CHANGING time-pressures and values in the modern world have led an Abingdon school to become fully co-educational for the first time.

The Manor Preparatory School has accepted boys and girls since its foundation about 110 years ago.

But until now boys have had to leave at the age of seven while girls can carry on until 11.

From September 2018 that will change as the school will begin a three-year process which will culminate in the whole school being co-educational.

Headteacher Piers Heyworth said there were a number of reasons why the school had made the historic move.

He said: "The first is that the school has always been co-educational so this is really a continuation of that.

"We really had a difficult time explaining to our boys and their parents why they had to leave at the age of seven.

"The boys are tremendous to teach and add to the school in every way.

"The second factor was logistical. We find that parents are increasingly both working and do not have time to do one drop-off and then go 20 minutes to another school twice a day.

"That has been a big change in the past 15 years.

"The third factor is that we see the benefit of the boys and girls working very closely together to the age of seven.

"They learn from each other and love to do activities together and we felt that would be enhanced further up the school."

Registrations have already begun for boys to enter Year Three in September 2018.

Mr Heyworth said the school had seen a great deal of interest from prospective parents so far.

He said: "Our most recent open day was held after we announced we would be going fully co-educational and it was better than ever.

"People were saying 'at last we can put or children into one school'.

"Our parents are keen on the idea.

"In these equality-conscious days the impact of treating everybody equally is important."

The school, which charges fees of up to £4,800 a term, focuses on providing children with a happy and creative atmosphere where laughter is an essential part of the school day.

Mr Heyworth said that would be enhanced by having boys in every year.

The change will see the school increase slightly in size, from 380 to about 450.

He said: "There are so many areas in which the children will become enriched.

"Even in studying languages people learn from the people next to them about different things and how they study.

"Everyone will bring something different to the party.

"The school's ethos is to challenge and cherish each pupil and this really enforces it.

"Before the problem was that we were saying to boys 'we cherish you so much we are asking you to leave.'

"We run a lot of clubs and it will be good to see the take-up of clubs from both boys and girls.

"The girls love putting on their shin pads and playing tag rugby and we want to carry all of that on.

"We want to stay away from any old-fashioned stereotyping.

"We want the children to be themselves."