Gwen Randall, 42, deputy head of Dauntsey's school, Wiltshire, will take over as head of Framlingham College, in Suffolk, a co-educational boarding school, next September.
About 60 schools belonging to the Headmasters' Conference still admit only boys, while more than 90 are fully mixed and the remainder take girls in the sixth form. 'Many people have been waiting for one of these schools to have the courage of its co-educational convictions and appoint a woman head,' James Miller, current head of Framlingham, said.
Mrs Randall attributed her success partly to the fact that as a deputy head she had been able to gain considerable experience of school management. 'This is a true step forward for co- educational schools,' she said. 'My appointment will give a signal that at Framlingham College we are what we say we are - a fully co-educational establishment, where you are judged on what you are and not on any label that may be attached to you.'
John Clement, chairman of governors at Framlingham, said of Mrs Randall's appointment. 'There is only one criterion: you take the best candidate for the job.'
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