Furious parents and former students of one of Sydney’s most prestigious boys’ schools who rallied to protest the “woke” decision to start accepting girls have been mocked online.
Newington College, a 160-year-old institution at Stanmore in the city’s inner-west, announced in November it would start accepting girls into kindergarten and Year 5 from 2026.
The call has sparked anger within the community of old boys and parents, with a few dozen people marching to the Stanmore Road entrance holding placards on Wednesday morning, the first day of class for 2024.
“Well I’m an old boy of the school, and my son is also an old boy,” one man, struggling to hold back tears, told Nine News. “The intention was always that I’d have a grandson — but I won’t bring him to a co-ed school.”
“It’s all part of this sort of woke, toxic masculinity type palaver,” another said.
“I just think it’s ridiculous that after 160 years of thinking it’s a good idea to have a boys-only school for the development of boys through very developmental part of their lives without being influenced by considerations of what they should look like or how they should act in front of girls … why is that wrong after 160 years?”
“It’s a boys’ school, it’s always been a boys’ school, and there’s no justification, explanation, no evidence to support this move,” a third protester said.
A grandfather told the broadcaster, “My grandson was rejected from going to Year 3 in a couple of years’ time because they had thoughts of young ladies.”
One woman also at the protest said, “We are protesting against the school’s decision to not notify the parents, and gag the parents and the students from having a free voice to be heard about the school and the headmaster’s decision to make the school co-ed.”
Footage of interviews with the protesters, dubbed by one journalist as “some hall of fame vox pops”, has gone viral online with more than two million views on X.
“That was painful listening to those man babies,” X user Dan Fangirl wrote, speaking of the entire protest group.
“Imagine crying because your grandson might see a girl,” another person said.
“Lol … why ‘woke agenda’? I’d say if it endangers their masculinity then they should re-evaluate their masculinity,” a third wrote.
A fourth said, “Co-education is considered woke? What else? Women being allowed to work? Having the vote? Is that ‘woke’ too? Hilarious.”
Another wrote, “‘Why, after 160 years? How about because single-sex schooling was invented 160 years ago when women weren’t expected to get an education, go into the workforce, or even vote. That’s why. After 160 years, the world moved on.”
But many online supported the protesters.
“Boys need the option of boys-only schools. Just as girls need the option of girls-only schools. They are different, and learn differently,” one man said.
Another asked, “If boys’ schools go co-ed … should girls’ schools go co-ed also? However, if they both go co-ed they can’t be called boys’ or girls’ schools anymore. They would just be co-ed schools and lose [their] uniqueness.”
One suggested it was a “war on boys”, while another wrote, “The comments here are just proof that men are considered second class by the left. If this was the other way around you’d be all up in arms that women are losing another of their spaces and the right would be on your side too. You all just hate men and then wonder why so many commit suicide.”
‘Woke mumbo jumbo’
Uniformed police were on hand to observe the rally, which was held without incident, after a post on a Change.org petition promoting the protest had remarked “there’s no need to be peaceful anymore”.
That post has since been deleted.
Headmaster Michael Parker wrote to parents on Tuesday night saying the school had increased staff presence at the gates in light of the planned protest.
“While we acknowledge people’s right to share their opinions, the first day of the school year is all about the current students,” he wrote.
Parents at Newington pay fees of between $24,000 and $42,000 for each child to attend between kindergarten and Year 12.
Dallas Morgan, a Sydney barrister, called the process leading to the school’s decision a “sham” and said parents were disappointed by lack of consultation and supporting evidence.
“It’s unnecessary, unjustified and unpopular,” he told news.com.au.
“All we’ve been given is woke mumbo jumbo.”
Old boy Mr Morgan said the protesters “weren’t against” coeducation as a concept but felt their right to choose had not been respected.
“People want single-sex schools,” he said. “No one is suggesting the girls’ schools to take boys.
“It’s valid but [it’s about] choice. And that voice had been taken away.”
In announcing its decision last year, Newington said its college council had an “ongoing responsibility to consider what is best for the long-term future” of the school.
“This decision has been made to ensure the college remains a vibrant, contemporary institution, in step with the society it is part of,” it said.
Newington is not the only boys’ private school in Sydney shifting to coeducation, with Cranbrook in the eastern suburbs welcoming girls from Years 7 to 12 from 2026.
Barker College in Sydney’s north completed its transition to full coeducation in 2022.
On Wednesday, several Newington parents claimed the school had “silenced” its students from speaking against the co-ed move.
Year 12 student, Edward Phillips said he believed welcoming girls to Newington was a “mistake”, saying it would sour the college’s relationship with sister schools.
He said the protesting parents were supporting children who were “scared to express their opinion”.
Year 12 student Leo Grippi said while he wasn’t “aggressively’ against the decision, he said the announcement had rattled the school.
“I have mixed opinion, I obviously don’t support it,” he told NCA NewsWire.
“I think it’s shaken the school a bit and that’s why I don’t like it. I want a smooth environment to do year 12.”
However, he conceded that the change could foster a “new learning environment” for Newington College students.
Grandmother Cheryl Doyle’s three grandsons have all attended Newington, with two having already graduated.
She said her husband and children had all attended single-sex schools. “I think people have a right to choose,” she said.
“The students have been gagged, they’re too afraid to speak up. I’m so disappointed in the leadership at Newington. I don’t think the school is giving parents a fair go.”
Tony Ratsos graduated in the school’s class of ‘77 and sent his son to Newington.
He came to the protest to draw attention to what he said was 160 years of history being put “down the gurgler”.
“What we’re after is the decision to be reversed and a new consultation process with the actual stakeholders,” Mr Ratsos said.
The grandfather of two girls said he couldn’t see them being sent to a co-ed Newington in the future.
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