Geelong Grammar wins equal opportunity exemption to increase enrolment of girls

One of Victoria’s most prestigious schools has won an exemption from equal opportunity laws so it can maintain an even mix of boys and girls.

Geelong Grammar School has been allowed to make decisions about enrolments based on gender.

The school appeared in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to make its case for the exemption this morning. It is hoping to attract more female enrolments on one of its campuses, although the exemption will apply to all four of its sites.

Geelong Grammar’s lawyer, Jim Rutherford, told the tribunal the Toorak campus presented a problem in maintaining a gender balance partly due to the high concentration of single-sex schools in the area.

The tribunal granted the school a five-year exemption from the Equal Opportunity Act.

The order would allow the school to offer incentives, such as scholarships and discounted fees, to achieve a gender balance at particular year levels.

Earlier this year Geelong Grammar principal Stephen Meek told parents in a letter that the school was applying for the exemption because the Toorak campus had “substantially more boys than girls”.

“The purpose of the school’s application is to provide the school with the ability to differentiate between students based on gender, in order to achieve a gender balance in each year level at each of our campuses,” he wrote. “We strongly believe in the value of co-education. We want it to be strong at all of our campuses for the benefit of all of our students, both boys and girls.”

It was the first time Geelong Grammar had sought an exemption from the Equal Opportunity Act to balance its gender mix.

Geelong Grammar is one of several independent schools that have applied for exemptions to maintain a balance of boys and girls.

In July St Michael’s Grammar School applied to VCAT for an exemption from the act, which was granted. The school wanted to advertise for female students and “structure waiting lists to allocate student placements and to offer bursaries, scholarships and enrolments” for female students.

Earlier this year the tribunal granted an exemption for Caulfield Grammar School. It had applied to “structure waiting and enrolment lists to target prospective students of either gender”.

Caulfield Grammar was allowed to advertise for male or female students in year levels in which waiting lists indicated a gender imbalance.

It was also granted permission to give scholarships to male or female students. Last year 58 per cent of students at all Caulfield Grammar campuses were boys.

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