Located in central Cambridge, this all girls, all-through day and boarding school stands out for its high numbers of girls studying STEM subjects, and its consistent record of high value-add scores.
Located in central Cambridge, St Mary's enrols a total of 650 girls aged three to 18 years. It has 120 years' expertise in educating girls, saying that "From teaching and pastoral care to school life, everything at St Mary’s is built for girls".
As a member of the Girls’ School Association (GSA), it is proud of its high numbers of girls studying STEM subjects. In 2019, 43.6% studied maths compared to 8.1% nationally, and 35.9% studies biology compared to 9.9% nationally.
The school has dedicated campuses for its Junior School, Senior School and Sixth Form (all within walking distance of each other) offering parents the advantage of an all-through education, as well as smaller learning communities for each stage of their child's learning.
St Mary's is proud of its international student community (around 20% of students are from overseas, representing over 30 different countries) and this is felt throughout the school corridors. A noticeboard displays information relating to different countries, cultures, and identities across the world; a giant map in the dining room displays the countries of origin of students at the school; and girls connect with students worldwide through ‘E-twinning’ with other schools and sharing virtual classrooms.
While St Mary's is a Catholic school, it does welcome girls of all faiths and secular backgrounds. All students will be expected to attend weekly lessons in religious studies until Year 11 and complete their GCSE in the subject.
Teaching follows a blended curriculum that enriches the National Curriculum for England with specialist teaching from a young age and a cross-curricular approach to subjects including science, art, geography, and music.
There's a strong focus on science and maths here with students working on STEM-related topics from Reception. There are many extra-curricular clubs focusing on STEM, and scholarships for excellence in Textiles, STEM, and Design and Enterprise.
While St Mary's is a selective school, it does welcome a broad ability range. Compared to the very academically rigorous and selective nature of the neighbouring Perse School, St Mary's offers a more relaxed learning environment that will certainly suit some girls more than others.
Girls are taught to have great self-belief in their abilities; whatever their starting point, they are taught to work hard and aim high. HPL, or High Performance Learning, is embedded in the curriculum throughout the school. This framework of teaching focuses on advanced thinking skills and learning behaviours to help build 'better brains' – and this is key to the school's message to all learners that they will succeed.
St Mary's is often talked about more for the arts than sport, although there are opportunities to study both as part of the curriculum and as extra-curricular activities.
All girls study drama in Years 7 and 8, and can take it as an option at GCSE and A Level. Highlights in the arts calendar include an outdoor Shakespeare production every year. And there are plenty of extra-curricular clubs (15 of these are dedicated to music every week). Facilities include an art and photography centre, which has four art teaching spaces, a Sixth Form study space, a dark room and a photography studio.
Sport at St Mary's is driven by a 'sports for all' policy, and focuses on the relationship between sport and "self-worth, confidence and body image in young girls". While girls still compete in sports including netball, rowing (it is Cambridge after all, and the school does have its own boathouse) and swimming, there are plenty of opportunities to play and enjoy non-performance activities such as boxercise, gymnastics and Zumba. The school has expanded its sports programme to include many solo pursuits than can be enjoyed for life, with less 'traditional' sports such as kung fu and dance.
Other sporting highlights include an annual Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) Gymnastics Display and a Holland hockey trip (Years 9 and 10).
Most sports facilities are located off campus at the recently opened Long Road sports ground, but the Senior School does have its own gymnasium, outdoor gym, table tennis, netball and tennis courts.
Results at St Mary's are impressive. In 2021, 35% of A Level grades were A*, 81% were A*-A, and 97% were A*-B. 100% were A*- C grades. Subject highlights include particularly strong performances in Spanish, Drama, Further Maths, Music, Greek and Latin with 100% of grades at A*.
In GCSEs, 47% of grades were A*, 66% of were A*-A, and 92% were A*- B grades. At least half of all students gained a grade 9 in the following subjects: History (53%), Art (50%), Class Civ (57%), Latin (55%) and Classical Greek (60%). In Music, 100% grades were the top 9 or 8.
A measure of its success in helping girls of all abilities reach their goals can be seen in its Value Add results. In 2021, the school's Value Add scores for GCSE and A Level was 0.7, which means that (on average) it added 0.7 of a grade to every girl's results, across all subjects; this could be the difference between 10 Grade 8s and 10 Grade 9s at GCSE.
75% of St Mary's subject departments recorded Value Added scores placing them in the top 10% of schools, while physics, religious studies and Spanish all achieved the highest value-added scores in the UK.
St Mary's is investing in facilities for all students. Most recently it opened new sporting facilities at the nearby Long Road sports ground, including athletics facilities, AstroTurf pitches for hockey, rugby and football, cricket nets, and netball and tennis courts. A new STEM learning lab will open shortly.
The dedicated Sixth Form has subject classrooms, a silent study room, a social study and computer room, a career and Higher Education advice suite, spacious common room and a gym/dance studio.
Students can board from Year 5, and the majority who do come from overseas. The school has one boarding house, Mary Ward House, which is within walking distance of the three schools. There are around 90+ places available for Years 5-13 boarders, and families are advised to apply early as spaces are limited.
Junior School applicants are assessed throughout the year; Senior School applicants attend an assessment day at the end of January; and Sixth Form applicants receive an offer made on their predicted grades.
International applicants aged 9.5 years and older take the online UKiset test, which is designed for international applicants to British independent schools. UK applicants sit assessments for Years 3 and above.
St Mary's is not a highly selective school though, and girls with a broad range of academic abilities are offered places. Top grades and academic achievement may not guarantee you a place here as the focus is more on evidence of "individual potential".
Annual fees range from £10,923 for Reception to Year 2, to £17,031 for Years 7-13. Boarding fees start at £27,600 for Years 5-6 up to £35,301 for Years 7-13.
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