the Abingdon School but “despite the best endeavours” the two schools have not been able to “align visions”

Headmistress Rebecca Dougall said: “St Helen and St Katharine has worked closely with Abingdon for many years, and we have always sought ways to develop our long-standing collaboration.

“In recent months we have been in discussions with them about a closer, more formal level of collaboration, whilst seeking to maintain the known benefits of single-sex education for girls and young women.

“Despite the best endeavours of both school teams, we have not been able to align our visions of what best serves the development of our students.”

Ms  Dougall added that the school will continue to collaborate with other schools to “build positive connections across genders.”

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She said: “We will continue to enjoy and develop our collaboration with a range of local partner schools, including Radley College, Abingdon, Larkmead, John Mason and Fitzharrys, providing opportunities to enrich the developmental journeys of our students and build positive connections across genders and experiences.

“At St Helen’s, we continue to celebrate what we do, who we are and what we stand for as a modern, progressive girls’ school.

“St Helen’s remains a space in which female voices, concerns and talents can be amplified and this is very precious and important to us.

“To offer specialism and expertise in the service of our students, without compromise, is both wonderful and vital work. It is our ‘super-power’.”

St Helen's School, Abingdon was founded in 1903 by the community of St Mary the Virgin to provide a Christian education for girls, while St Katharine's School, in Wantage, was founded in 1894.

The schools merged in 1938 to create St Helen and St Katharine.

Abingdon Prep School will start to admit girls to its Pre-Prep from September 2024; and to Years 3 to 6 from September 2025.

Abingdon Senior School will admit girls to its 1st Year (Year 7) and sixth form (Year 12) from September 2026.