At St Mary’s we are mindful of the importance of preparing pupils for the wider world and for life after school. 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 an active member of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), 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, a prestigious organisation comprising the top-performing preparatory schools in the world. This allows us to share ideas and inspiration with other successful schools and offer our pupils opportunities to meet and mix with those from other member schools 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, and 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 and 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, with water recycling and collection boxes for everything from pens to jewellery. St Mary’s is an Ambassador Eco-School and hosts national conferences, sharing our expertise with other schools and organisations.
St Mary’s is an accredited Healthy School and 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 and served in a ‘family dining’ style – pupils sit at tables, serving each other and helping to clear away afterwards. 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 that 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 – Abbeygate, Balkernegate, Headgate and Scheregate – named after the gates of Roman Colchester. Throughout the year, there are challenges of all kinds, from cake sales and quizzes to sponsored cross-country races, 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 and to make an active contribution to the school community. School Councils at both the Lower and Senior Schools give pupils a voice and their input into school life is valued. Many posts of responsibility are applied for and democratically elected.
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.