Please find below the answers to parents’ common questions about joining
St Mary’s and the school in general.
If you would like any further information or have a specific query, please don’t hesitate to contact our Registrar, Mrs Justine Tierney, who will be happy to help.
Email our Registrar
Telephone our Registrar: 01206 216420
Is St Mary’s just for girls?
St Mary's School is for girls aged 4 to 11, but St Mary's Kindergarten is for boys and girls aged 3 to 4. The St Mary’s School environment is tailored to suit girls’ specific learning styles and to create an atmosphere in which girls feel comfortable, can achieve and thrive. The school belongs to the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), the professional association representing the Heads of the UK’s leading girls’ independent schools, so St Mary's is always able to key into the latest techniques for educating girls and preparing them for the future.
Why Choose a Girls' School
Is St Mary’s a selective school?
No - although our students' GCSE and SATs results mean we are one of the highest performing schools in Essex and in fact the UK. There is no academic assessment for children joining the Kindergarten and Lower School - every pupil joins us for a familiarisation or taster session before joining to make sure St Mary's is the right environment. Students joining the Senior School take an online Entrance Assessment, consisting of Maths, English, verbal and non-verbal reasoning questions. The result of the Assessment - together with a report from the previous school and interview with the Principal - helps us to make sure that every girl who joins St Mary's will thrive here and will fulfil her potential, whatever her starting point when she joins us.
Is St Mary’s an academic school?
Yes. There is a real focus on academic achievement at the school and pupils of all abilities are given the level of individual challenge and the support they need to succeed academically, often beyond their own – and their parents’ – expectations. At St Mary’s this is achieved thanks to highly qualified, experienced teaching staff, small class sizes and an understanding of each individual’s needs with the expertise to meet them.
Is St Mary’s a religious school?
St Mary’s has a broad-based Christian ethos, but the school is not affiliated with any one religion or system of belief and pupils of all faiths or none are welcomed. Students study the major world religions as part of the Religious Education curriculum, which is compulsory in Years 7 to 9, and GCSE Religious Studies is offered as an option at GCSE.
What age are students at St Mary’s?
St Mary’s Kindergarten is for girls and boys aged rising-3 to 4, so they may join at the start of the school term in which their third birthday falls. Children born in the summer holidays may start after the preceding Easter.
St Mary's Lower School is just for girls aged 4 to 11 (National Curriculum Reception to Year 6).
St Mary's Senior School is for girls aged 11 to 16 (National Curriculum Years 7 to 11).
Where do students go when they leave St Mary’s?
Kindergarten leavers: Boys and girls leave the Kindergarten at the end of the summer term after their fourth birthday. Girls generally join the Reception Class at St Mary's (known as the Preparatory Class), or may choose another primary or preparatory school.
Lower School leavers: On leaving St Mary's Lower School, Year 6 girls automatically move on to Year 7 at St Mary's Senior School, or may choose to move to another senior school (particularly the state selective schools).
Senior School leavers: After taking GCSEs in Year 11, students progress from St Mary's Senior School to a range of sixth forms - popular desitinations are Colchester Royal Grammar School, Colchester County High School for Girls and The Sixth Form College Colchester, among other state schools and independent boarding schools.
Does St Mary’s have a Sixth Form?
No. St Mary’s students are very well prepared to join the Sixth Form of their choice and the one that best suits them.
What size are the classes?
Classes at the Lower School and Senior School do not generally exceed 20 pupils and are often smaller. Students benefit from larger groups for certain activities - PE and drama, for example - supported by additional members of staff.
Must girls attend St Mary’s Lower School to gain a place at St Mary’s Senior School?
No. The vast majority of Year 6 girls at St Mary’s Lower School transfer to Year 7 at St Mary’s Senior School, where they have a guaranteed place. Every year several Lower School girls achieve places at the local state selective (grammar) schools. The remaining places in Year 7 at St Mary's Senior School are offered to girls from a range of other independent preparatory and state primary schools, across the area. Girls from other schools and those who may be the only pupil from their prep or primary school to join us quickly settle in and make friends. During the first week of Year 7 each girl is introduced to her 'buddy' in the year above and takes part in a programme of 'getting to know you' activities with her form and year group, including two days of fun, team-building activities at Mersea Outdoors.
When should I register my child for a place at St Mary’s?
Kindergarten: Our Kindergarten is for boys and girls aged 'rising-3' - this means they may start with us at the beginning of the term in which their third birthdays fall. Parents are very welcome to visit our Kindergarten with or without their child at any time before their child is eligible to join, or after if there are places available. We recommend that parents who would like their son or daughter to join us register as soon as possible as places are offered on a first-come-first-served basis.
Lower School: We usually suggest that the parents of girls joining us in the Preparatory (Reception) Class visit us when their daughter is aged three, if not before. The Autumn Open Days the year before entry are an ideal opportunity.
Senior School: St Mary’s is generally over-subscribed for entry in Year 7, so if your daughter is not already with us at our Lower School, early registration is advisable as the date of Registration is taken into consideration when allocating places. If you are thinking of applying for a place at St Mary’s for your daughter in Year 7, it is recommended that you attend an Open Day at the school during her Year 4 - these take place in March and October. If you would prefer an individual tour or would like to visit us again, our Registrar will be happy to show you around and answer your questions. As soon as you have decided that you would like to apply for a place at St Mary’s for your daughter, we recommend that you complete the Registration Form and pay the Registration Fee. Please note that it is not possible for girls to take the Year 7 Entrance Assessment unless they are registered with us at St Mary's.
Can students join St Mary’s in years other than Reception and Year 7?
Occasionally places become available in years other than at the school's main joining points. If you would like your daughter to join us, please contact our Registrar as soon as possible to check availability. If there are no places at the time, you will be asked to register your daughter and her name will be added to the waiting list. You will then be notified if a place should become available and your daughter's name is at the top of the waiting list. Prospective Lower School pupils join us for a Taster Day, while Senior School students take the Entrance Assessment and are interviewed by the Principal, while spending two Taster Days at the school. A place may then be offered.
Please note that students may not generally join St Mary's in Years 10 and 11 once the GCSE courses have begun.
How many GCSES do St Mary’s students take?
Most students are encouraged to choose at least nine subjects to study to GCSE level. Apart from a requirement to take English Literature, English Language, Mathematics, Science and a language, students have a free choice.
Is there time for other activities as well as academic lessons?
Yes! Life at St Mary’s is busy and pupilis in all sections of the school are encouraged to take part. Sport and the arts are integral to the school day and there are many other exciting activities and a huge choice of optional clubs and activities. We also have many trips to places of interest to complement the curriculum and often host visiting speakers who come to the school to give the pupils an insight into their area of expertise. Year 5 and 6 girls have a wonderful time on their residential trip to Malham Tarn or the Isle of Wight, while Senior School students travel across Europe during Activities Week in June, when each year group is offered a choice of cultural and educational residential visits.
Does the school have its own facilities for sport and the arts?
St Mary’s Lower School and Kindergarten is set in nine acres of grounds, which includes a playing field and hard courts for tennis and netball. The school hall doubles as a gym and there is a dedicated, mirrored dance and drama studio. The Senior School also has hard courts on-site as well as a small playing field and access to the extensive fields of Colchester Royal Grammar School. The school has its own heated, outdoor swimming pool, set in a beautiful walled garden, which is in use throughout the summer term. Indoors, there is a large multi-function hall with wall bars, as well as a multi-gym with treadmills, cross-trainers and floor exercise equipment.
The Studio Block at St Mary's Lower School has an impressive dance studio, with mirrored walls, as well as a dedicated artroom and music room, while the Senior School's Drama Block houses a large drama rehearsal studio, spacious music room and light and airy art room.
How do students travel to St Mary's?
St Mary's Kindergarten and Lower School has its own large car park and is also on a main bus route between Marks Tey and Colchester.
St Mary’s Senior School has a car park that can be used by parents for drop-off and collection. Students are allocated to forms according to the area in which they live, which often helps when arranging lift-shares. The school is less than a mile from the centre of Colchester so students can reach us by train.
The school operates its own bus services and is also well served by a network of buses run by other transport companies, which stop right outside St Mary's Senior School. The school day at St Mary’s finishes promptly to allow students plenty of time to catch buses and most clubs and activities take place at lunchtimes.
Is school lunch provided?
Yes. All students - including boys and girls in the Kindergarten - eat a freshly prepared meal in the dining hall every day. Pupils have the choice of a main meal, vegetarian option and salad bar, all of which is prepared to a high standard on-site by our specialist caterer, Holroyd Howe. Meals are varied and nutritionally balanced. The cost of school lunches is included in the school fees.
How are fees Invoiced?
Parents receive an invoice for each term’s fees to be paid in advance of the first day of that term by cheque or direct debit. The school also recommends a school fee plan to spread payment throughout the year in monthly instalments.
Are Scholarships and Bursaries available?
Yes. We are keen to support talented individuals who would benefit from a St Mary’s education and contribute to the life of the school. Scholarships (a discount on fees on the basis of a pupil’s particular talent or aptitude) for entry in Year 7 are offered in Music, Art, Drama and Sport. Academic Scholarships are also offered, as are Miss Comrie Scholarships, but these cannot be applied for. Bursaries (a discount on fees on the basis of a family’s financial circumstances) are also available and offered on a case-by-case basis.