A MAJOR development scheme is underway at Ampleforth College to accommodate the increasing numbers of female students.

Until 2002, when it opened a sixth form for girls, the 206-year-old college had been boys only.

From next September it will be admitting Year 9 girls, bringing the number to 30 per cent – 180 – out of the total of 615 students.

Victoria Fogg, house mistress of St Aidan’s where the development is going ahead, said it would provide 40 single rooms for 75 girls aged 13 to 18.

The project will see the creation of dormitories, double and single rooms with ensuite facilities in a quadrangle designed development, she added.

“Bringing in junior girls is the last step towards the college’s aim to have an optimum percentage of 40 per cent girls,” she added.

Gaelle McGovern, house mistress of St Margaret’s which also accommodates girls, said they had added considerably to the ethos of Ampleforth.

Activities have changed and development, with the introduction of lacrosse, hockey, netball, horse riding and cooking.

“They are enriching the classroom experience,” she added.

While the houses are single-sex, the remainder of the college campus and its activities are mixed as a result of the development of the co-ed environment, said Mrs McGovern.

Ampleforth has also filled a much-needed niche because there is no Catholic boarding school for girls in the North, she said.

“We now have brothers and sisters in the college.

“It has been a changed experience, but one which has been warmly welcomed.”

All the male students currently at Ampleforth have now all been educated in a co-ed environment.

“The girls are doing sports as seriously as the boys, and the choral singing has also been much enhanced,” said Mrs Fogg.

The college now has a girls as well as a boys’ choir, and a mixed choir, all three of which regularly sing in the imposing Abbey.

Victoria Anglim, housemistress of St Bede’s, said: “It will be a place where the girls can relax and be themselves, a secure environment in which they will be able to explore their strengths and learn from their mistakes.

“Together, the aim is to create a familial atmosphere within the house.”