St Mary's Calne is a small boarding and day school of around 360 girls between the ages of 11 and 18 with a high proportion of boarders, an innovative approach to teaching science, and a strong tennis academy.
Dr Felicia Kirk, BA (University of Maryland), MA (Brown University), PhD (Brown University) has been Headmistress since 2013. She is described as ‘inspiring and promotes female empowerment’ by students. Previously she was at Ipswich High School for Girls, where she was Head of Sixth Form, Director of Higher Education at Wycombe Abbey and Head of Modern Languages at Royal Hospital School, Suffolk.
St Mary’s has strong links with St Margaret’s co-ed prep school, which is owned by the same Trust; many girls from St Margaret’s go on to attend St Mary’s at 11 years old.
St Mary’s has roughly 20% international students coming from 15 or so countries, and it has an established global outlook on education. In 2015, St Mary’s Calne was awarded the Foundation level of the British Council's International School Award. Taking part in the award links the school with others around the world and teaches students about other countries and cultures. It provides an internationally recognised accreditation for the school’s work and “enhances teaching standards through sharing best practice from other countries”.
St Mary’s continues to develop its balanced but challenging curriculum, which sets several girls every year on the pathway to Oxbridge and Russell Group universities. The classes are relatively small with about 15 students in each, and this number reduces further in the Sixth Form.
In Junior Curriculum (Years 7-9), girls follow bespoke St Mary’s courses in: Art, Biology, Chemistry, Computational Thinking, Computing, Critical Thinking, Drama, English, Modern Foreign Languages, History, Geography, Latin, Mandarin, Mathematics, Music, Physics, Personal Development, Physical Education/Games and Religious Studies.
St Mary’s offers a strong modern foreign language programme. Mandarin is compulsory in Year 7 and students can also choose to study Spanish and French (and later on German and Classical Greek). Students are encouraged to continue their language studies up to GCSE level, but they can opt to study Global Dimensions instead.
Most girls at St Mary’s study 11 GCSEs, and there is a broad choice of mostly traditional options: Art, Biology, Chemistry, Classical Civilisation, Computer Science, Drama, English Language, English Literature, Geography, History, Maths, Modern Languages including French, Spanish, German and Mandarin, Music, Physics, and Religious Studies. Subjects including History and Maths follow the IGCSE curriculum. Personal Development is also timetabled once a week and Physical Education continues to be an important part of the girls’ schedule.
In the Sixth Form, girls study A Levels, typically choosing three subjects from the following: Art, Biology, Chemistry, Classical Civilisation, Classical Greek, Computer Science, Economics, English, French, Geography, German, Government and Politics, History, History of Art, Latin, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Music, Physical Education (Sports Science), Physics, Religious Studies, Spanish and Theatre Studies.
St Mary’s is not confined by the limits of A Level qualifications. Instead, it encourages its students to enrich their CV for the future. Many girls complete the EPQ (Extended Qualification Project), thus developing their independent learning skills; and they can take Italian IGCSE in the Sixth Form as “an extra for the CV”. In addition, girls follow supplementary courses in Physical Education, Personal Development, Careers Education and in Critical Thinking.
In 2017, St Mary’s became the first independent school to be awarded the Platinum Science Mark, which recognises inspiring practice in the science departments of schools across the UK. It’s recognition of the school’s focus on STEM subjects, and there many examples of its innovative approach to teaching science.
There is also a bespoke science curriculum for students in the first two years were the aim “is to stretch, inspire and to introduce the girls to the endless possibilities of science”.
The excellent sports facilities include a 25m, six-lane swimming pool, state-of-the-art sports hall, gymnasium, dance studio, 20 tennis courts (comprising 12 astro courts for the Summer Term and eight hard courts), eight netball courts, a full-sized astro-turf pitch, grass pitches and a superbly equipped fitness suite. Girls regularly use the facilities throughout the day, evening and at the weekend, whether playing for the school teams or for personal fitness or enjoyment.
St Mary’s Calne Tennis Academy (SMCTA) provides professional coaching to all students who request lessons, no matter what their ability. There is also an excellent local riding school which the girls make good use of, and St Mary's Calne Horse Show is an annual event that takes place in the Summer Term at West Wilts Equestrian Centre.
The Art School is housed in purpose-built studios, which are being developed over a 10-year period. It considers its art to be an area of excellence. The three studios have flexible workspaces that facilitate work across specialisms that include ceramics and sculpture, textiles, lens and light-based media, and a variety of printmaking methodologies beyond the usual two-dimensional techniques and approaches in drawing and painting. This is in addition to a photographic dark room, design-technology equipment, life drawing, and anatomical, still life resources. The entire Adobe Creative Cloud suite is also available to all students. Sixth Formers have a dedicated studio space of their own.
The music department is very busy and offers a large choice of activities such as Big Band, Opera Ensemble, several vocal ensembles and studio recording sessions. The music department is housed in a purpose built four-storey music school where delightful recital room with panoramic views and rewarding acoustics sits above 15 dedicated practice rooms all with modern pianos, and a state-of-the art studio is equipped with the latest technology for recording and composition.
On entering the school, each girl becomes a member of one of the five School Companies named after local bishops. These are like houses, and there are inter-Company competitions in sport, drama, music, debating and more.
St Mary's believes that there is nothing more important than promoting each girl's wellbeing, and its wellbeing programme aims to foster self-confidence, self-belief and resilience.
The school’s holistic approach also teaches students the “key strands” of Emotional Health, Healthy Living, Positive Relationships, Gratitude and Altruism and Positive Thinking.
Socials with boys are important for a single sex school. From MIV Form, the girls enjoy socials with a variety of boys' schools and have very good relationships with Eton, Radley, Winchester and Horris Hill. Socials and events have included: an MIV dinner; dance and quiz with Horris Hill; U15 tennis tournaments with Eton College; the Chamber Choir singing a joint Evensong with Eton College; Caledonian Balls at Radley College; fundraising evenings at Eton College; and dinners and dancing with boys from Winchester College and Abingdon School.
St Mary’s Calne consistently produces good results. In 2022, 35% of results were Grade 9, and 82% of GCSEs were grades 9 - 7 while 68% of A Levels were A*– A.
At St Mary’s, there are seven houses, and the girls live within their own age group in a horizontal boarding system; they move houses every year but stay within their year group. The school says that this maximises the opportunity to establish firm friendships across the year group and girls are cared for by Housemistresses who are particularly aware of the needs of the individual age group in which they work.
Junior boarders have three houses, and they sleep in medium-sized dormitories. From the age of 14, the girls have single rooms with shared bathroom facilities. In Sixth Form, girls are in single rooms with en-suite bathrooms, more akin to university life.
St Mary’s is a selective school, and girls must sit entrance examinations before being offered a place.. Students joining from other schools at Sixth Form are required to have a minimum of six Grade 7s at GCSE level.
Scholarships and bursaries are available on request.
Annual fees are £46,725 for boarders and £34,860 for day students.
Single sex education
Not a ‘hot house’
Day girls (only 20% here)
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