Essendon school seeks female footballers

Football star producing Essendon school, St Bernard's, will reverse 70 years of tradition next year by admitting senior level girls who may even change the face of an AFL team one day, principal Frank Fitzgerald jokes.

"I don't know if any of these girls will grace the AFL teams, but you never know, we might be able to bring a few changes that way as well," Mr Fitzgerald told My Moonee Valley.

The school was not going wholesale co-ed or setting up a senior girls campus, Mr Fitzgerald added, but would take about 10 girls at each senior year level.

Despite increased pressure on the college board to increase enrolments, Mr Fitzgerald said the move was not motivated by financial concerns.

Instead, he said they were impressed by the experience of their boys-only English twin school, St Thomas More's, which was told by the government that if it wanted to add a sixth form it had to accept girls.

After resisting for a long time, the school, which is just outside London, finally gave in and never looked back.

He said parents' main concern was that the girls could prove a distraction for their boys. The boy-girl ratio is expected to be about 1240-20.

But both principals of the two Catholic girls schools, with which social and theatre events are shared, were not enthusiastic about the move.

But Olwen Bell, principal of Ave Maria College in neighbouring Aberfeldie, told My Moonee Valley she was concerned about the possible adverse impact on girls.

"I have concerns for the pastoral care of any young woman who might be in such a male-dominated environment.

"As [St Bernard's] has been such a strong learning environment for boys, what preparation has been done for boys and staff?''

St Columba's College Essendon principal April Honeyman said she was dismayed and disturbed by the move.

"I'm sort of dismayed, I suppose, at the way in which St Bernard's can address the needs of women within their existing programs.

"It's using young women to further the optimal educational benfits for young men."

St Bernard's has produced such notable alumni as former Telstra CEO Ziggy Switkowski, CSL head Brian McNamee, Essendon footballer Matthew Lloyd and too many other football celebrities to list.

St Bernard's opens doors to girls (My Moonee Valley, June 2006)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St Bernard's College Essendon
Matthew Lloyd (Wikipedia)

6 Jun 2007