Universities and careers

“I always feel like my success is celebrated - it's something I should be proud of. I feel that's something St Mary's is really good at.”
- Upper Sixth girl

Education does not finish at A Level. The choices which the girls make affect the broader trajectory of their lives as they move from adolescence into adulthood, and the importance of those choices is reflected in the advice and support we give them. This includes:

  • weekly tutor time and our bespoke Skills for Life programme
  • online subscription services
  • the Tinker Tailor careers mentoring consultancy
  • regular talks and workshops
  • the biennial Alumnae Careers Fair
  • timetabled one-to-one support from tutors and the Careers Co-ordinator

A girl’s tutor supports her with careers provision throughout her time at St Mary’s. The guided use of online subscription services gives each girl the tools to research careers and use this to inform meaningful discussions with her tutor and Head of House, the Careers Co-ordinator, and parents.

In Years 7 and 8, a light touch approach allows pupils to explore what careers are available in a relaxed and supportive environment. In Years 9 and 10, pupils begin to investigate careers in a more purposeful manner, beginning with the Morrisby assessment, which provides a starting point for discussion with tutors, peers and parents. In Year 11, the focus is on finding, preparing for and carrying out work experience, and reflecting on that experience. Throughout these two years, the girls receive advice from tutors, Heads of House, Heads of Department, and the Academic Deputy Head about A Level choices, and these choices are carefully monitored in the first weeks of the Sixth Form.

In the Sixth Form, pupils prepare for life after school, with the emphasis being on securing the best university places and working towards the most fulfilling job opportunities. The girls receive regular talks and impartial advice about their Higher Education options. They come to the Senior Library for careers advice whenever they need it, and to explore the excellent careers resources. Information is available on everything from open days and scholarships to applications and gap year projects. Regular meetings with tutors help the girls to focus on the UCAS application process from an early stage, and their progress is carefully monitored by the Director of Sixth Form and his team. Speakers from universities come in to talk about the admissions process, and our excellent Inspirational Women series of talks provides a wide range of first-hand advice and careers experience. The school’s Alumnae Association holds a biennial careers conference, at which the girls can talk directly to their predecessors about their experiences. The result of all this is that the girls make choices that are fully informed, ambitious, realistic, and right for them. When they come back as alumnae, we are always very proud of how warmly and positively they talk to the girls who are here now and following in their footsteps.

University destinations  for our 2019 leavers were as follows:

11% of the year group achieved places at Oxford or Cambridge.

70% of the year group achieved places at Russell Group universities: Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Warwick, UCL, Imperial College, Exeter, Edinburgh, York, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Newcastle.

Other leavers went to Bath, Oxford Brookes, City, St Andrew’s, and the Courtauld Institute of Art in the UK; Trinity College, Dublin; ICADE in Spain; and Georgetown, Columbia, Boston and Notre Dame in the USA.

Sixth Form life

“It's great that you can manage your own time. It gives you a sense of independence and responsibility.”
- Lower Sixth girl

Sixth Form life at St Mary’s is a very special experience. It is a girl’s opportunity to choose the academic path she wants to pursue, supported by excellent specialist teachers with a real passion for what they do. The girls share this journey together, living in town houses in our two Sixth Form boarding complexes, growing into adult life, wearing their own clothes, cementing friendships, and enjoying an ever-widening range of speakers, debates, trips, and other activities.

Academic

In addition to their A Level subjects, girls may choose to do the Extended Project Qualification. This is a major independent research project similar to an undergraduate dissertation which sits alongside their A Level studies. All girls in the Lower Sixth receive a series of talks, seminars and workshops on aspects of academic research and advanced study skills. Those who wish to pursue the EPQ are then given a supervisor who oversees the process with them. Research begins in the Lent term of the Lower Sixth, and the projects are submitted in the Lent term of the Upper Sixth.

The Sixth Form Academy is a self-selecting group that pursues a programme of reading, discussions, lectures and independent research designed to assist and challenge pupils who are thinking of making an Oxbridge, Ivy League or similar application. It is, however, open to any girl who wishes to benefit from the intellectual richness that it offers.

All academic departments have their own clubs and societies, and these are very often run by Sixth Form girls.

Co-curricular

All the girls continue with their sport commitments in the Sixth Form. For some this continues to be high level team sports such as hockey and tennis; for others it becomes more tailored, and there are expert coaching staff on hand to provide classes and programmes in activities such as step aerobics, fencing, self-defence, yoga, and the fitness suite. All girls are encouraged to maintain a healthy balance in their lives, and are supported in this through the oversight of their tutor and the Head of House.

The Skills for Life programme continues throughout the Sixth Form. Many girls also continue with the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, while others participate in the Service Squad, which engages in activities to help the local community, such as working in charity shops and care homes, or helping to maintain public footpaths. 

Sixth Form girls help run department clubs and societies, and school committees such as the Charities Committee, the Social Committee and the Cyber and Tech Committee. They are also involved in leading girls in prayer and liturgy. They may take on roles as House Captains, organising house events in areas such as drama, music and sport. A team of Sixth Form girls writes, edits and publishes the weekly journal The Paper, as well as WHAT magazine, a termly periodical of current affairs and feature journalism that is sold for charity.

Accommodation

Each Sixth Form year group lives in its own separate boarding courtyard. The Lower Sixth move into Mary Ward Courtyard, which is a collection of houses built around a central landscaped square. Each house contains a living and kitchen area, and the Courtyard has its own residential staff to look after the girls’ welfare. The Upper Sixth move into the new Mary Breen Courtyard. This is our stunning new development of houses, each of which has a well-appointed kitchen, a generous living and dining space, and en-suite bedrooms. There is also further residential accommodation for staff. This complex includes a new Pastoral Centre, consisting of an amphitheatre-style lecture hall, a multi-use space for modern dance, yoga and entertaining, a quiet room, and a further series of rooms for meditation, prayer and reading, with clear views across the fields and open spaces beyond.

Curriculum

“I really enjoy my lessons – when I wake up in the morning I'm excited, excited to learn.”
- Lower Sixth girl
Years 7-9

In Year 7, girls are introduced to all the major curriculum subjects and learning skills. They have timetabled lessons in English, Maths, French, all three sciences, Religious Studies, Latin, Geography, History, Art and Design, Music and Drama.

In Year 8, girls follow the same timetable as in Year 7, but with the option of a second modern foreign language, either German, Italian or Spanish, and a carousel enables girls to sample each option before making a decision. Taster sessions are also available in Classical Greek and Mandarin.

In Year 9, girls follow the same timetable as in Year 8, but with further options in Classical Greek and Mandarin. It is often possible to offer extra lessons in other languages on request. I/GCSE work begins in Year 9 in some subjects.

GCSE and IGCSE

Years 10 and 11 are the I/GCSE years. Most programmes of study last for two years, and are examined in the summer of Year 11. Girls usually take ten subjects, and make their choices in the Lent term of Year 9. Exam boards are chosen to provide genuine rigour whilst also allowing girls to maximise their potential.

All girls follow a compulsory core of seven subjects which provides a balanced education and a secure foundation for further study. These core subjects are English Language, English Literature, a modern foreign language, Mathematics, Double Award Science and Religious Studies.

In addition to the core subjects, girls may choose three additional subjects from the following:

Art and DesignGeographyMandarin
Classical CivilisationGermanMusic
Classical GreekHistorySpanish
Computer ScienceItalianTriple Award Science
DramaLatin

Double and Triple Award Science: All girls have separate lessons in Physics, Chemistry and Biology throughout Years 10 and 11. About half of each cohort complete Double Award Science, which involves exams in all three subjects, leading to the award of two IGCSE grades. Those girls who choose to do so, and these are often the pupils who are already thinking about A Level sciences, take Triple Award Science, leading to the award of separate IGCSE grades in all three subjects.

A Level

Girls are advised to take four subjects in the Lower Sixth and continue with three in the Upper Sixth. In some cases, girls studying Further Mathematics or a modern foreign language as a bilingual pupil may choose to begin with five subjects, and then drop to four or three in the Upper Sixth. Girls meet regularly with their tutor, and academic progress is reported to parents throughout the year.

The A Level subjects offered are:

Art and DesignGeographyMusic
BiologyGermanPhotography
ChemistryHistoryPhysics
Classical CivilisationHistory of Art Politics
Classical GreekItalianSpanish
EconomicsLatinTheology
English LiteratureMathematicsTheatre Studies
FrenchFurther Mathematics

PSHCE: St Mary’s has its own bespoke course for Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education, called Skills for Life. Please follow this link for further details.

Supporting the girls

“The support network is incredible. You can ask anybody. Everyone wants to help you."
- Year 9 girl

As a boarding school, we understand the relationship between the academic work the girls do and their broader lives and wellbeing. Our sensitive and integrated pastoral system ensures that every girl is supported in all aspects of her life, including her work, friendships, health and personal development. Every girl has a tutor, who helps her to manage the balance of her life and collaborates with her on her individual Curriculum and Pastoral Map. She has regular contact with her Head of House, who shares oversight with the tutor. Senior girls volunteer as buddies for younger girls in individual subjects, meeting them every week to help with general skills or specific pieces of work.

Holiday work is not set in Years 7 to 9; in Year 10 and the Lower Sixth it is kept to a minimum, and tailored to the needs of the individual girl. In public exam years, the workload across a girl’s subjects is carefully monitored so as to be manageable, and allow time for holiday and rest. Our Study Policy allows girls at least two evenings to complete work set, which makes it much easier for them to manage their academic and other activities without stress.

Libraries

The junior and senior libraries contain a wide range of reference materials for all subjects, and are open from 7:30am until 10:00pm every day, including weekends. They also have an extensive range of online material, including resources such as JStor, Student BMJ, Oxford Dictionaries, Magazine Online Archive and access to the English and Media Centre publications. All pupils and staff have access to the St Mary’s library app which helps them with resource searches and recommendations for reading. Library staff are available to guide and supervise, and several senior members of staff have their offices in the library area, including the Sixth Form Year Coordinators and the Director of Sixth Form. The senior library includes the Atrium, a spacious and well-lit social area where girls can meet up together or with staff to chat over coffee.

Learning Support

Our Learning Support Department conducts a full screening of all girls in their first term at St Mary’s. Thereafter, further diagnostic testing is arranged according to circumstances and need. In Years 7 and 8, Learning Support lessons are conducted in workshops with small groups of girls, though one-to-one lessons are also available if needed. From Year 9 onwards, Learning Support lessons are one-to-one. Learning Support teachers monitor progress and liaise closely with subject teachers. Girls are reassessed in Year 9 in order to determine access arrangements for public examinations.

In addition to the Learning Support Department staff, there is a Learning Support representative in every academic department, and subject staff regularly offer extra support outside lessons. Subject clinics take place on most weekends. Departments also run a buddy system, whereby senior girls who are strong in that subject help younger girls who are finding it difficult. The younger girls love having that sibling-style relationship with girls in the years above.

ICT

ICT is a core part of every girl’s learning at St Mary's. All departments use a range of ICT resources in their teaching, and develop the girls' ICT skills in subject-appropriate ways. All girls are issued with a St Mary's email address for communication with staff and pupils, and our school intranet, SMILE, is a gateway to a wealth of resources, information, guidance and useful links for the girls.

In ICT lessons the girls follow a structured skills-based curriculum and our well-resourced ICT suite allows girls to use the latest software to develop a range of creative, technical and analytical skills. In addition, all girls in Years 7 and 8 learn to touch-type, and senior girls have the option of following bespoke courses, such as programming for Computer Science, or the complex data manipulation necessary to support their study in Maths, Science and Geography.

At St Mary's we have a wonderful team in the Network Services department who help girls with their devices, including technical support and repairs.

Academic life

“It's cool to be clever. Nobody judges you when you study hard.”
- Year 10 girl

St Mary’s is proud of being an academic community. The girls work hard and cheerfully, supported by superb teaching and an excellent pastoral system. They take pride in the improvements they make, they enjoy intellectual challenges, and they are willing to take risks along the way. All of this enables our girls to achieve outstanding results in public examinations, and to go on to a range of top universities both at home and abroad.

As boarders, the girls are able to help each other, forming revision groups around the school in the evenings and on weekends, and benefiting from the availability of staff outside ordinary classroom hours. They also enjoy a generous programme of outside speakers to broaden their intellectual and moral engagement with the world.

We understand that each girl’s academic journey is a personal one, which is why we allow girls to choose the subjects that suit them, rather than confining them to a rigid block system. Being a single-sex school allows our girls to thrive on their own terms, and to learn the value of their own intellectual industry, which they then take with them into the world beyond school.

Academic life at St Mary’s is not confined to the classroom. We are proud of having a vibrant, varied, pupil-led programme of events that is constantly responding to the needs and interests of the pupils and the world in which we live. Our Inspirational Women lecture series regularly brings in eminent speakers on a wide range of topical issues. There is also a stretch and challenge group called The Academy which has a programme of readings, discussions, lectures, and independent research.

The girls run their own societies in all the academic subjects. These societies host talks, discussion groups, reading groups, and debates, and organise trips. Senior girls frequently set up and run societies for junior girls, and these have included events such as a science cartoon competition, a junior art history club, a junior history balloon debate, and a science and poetry picnic.

Trips are a regular feature of boarding life. Academic departments run outings to museums, theatres and activity centres. There are field courses in Geography and Biology, and also longer residential trips such as last year’s music tour to Budapest, the Year 9 battlefields trip, and the Year 8 French trip to Normandy. More details of all of these societies, activities and trips can be found on the individual department pages of the website.