This non-selective all-girls day and boarding school in Yorkshire has a particular strength for its nurturing education and competitive fees.
Set within 40 acres in a lovely location between Ripon and Thirsk, the school has single-sex Prep and Senior schools, and a co-ed Pre-Prep for boys and girls aged four to eight years only.
Founded in 1925, Queen Mary’s is proud to hold onto traditional Christian values of encouraging hard work, trustworthiness, public spirit and good manners. This values-based ethos runs throughout the school, with the focus as much on developing well-rounded girls who are confident in their own skin as it is on academic excellence.
Queen Mary’s is a non-selective academic school where students can access a broad curriculum regardless of their ability, and where students achieve well-above average grades at GCSE. The culture here is that “learning is both ‘cool’ and something to be enjoyed”, and its challenging curriculum is delivered within a small and nurturing learning environment that straddles the indoors and outdoors.
The school has an excellent track record of girls achieving scholarships and double scholarships for Academia, Music and Sport for independent sixth forms in the region.
Wellbeing is a key priority, and the school has an excellent reputation for its pastoral care. Location is also excellent; the girls live and study (and have plenty of adventures) within a beautiful 40 acre setting that’s also just a few minutes from Ripon, Thirsk and the A1M.
The curriculum at Queen Mary’s is broad, hands-on and practical and very creative.
In Pre-Prep, students study specialist subjects including French, computing and swimming – and there’s an early focus on art, design technology and music. Boys and girls have their own self-contained facilities within the school’s much larger campus, which helps to create a friendly, cosy environment for the school’s youngest students. And with teachers trained in both Montessori methods and Forest School, an early years’ education here is progressive and innovative.
The Prep and Senior Schools are housed in the main building, with access to some impressive facilities including science labs, art studio, food and textile rooms, music studios, and sports facilities. They support the teaching of a broad range of subjects including English, maths, science, French, Latin art, music, IT, food technology, drama and PE.
GCSE options include: French, Spanish, Latin, history, geography, art, religious studies, music, classical civilization, PE, design technology (food technology).
Learning occurs everywhere at Queen Mary’s, so you can expect your child to take on maths challenges and French games in the playground, take trips on the river, and in the school’s new indoor orchard which has its own tree, reading house and walled seating. There’s plenty of cross-curricular learning, visits to museums, theatres, and historical sites, and visiting workshops and speakers to keep learning relevant and interesting.
The school is small enough to tailor a child’s education and workload to their needs and Queen Mary’s focuses on the value add, with many girls improving one or two grades higher than expected in their GCSE thanks to the small class sizes and individual teaching. For the academically strong, there’s the Queen Mary’s Scholarship Programme; for those needing extra support, there’s a Support for Learning Department; and “the girls who fall in between” are supported by their personal tutor to achieve their best. This is definitely not a school where one size is expected to fit all.
Queen Mary’s has a love for sport, and it’s all about the taking part. It fields a large number of teams in a large number of sports, meaning that every Prep girl and over 85% of Senior girls compete for the school in at least one sport. With lessons in hockey, netball, lacrosse (seniors), swimming, cross country, gymnastics, trampolining, tennis, athletics, rounders, multi sports, tag rugby, football, kwik cricket, and yoga, girls can choose between individual and team sports – or both.
The school has invested in the sports facilities you’d expect from a fee-paying school – gymnasium with full-sized competition trampolines, netball and tennis courts, swimming pool, and Astro pitch – and used the space it has to create trails and many pitches for the girls too.
The school has an outstanding riding school too, and it has an excellent reputation for being one of the top tiding schools in the country. Those fortunate enough can bring their horse to the school’s British Horse Society Approved Equestrian Centre, which offers various livery options. It has an all-weather outdoor arena with a full set of BSJA show jumps, a small cross-country course with fences, 33 acres of grazing paddocks, and onsite hacking.
The arts are not overshadowed by sport. Over 50% of girls learn at least one instrument and there are several students learning as many as four, such is the love for music here. An enthusiasm for music is kicked off in Pre-Prep, where students learn using the very engaging Kodaly method, through to Year 4 when every girl learns the basics of playing an instrument to be part of the Year 4 Class Orchestra.
There are annual productions, which give every girl the chance to act, sing or work backstage, as well regular fun and formal performances. And a newly refurbished double-height art studio is a great setting for a varied arts curriculum covering photography, painting, drawing, printmaking, textiles, graphics and sculpture.
Outdoor education is certainly not an add-on at Queen Mary’s. In fact they have a dedicated Head of Adventure who leads an enviable programme of swimming, canoeing and kayaking, as well as camping, bushcraft, and den building. Story Writing Club, Orchestra Brain Busters, Gymnastics and Tennis are just some of the activities on the length extra-curricular programme too.
2022 GCSE results: 31% were awarded grades 8-9, the equivalent of an A* or A**.
Boarding is offered from Year 3 and most boarders are from the UK. Thanks to a flexible boarding programme, girls can choose to stay one night per term through to every night per term. Day girls can flexi board or stay into the evening to enjoy the after-school opportunities like stargazing and making pizzas, which really helps to ensure a happy integration between day girls and boarders.
Girls board in dorms within a charming 300-year-old building, with separate areas for prep and senior dorms and common rooms. The Head of Boarding, who has four daughters who have experienced all-girls' boarding, has all the experience needed to create a family-like atmosphere for boarders – and home-cooked meals, weekly activities and excursions add to the very friendly boarding vibe here.
It’s a non-selective school and students are offered a place based more on their suitability for the school than academic achievement. As part of the admissions process, students can attend a taster day or sleepover and must attend an Assessment Day; this is in line with Queen Mary’s holistic culture and includes both activities and a written assessment.
Annual day fees range from £9,480-£17,169 for Reception to Year 6; £18,615 for Years 7-8; and £21,120 for Years 9-13.
Annual full boarding fees are £24,771-£26,379 for Years 3-8 and £29,115 for Years 9-13.
Scholarships are offered for Academic, Art, Music, Riding or Sport Scholarship, and there is a bursary programme.
Good for: Queen Mary’s is an excellent choice for outdoorsy girls who embrace adventure and enjoy braving the elements. It’s a great school for students of all abilities, and one where your child can strive for success without facing the pressures of being too results-driven. Also, as one of the leading private schools in Yorkshire, this needs to be on the shortlist for anyone moving to the North of England.
It’s small enough for your daughter to know most of the teachers, as well as children in other years, but still large enough to offer a choice of sports, clubs and activities.
Not for: An education at Queen Mary’s ends in Year 11 so you’ll need to look for a Sixth Form place elsewhere, which may not suit families who prefer an all-through education. The boarding community is mainly UK students, and there are other schools in the area with more experience of looking after international students.
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