IN THE grounds of Notre Dame High, a group of girls is discussing the momentous decision which, three years ago, allowed boys to attend their school for the first time.

“It was a big change for us, but it was just something we had to adapt to,” says Brooke Collins, who was in third year at time.

“We were all just coming back after Covid, so things felt different anyway.”

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The 17-year-old, who is planning to go into politics or teaching, adds: “The S6 pupils at the time were really good at looking after the first years, and everyone worked as a team.”

Julia Rigano, 17, agrees. “There was a lot of interest at the start, but afterwards, it felt quite normal and natural to have boys there.”

The West End school is celebrating following its first Education Scotland inspection since the transition, which found the headteacher and senior leaders “effectively and sensitively” led the school through the period of change with “skill, care and respect for all.”

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Around 170 boys up to S3 now attend Notre Dame, which has a total of 795 pupils.

The discussion around whether or not to make the secondary school mixed-sex sparked a battle between campaigners on both sides, but after a public consultation, Glasgow City Council approved plans to allow Scotland’s last all-girls state school to admit boys from August 2021.

Classmates Luella Sharp and Isla Kennedy, who are both 14, were part of the first mixed S1 cohort.

Isla, a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament who has set her sights on a career in politics, says: “It didn’t feel odd because we were all starting together.”

Luella, who is interested in engineering, maths and musical theatre, adds: “My primary school was co-educational, so it did not feel strange for me.

 “The school did a good job. It wasn’t really a big change after all, despite all the fuss.”

She adds: “Is there still a place for same-sex schools? Probably not.”

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Julia, who plans to study international relations, adds: “Personally, I’m glad my class was all girls, because we were free to express ourselves, be outspoken and take part in whatever clubs or shows we wanted to without feeling intimidated in a way we perhaps might have felt if boys had been there,” she explains.

“But now that I have seen it work, maybe I have changed my mind a bit.”

S3 pupils Sami Ghanem, Isaac McGuire, Chris Chen and Eshan Kabuye were all part of the first cohort of boys to attend Notre Dame High.

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“I was really excited about coming to Notre Dame and it is cool to be here,” says Sami.

Isaac adds: “The most intimidating thing about Notre Dame was the size of the building.”

Chris explains: “I can understand why some girls might have felt worried about boys joining the school, but everyone was very welcoming to us.”

Eshan agrees: “I felt welcomed and safe.”

Headteacher Rosie Martin says putting the transition plans in place was "not a daunting prospect."

“Absolutely not, because I knew how well-planned it was,” she explains. “We were also juggling Covid and lockdowns, so the level of problem-solving that went on was enormous.

“But I was very confident about the journey we were about to embark on. There were no surprises. Young people are young people, they respond well to change.”

One of the highlights of the last three years, says Mrs Martin, has been the response from pupils and their families.

“They feel part of the school community,” she added. “The welcome at Notre Dame has not changed, everyone feels a sense of belonging.

“Any challenges were around practicalities, such as toilets and changing rooms. Some people said placing requests would drop, but that has not happened at all. Levels remain high.”

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She adds: “I’m glad the inspectors recognised the significant effort that has gone into making sure it was a successful transition, and it was nice to hear the pupils felt comfortable and supported.”

In 2010, the school received an equally glowing report from the then HM Inspectorate of Education (HMIe). One of the 12-year-olds featured in the celebratory photocall was Christina Cannon, now Glasgow City Council’s education convener.

Glasgow Times: Pupils, including Christina Cannon, aged 12, after the 2010 inspection

“There were always rumours about boys coming to Notre Dame when I was here,” says Councillor Cannon.

“I think I would probably have had a variety of opinions about it over the six years I was a pupil. It would certainly have been very different.”

She adds: “I’m very proud of Notre Dame High, and I’m not surprised Mrs Martin and the senior leadership team grabbed the challenge with both hands and made it a success.”