THE MARY BREEN COURTYARD
New boarding accommodation for the Upper Sixth
The new Upper Sixth boarding accommodation officially opened on Saturday 30th June 2018. The completion of this ambitious 18-month project heralded an exciting new phase in the boarding life of the school, increasing the space and facilities for all the girls without increasing the school's numbers.
The new Upper Sixth accommodation, formally named the Mary Breen Courtyard in 2019 in honour of the Headmistress whose vision it represents, comprises 64 en-suite bedrooms spread across five houses gathered around an attractive central courtyard. Each house has a large kitchen and dining area, and there are also three new residential staff houses.
In addition, there is a light and spacious pastoral centre containing an amphitheatre-style lecture hall, a multi-use space for modern dance, yoga and entertaining, a reading room, a kitchen, and a series of rooms for meditation, prayer and reading, with clear views across the field and open spaces beyond. The pastoral centre is designed to create a peaceful, calm atmosphere which will be welcoming and inviting for the Upper Sixth pupils.
Our architect for this project, Angus Neil, has worked with us on many projects before, including the Orchard Centre, the Rose Theatre, the refectory and the senior library.
Importantly, the opening of the Mary Breen Courtyard has not lead to an expansion in the number of pupils in the school. It has merely given us more space. We believe that the school is already the perfect size, allowing every girl to be known and valued by all, while maintaining a Sixth Form strong enough to attract and retain the very best teachers, and offer a full range of academic subjects at A Level. That means holding to the current system, with forty boarders arriving in Year 7, joined by a further twenty in Year 9, our aim being that they all stay on for the Sixth Form. 390 pupils is also the maximum number that can fit into Chapel – a very important consideration for a community which meets every morning for prayer.
The Mary Ward Courtyard, which formerly housed the Upper Sixth, has now become the Lower Sixth Wing, and Year 11 have moved into single rooms in the wing of the school formerly occupied by the Lower Sixth. In this way, the new boarding complex has benefited not only the Upper Sixth, but the whole of the school, by freeing up space in what had become a rather cramped main building.
Thus we remain faithful to the essence of what has always made St Mary's such a special community and school, and ensure that we can remain unique and special for generations to come.