At St Mary’s we empower girls to thrive at St Mary’s and beyond. Through partnerships with internationally renowned organisations, pupils are equipped to play a full part in life and in their communities, inside and outside of school.
St Mary’s is a member of the Independent Schools Association (ISA). This means pupils are able to take part in an extensive programme of local and national Sporting, Arts and Cultural events. Professional support is and training opportunities are also accessible.
St Mary’s is an active member of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA). The GSA is the professional association representing the Heads of the UK’s leading girls’ independent schools. St Mary’s benefits from the GSA’s support and the latest information and thinking on the most successful ways to achieve the highest standard of education for girls, in a complex and changing world. This brings many opportunities for pupils to meet with others from GSA schools to further their learning and life experience.
St Mary’s Lower School is a member of the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools. This is a prestigious organisation comprising the top-performing preparatory schools in the world. Membership allows us to share ideas and inspiration with other successful schools. It also offers our pupils opportunities to mix with those from other member schools. For example, while taking part in inter-school challenges, practising their social skills and pitting their wits against their contemporaries.
St Mary’s is an International School, accredited by the British Council. This gives us opportunities to forge links with schools and organisations around the world. From exchange visits to our partner school in Holland, our International Week, and talks and workshops by representatives of international and cultural groups, St Mary’s girls are introduced to the global community and encouraged to become fully involved.
We are also keen to foster a respect for the environment. There are numerous initiatives throughout the school aimed at improving sustainability and encouraging pupils to be eco-friendly. Our own school campus is as efficient as possible. We have water recycling and collection boxes for everything from pens to jewellery.
St Mary’s is an accredited Healthy School. Health and nutrition are taken seriously. Pupils are encouraged to lead healthy lifestyles now and throughout their lives. All pupils eat a hot meal at lunchtime, cooked on the premises by specialist caterers. Girls are introduced to a wide variety of sports and activities, many of which they choose to continue in their own time.
Each year a sizeable group of St Mary’s students complete the The Duke of Edinburgh’s Bronze and Silver Awards. The nationally respected programme encourages young people to acquire new skills, challenge themselves and make a contribution to their communities. The skills developed through DofE are widely recognised in education and employment as evidence of commitment, teamworking, strength of character and resilience.
Every pupil belongs to one of the school’s four Houses. These are Abbeygate, Balkernegate, Headgate and Scheregate – named after the gates of Roman Colchester. Throughout the year, there are challenges of all kinds. This includes cake sales and quizzes and charity fundraisers, which offer opportunities for pupils to work together across the year groups and are entered into with great enthusiasm! House Cups are presented at the end of each year.
From helping in the library to perhaps becoming a Lower or Senior School Head Girl, Games Captain, House Official or Prefect, there are many opportunities for pupils to develop their leadership skills. Positions of responsibility also enable the girls to make an active contribution to the school community. School Councils at both the Lower School and Senior School give pupils a voice and their input into school life is valued. Many posts of responsibility are applied for and democratically elected.
We know wellbeing matters and is critical to achieving. Our girls are not only confident and capable, but also kind and responsible. The wellbeing of every individual, pupil and staff member is of paramount importance at St Mary’s. It informs all that goes on at the school. In such a supportive, caring atmosphere, girls learn to be successful. At the same time, it develops a sense of integrity and a strong empathy for those around them.
At St Mary’s mental health and wellbeing is at the forefront of our agenda. We are always looking for new ways to support our students and parents. As a result of this we have recently invested access to the Teen Tips Wellbeing Hub, a website for students, parents and teachers. It provides a wealth of resources and information, including webinars and podcasts.
St Mary’s is proud to be a ‘Girls on Board’ school. That means that when our girls experience some turbulence in their friendships – which is inevitable from time to time – we take an empathy-based approach to supporting them. The approach is described in more detail on the GirlsonBoard.co.uk website and key members of the St Mary’s staff are fully trained. Girls on Board has won many national prizes since its creation in 2017. It has been adopted by over a thousand schools world wide. It has proved to be a very effective way of creating lasting harmony amongst girls in school and St Mary’s is committed to its use.
The Year 6 girls complete the peer-led Head Smart Wellbeing Ambassador programme. This initiative highlights to the girls how to help others think about their own mental health and the practical things they can do to promote positive wellbeing.
All Senior School pupils take on a pastoral role as ‘Buddy’ to a girl in the year below, helping her to settle into the school and offering support during her time at St Mary’s. In this way ‘Buddy Families’ are formed and there are fun social events for Buddies throughout the year. Selected girls in Year 11 are trained as ‘Listeners’, peer mentors who lend an ear to pupils with minor problems to discuss.
St Mary’s has recently been awarded Anti-bullying Ambassador Status from The Diana Award. The programme’s trainers work with students aged 11-15 to change the attitude surrounding bullying and has a strong peer-to-peer focus, with trainers giving young people the skills and confidence to become Anti-Bullying Ambassadors within their schools.