Gentlemen [Trustees of Keswick School],—You will remember how the Assistant-Commissioner, Mr. Leach, laid great stress on the possibility and advisability of our trying the experiment of a Mixed Higher Grade School for girls and boys. Doubtless, if it were possible to face a certain amount of prejudice that may come from the novelty of the plan, and if we could obtain the co-operation of the parents, our Governors of the High School would be saved the great initial expense in bricks and mortar of building two separate high schools for girls and boys, and we should further be enabled to begin at once to provide for that most necessary of higher education for the girls of Keswick, which under the Scheme will otherwise have to be postponed for some years.
I had some considerable talk with Mr. Leach after our meeting; and though it was clear that very few attempts had as yet been made in this matter in England, it was also clear that the Charity Commissioners would view with satisfaction any attempt in this direction. It occurred to me that most of the old village schools in this country were mixed schools; and that the old Scottish village schools were also schools open to both sexes; the grandfathers and grandmothers of this generation in Cumberland and Scotland met on equal terms in the class room, and, if we judge by the gentle manners of the men of that generation, good in one particular was the result.
It had always seemed to one that there would be a natural humanizing effect on the scholars, if this dual system could be restored. Boys would learn manners and, by being accustomed to the presence of girl-scholars growing up with them, would lose some of that strangeness which often ends in their thinking of girls as creatures of quite a different kind and by no means on the same level as they, the lords of creation, are. While on the other hand the presence of the girl-scholars side by side might prove a kind of stimulus to the boys to mind their laurels. Indirectly also, a knightliness might be called out, which would in after years prevent some of the sorrow that comes upon a community when men disregard the rightful claims the weaker sex have upon them for their protection from harm….
I will say no more, except that the matter is one that as Governors of the Trust for Higher Education here in Keswick, we may well think it over and get to know the feeling for it or against it among our fellow townsmen and townswomen. Do not let us make a false start; but, if we are assured that we are on the right path, and that it will be an improvement on present methods to accept this dual system in our High School, do not let us be deterred from introducing the system because it happens to be a novel one. Rather let us be brave, if we have conviction on a higher education for both sexes, to carry our conviction into practice. Here in Cumberland it would appear to be a return to old ways.
(English Lakes Visitor and Keswick Guardian, 16 November 1895, p. 5)