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.


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 Michaelmas term of the Upper Sixth.

The Lower Sixth Electives Programme offers the girls the choice of completing two or three short courses, consisting of five 75-minute sessions, during the Michaelmas and Lent terms. These elective courses cover academic subject areas such as Classics, Psychology or Archaeology and Anthropology, explore issues such as Black History, Science in the Modern World, Entrepreneurship or Trading and Investment Strategies, and develop skills in areas such as Public Speaking or Mental First Aid. They are designed to complement the existing core curriculum and Skills for Life programme.

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.

The General Religious Studies programme runs across five terms in the Sixth Form. In their weekly classes girls address a broad range of religious subjects exploring ethical, philosophical, theological and political traditions. There are small group discussions, seminars, lectures, and independent research, with a particular emphasis on contemporary world views, both Catholic and non-Catholic.

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


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.


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 recently built 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.