Caring for your daughter

“All the members of staff, the teachers, the boarding staff, they really care about each one of us.”
- Year 8 girl

As a full boarding school, we understand that raising a child is not something that parents and school do separately. A girl’s academic success goes hand in hand with her happiness and health, and as a close-knit community, we are able to keep a close eye on both. Our pastoral system looks after the girls 24 hours a day, and is particularly geared towards ensuring that they have a healthy balance in their lives of work, exercise, and rest, as well as plenty of other opportunities for stimulating the mind, cementing friendships, and nourishing the soul.

The House system

Every girl is in one of the five houses from Year 7 to the Lower Sixth. Each house is run by a Head of House who lives on site with her family, and who oversees all aspects of a girl's academic, co-curricular and personal development, supported by a team of tutors. The Head of House is the main point of contact for parents. In their final exam year, the girls move into the recently built Mary Breen Courtyard, which has its own Head of House and other residential staff.

The Heads of House have their offices in the heart of the school and are available to the girls throughout the day and evening, as well as on weekends. They host house teas in their homes for small groups of girls, as well as house suppers in the refectory, and organise our amazing programme of weekend activities.

The Tutor system

Each girl has a tutor from her house, whom she meets regularly during the week, and socially in the evenings and on weekends. The tutor oversees the detail of a girl's day-to-day life, liaising with staff on her behalf, and helping her to learn the art of time management using her Life Timetable. This helps her to ensure that she has a good balance of work, exercise, fun activities, practice time, relaxation and sleep.

In addition, girls are able to speak to the school’s Independent Listener, who visits the school three days a week. She is a wise and sympathetic counsellor to whom the girls know they can speak with complete confidentiality.

Mentoring and minding

The mentoring and minding systems run as a vein through school life, so that new girls settle quickly, and senior girls offer support, care and guidance. Every new girl is given a minder who is close to her in age, who will be a friendly face and offer a wealth of advice, from where to put your games kit to how to negotiate the pupil app. Senior girls then take on a longer-term mentoring role, meeting with groups of younger girls regularly to offer their wisdom and advice, and running activities and clubs for them. Departments also run buddy systems whereby older girls support younger girls with their learning.

PSHCE: Skills for Life

Skills for Life is our bespoke timetabled programme for PSHCE: personal, social, health and citizenship education. It runs from Year 7 through to the Upper Sixth, and is delivered through talks, seminars, discussion groups, and practical workshops. It is designed to provide the girls with all the wisdom and advice that they need to help them mature and grow, and covers the knowledge and skills needed to embark on a happy and successful adult life.

In Skills for Life, the girls learn about their bodies and staying healthy, and about relationships, friendships and sexual intimacy. They are taught about the risks associated with alcohol and drugs, about keeping safe online and building a positive digital footprint. Other sessions cover the political landscape of Britain, and the basics of personal finance, as well as moral and ethical issues such as discrimination. We encourage the girls to look inward, to know themselves better, and to look outward, to understand the world around them and to be well prepared for life beyond St Mary’s.

Use of technology

Learning to use technology wisely is essential for all young people today. At St Mary's we are enthusiastic about technology and innovation, but we know how challenging it can be for young people to keep their use of it safe and in perspective. Girls are therefore allowed to have one mobile phone at school, to help them keep in touch with family and friends, but they are not permitted internet-enabled phones until Year 9. In Years 7-10, girls are allowed their phones only at certain times. Girls in Years 7 and 8 may have iPads that are set up by the school for educational purposes, but they are not permitted to use them for entertainment at school, other than using FaceTime to keep in touch with home. All devices are registered on the school's network, and all girls sign up to the school's ICT Acceptable Use Policy. Access to WiFi is restricted according to age, just as it would be at home, both in terms of when it can be used, and which websites can be accessed.

Use of social media can sometimes be particularly problematic for young people, and we are therefore very careful about how it is used. Girls in Years 7 and 8 are not permitted to be on any kind of social media. All girls receive regular ICT safety education, and we have our own e-safety officer, who educates and supports the girls, and keeps in touch with online trends and dangers.

Medical Centre

The Infirmary is located within the boarding area of the main school, and is staffed 24 hours a day. The nurses dispense homely remedies according to the infirmary protocol as required, oversee all prescribed medication, and support girls who have longer term health conditions. All girls are registered with the school doctor, who holds surgeries twice a week, and whom the girls can also see at other times in her surgery in the neighbouring village of Sunningdale. The nurses also liaise closely with other medical specialists and can arrange dental and eye appointments locally as necessary. Many girls also choose to have weekly sessions in Alexander Technique, which helps them achieve posture and balance, both physically and mentally. Girls can also choose to see one of the two School Counsellors, who are available in school at lunchtimes and in the evening.