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School throws its doors open to girls for first time in 223-year history

This week marked the dawn of a new era at St Jarlath’s College with the first ever enrolment of girls to the iconic Tuam secondary school in its 223-year history.

A total of 30 girls enrolled for the new term this week, breaking the single-sex rule that has been in place since the establishment of the college in 1800.

And while it marks a major break with tradition, it’s one the school management are embracing with enthusiasm as they hope to grow their female numbers into the future.

College Principal John Kelly told the Connacht Tribune that it came about following extensive discussions with all of the stakeholders including parents and the local clergy.

He said that it was an exciting departure for the college and that every effort was being made to embrace the new girls into the school environment.

Mr Kelly, who has been Principal for the past decade, said that it would bring their student numbers to around 670 and it was their hope to double the number of girls next year bringing the student population up to the 700 mark.

“Obviously there have had to be some major changes to their interior of the school to accommodate the new girls and the whole teaching staff are looking forward to this new departure,” he said.

“The move to co-education has been discussed for some considerable time and all of the staff are ready to embrace the change,” he added.

Up to almost 20 years ago, St Jarlath’s had primarily been a boarding school but the increased availability of bus routes resulted in a spike in the number of ‘day boys’ enrolling in the school.

It also coincided in a shift in the dynamic of St Jarlath’s with the number of boarders steadily declining.

Then in 2009 marked another significant milestone in the college’s history when it amalgamated with neighbours and arch football rivals St Pat’s (formerly Tuam CBS).

The college, which has 50 teaching staff, is famous for its footballing achievements over the years having captured twelve Hogan Cup All-Ireland football titles.

And as one of the teaching staff happens to be Galway ladies football sharpshooter and former Connacht Championship-winning captain, Roisin Leonard, there is nothing to suggest that the new girls will not have plenty to occupy themselves in their spare time.

Earlier this year, Corofin’s Roisin made history by becoming the first ladies footballer to score a ’45 – worth two points – in an inter-county match in Galway’s defeat over Cork in the National League.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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