Eton College should accept girls for the first time in its history, the man in charge of the education system has said.
Gavin Williamson said it would be a “good step forward” if the elite boarding school started accepting female pupils.
The historic college has produced 20 prime ministers, including Boris Johnson, and currently charges around £42,000 a year in fees. As an independent school, it sets its own admission criteria.
The Education Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “I'd be very much in favour of Eton taking girls, I think it'd be a good step forward.”
No girls have ever attended the prestigious public school which was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI.
Old Etonians include Princes Harry and William, former PM David Cameron and actors Eddie Redmayne and Damian Lewis.
Mr Williamson made the comments on Thursday when he was questioned about an ongoing row at the school over the sacking over a teacher who planned a lesson on gender roles.
However, his colleague Jacob Rees-Mogg disagreed saying that Eton "works very well" without admitting girls.
The Leader of the House of Commons Mr Rees-Mogg, who went to Eton, told MPs: "Much though I might like my own daughter to go there, I think it works very well as it is, thank you very much."
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman was asked about the Secretary of State’s comments in a briefing to journalists.
Asked if the PM would be in favour of girls being admitted to Eton, he replied: “I think also what the Education [Secretary] said was this was a matter for Eton as an independent school who are responsible for their own admissions policy.”
He said it was important that the country has more good schools regardless of gender, background or where pupils live.
He added: “Broadly, on single sex education, we’ve said consistently that single sex schools are an important part of our diverse education system and it’s right that parents have the opportunity to make decisions about the type of school that their children attend."
The spokesman did say they would support the decision if Eton were to become a mixed-sex school.