Twenty-five schools have transferred from single sex to co-ed status within the past three years, according to the Department of Education.
The number highlights a growing trend towards co-education which is being led by parents who wish to see girls and boys educated together.
The 25 schools that have transferred are mostly primary schools but the trend is across both primary and second-level.
A separate analysis of Department of Education enrolment data reveals the extent of the shift at post primary level. 70% of second level students now attend mixed schools, compared to 65% ten years ago.
This shift has taken place at a time when numbers attending have risen dramatically, by almost 50,000.
Since 2014 a total of 36 single sex secondary schools have either amalgamated or closed down while 35 new mixed post-primary schools have opened. Some of those schools will have been created through the amalgamation of single sex schools.
The Department of Education data indicates that 511 post-primary schools in Ireland are mixed, and 209 are either for girls or boys only.
The proportion of single sex schools at primary level has always been significantly lower. Currently Government data indicates there are just 228 single sex national schools, compared to 2,900 that are mixed.
Single sex schools must get the approval of their school patron – usually the local Catholic bishop – before they can become co-educational. Then an application must be approved by the Department of Education.
The Department of Education is generally in favour of schools becoming co-educational. However it can decline a request if it believes the move will cause a lack of school places for girls or boys in a particular location.
The growth of mixed schools, at the expense of single sex is likely to continue. The Department of Education no longer funds the creation of new single sex schools, so their number cannot grow.
Mercy Secondary School in Dublin’s Inchicore took the plunge 2019. Since it opened its doors to boys its enrolment has almost doubled. That growth is not just attributable to boys enrolling, more girls are enrolling at the school too since it went co-ed.
“It has been a game changer for our school”, principal Michelle O’Kelly said, “not just with enrolment but the atmosphere and culture”.
Among the latest schools to plan such a transformation is another Dublin formerly all girls secondary school, St Mary’s in Baldoyle. It received approval from the Department of Education last September and hopes to enrol its first boys this coming September.