St Mary’s Shaftesbury
St Mary’s fosters an authentic sense of wellbeing, giving each of its girls the courage to face the unexpected and challenge the ordinary. It is a Catholic boarding and day school (for all faiths) located on a beautiful 50-acre countryside estate on the Dorset/Wiltshire border: the perfect environment to stimulate intellectual growth, resilience, curiosity and ambition.
“In the past we have described St Mary’s as a “jolly nice girls’ Catholic boarding school” but this belies its true character. A reasonably pacey school, St Mary’s is performing pretty well on all fronts, albeit with great modesty. ‘They don’t blow their trumpet enough’, remarked one parent. With lower fees than many independent schools, this school is quietly delivering excellent value. Girls wanting to be educated with boys should look elsewhere, but those looking for a warm and caring environment where they can achieve and be themselves will be right at home.”
The Good Schools Guide
A Word from the Head
My aim for St Mary’s is to preserve the great strengths and traditions of the school, but also to continue the reflective process of positive change and development which is necessary for an ambitious twenty-first century school. I am a passionate advocate of single-sex education for girls, having been through that system myself and spent most of my teaching career in girls’ schools. Fully committed to boarding life, I am keen to develop our provision further. Boarding at St Mary’s is busy, sociable and the sense of community is unequalled.
In a girls’ school, no leadership roles or subjects are off-limits and our teachers are free to focus on the pedagogical methods that prove to work best with girls. Girls in girls’ schools do exceptionally well, in every annual league table, as demonstrated by our excellent 2019 A Level results (22% achieved three or more A*/A grades and 43% of grades awarded A* or A. The most commonly grade awarded was an A. Fourteen per cent of girls in receipt of Oxbridge offers achieved their grade requirements). GCSE results were also outstanding achieving the best grades in nine years.
Girls in girls’ schools stop being the audience – they step up onto the stage and into the limelight. If you choose to send your daughter to St Mary’s, then she will have every opportunity for her leadership, her creativity, her dynamism and all her other strengths to flourish. In short, here she will have the chance to be herself and to become all that she can be. St Mary’s girls are truly the ‘dreamers of dreams’ and the ‘movers and shakers’, preparing to shape the future.
There is something remarkable and distinctive about a St Mary’s girl. They are confident young women who are deeply articulate, reflective, energetic, creative, outward-looking with an impressively set of strong values. A profound ethos is abundantly present in the school, a spiritual and moral framework by which to live: this lies firmly at the heart of St Mary’s and is treasured.
St Mary’s nurtures and celebrates talent. All the staff at the school take pride in being part of pupils’ development and success; as a smaller school, we know each and every girl well, allowing us to support and guide pupils towards achieving their goals.
Dedicated and enthusiastic teachers inspire a love of learning and allow girls to fulfil, and surpass all expectations. Our approach fosters a discursive, dynamic and collaborative environment for learning; it monitors development, sets individual targets, and caters to individual needs and abilities via its tutor system.
At Sixth Form, as at GCSE, we offer exceptional subject choice alongside individual support; the best universities look for independent thinkers with a thirst for knowledge. The tutoring system becomes even more crucial as career paths are mapped out and the result is an outstanding record of girls gaining places at their first-choice universities, including Oxbridge (14% in 2019).
Above all, St Mary’s takes the approach that learning is not just for exams but for life. Developing curiosity, persistence, critical thinking and a positive mind-set is key to preparing to work in a modern, global society.
The co-curricular offering is made up of many activities complimented by staff expertise as well as external specialist support. Activities include astronomy, archery, theatre, reading groups, coding and much more. Other activities like equestrian sports, dance and scuba diving are also popular.
In all co-curricular activities, our focus is on the full development of the pupil and being able to access a wide range of co-curricular activities and to discover and develop personal passions is one of the great joys of an independent education.
Opportunities for girls to express themselves creatively contribute to the holistic education for life and cultural competency that is part of the unique St Mary’s offering. Refining skills, exhibiting work and taking part in individual and group performances are critical to increasing self-confidence and preparing them for success beyond school. St Mary’s is proud to run an Elite Dance Programme with the well-renowned local dance school, TLW Dance.
St Mary’s aims to give all girls a love of sport, to set them on a path of life-long physical activity. Whether they have a passion or unique talent in a particular discipline, excel across the board, or are unsure of where their abilities lie and want to be able to try out a range of different sports, the school provides a tailored experience for all. Specialised coaching is provided by a team of highly qualified, professional and motivated staff and those with potential to excel may be invited to join our Elite Athlete Programme – giving them access to the pathways for sporting success.
Boarding is a key part of St Mary’s and the numbers of boarders in the school continues to rise. The school offers a safe, caring and disciplined environment where girls enjoy companionship, fun and a diverse programme of boarding activities during the week and at weekends. Each boarding house has a dedicated and experienced pastoral team.
Boarding allows girls to be stimulated and inspired throughout the whole week and allows them to fully participate in sporting and co-curricular activities. Boarding also fosters a culture of independence, mutual support and the skills required to enjoy life as part of a close community. St Mary’s is accredited for the Forces Continuity of Education Allowance and has a number of pupils from forces families.