At St Mary’s, girls aim high. We encourage ambition, firmly rooted in an understanding of community and the good of others. Above all, we want the girls to learn how to enjoy life and to make the most of their undoubted potential.
As Headmistress, I am a passionate advocate for the power of an all girls' education. Girls flourish in an all-girls environment. Having taught in both co-ed and girls’ schools, I know that there is a striking quality to the atmosphere, character, and climate of a girls’ school. The learning community that emerges is characterised by a profound sense of responsibility for learning, a special rapport between and among the teacher and the pupils, a spirit of co-learning, with both the teacher and the pupils feeling free to ask questions, make and learn from mistakes and take risks.
I am a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) and the Girls' Schools Association (GSA) and the school actively supports these organisations. According to recent surveys conducted with alumnae of girls' schools by the National Coalition of Girls' Schools (NCGS):
• Girls' school graduates consistently assess their abilities, self-confidence, engagement and ambition as either above average or in the top 10 percent.
• Compared to their co-ed peers, girls’ school graduates have more confidence in their mathematics and computer abilities and study longer hours.
• 93% were very or extremely satisfied with their preparation for the academic challenges of university.
• 90% would probably or definitely attend a girls' school if they had to do it all over again.
• Nearly all the respondents (93%) either somewhat or strongly agreed that girls' schools provide greater leadership opportunities than co-educational schools.
In a report written by Richard Holmgren, Vice President for Information Services and Assessment, Allegheny College, published by the NCGS in 2014, the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE), which measures the engagement of high school students with more than 400,000 students in over 40 states, concluded that girls attending all-girls' schools compared to their female peers at co-educational schools:
• have higher aspirations and greater motivation
• are challenged to achieve more
• are more actively engaged in the learning process
• are engaged in activities preparing them for the world outside of school
• feel more comfortable being themselves and expressing their ideas
• report greater gains on core academic and life skills
• feel as or more supported in their endeavours.
The National Coalition of Girls' Schools outlines other benefits of all girls' education in the video The Girls' School Advantage: By the Numbers - do take a look.
The GSA also outlines some of the key reasons for choosing a girls' school in their Best Boarding for Girls flyer.
The annual 2016 ISC Census has highlighted some findings which also underpin the value of choosing an independent school above a state school, and these are certainly backed up by the academic results which we see at St Mary's Calne. Independent schooling accounts for 0.64 of a GCSE grade increase (this allows for prior ability, socio-economic status and gender). This is the difference between A/B or an A/A* grade. The research shows that attending an independent school in England is associated with the equivalent of two additional years of schooling by the age of 16.
Of course, the best way to discover what makes St Mary's special is to visit and to meet the girls themselves and see the school at first hand, and I would encourage you to do this. I look forward to meeting you.
Dr Felicia Kirk