Our living ethos
"Clear vision permeates all that the school does, enabling it to combine academic success with a strong spiritual and Catholic ethos"
Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI)
Commenting on how this Christian framework supports students’ development, the ISI inspectors said: “They are mature, reflective, self-confident without being arrogant, and highly aware of the needs of others. Both they and the staff fully reflect the school’s ethos of integrity, justice and respect. Their development is extremely well supported not only by the Catholic spirituality at the heart of the school, but also by meticulous pastoral care, excellent relationships, and their sense of pride.”
Our unique education provision, with our Catholic ethos and unashamedly all-girls environment, designed to give girls the very best opportunities to develop their academic and personal talents is our living ethos. This intent is central to our approach and inspires us – students and staff – in all that we do. Our guiding spirit is a profound belief in gospel values as the motivation for the full and individual development of every student as a whole person. Our educational philosophy is based on these values as seen ‘through the prism’ of our foundress, Mary Ward.
The gospel values which characterise a Catholic school are mediated through the ‘12 Characteristics of a Mary Ward School’ as identified by the Congregation of Jesus, namely:
- Respecting Self
- Valuing Friendship
- Encouraging Hard Work and Excellence
- Valuing Women’s Role and Spirituality
- Seeing the Good in all Creation
- Working to Eliminate Injustice
- Following in Christ’s Footsteps
- Embracing Diversity
- Pursuing Cheerfulness
- Promoting Christian Values of Truth, Justice, Freedom and Sincerity
- Coping Effectively with Failure
- Supporting Each Other Throughout the School
Our Mary Ward Characteristics are central to our living ethos and heighten the girls’ awareness for mutual respect. Promoting Christian Values of Truth, Justice, Freedom and Sincerity, Respecting Self and Embracing Diversity all go towards instilling the values of treating each other in a fair, just manner. These Characteristics have a broad appeal: all resonate with girls of any faith and also those from a secular background and indeed they do since all world religions have a focus on love of one’s fellow as well as one’s God and any secular belief system relies on love and relationships with wider society. Reference is sometimes made to the Characteristics directly in lessons, in discussing pastoral matters, and in daily interaction between staff and students.
Each year the school focuses on two Characteristics which will find expression in all our day to day activities, structures and endeavours. As we embark on the new academic year we will be focusing on Promoting Christian Values of Truth, Justice, Freedom and Sincerity as our first Characteristic and Embracing Diversity as our second. A future blog will focus more on our second Characteristic for the year: Embracing Diversity as we celebrate the Moon Festival on 27 September, a harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese people. I feel that it is important to reflect on how these Characteristics will manifest themselves in our daily lives and why they are intrinsic to our school’s ethos.
Seeking Truth for Mary Ward was seeking a greater knowledge of God and walking in God's presence. As God is creator, all increase in knowledge and understanding of the world and its peoples is growth in knowledge of God and is the reason for our broad curriculum, extra-curricular programme and daily assemblies. We get to know God in other people and this is fostered in the opportunities to make and sustain friendships.
Mary Ward describes Justice as an 'apt disposition' to all good works. Throughout the year, students and staff are invited to take part in a multitude of charitable activities, on a local and international level, and to support the school’s Fair Trade initiatives. As part of the Creative Curriculum at the Junior School the girls often explore global social justice issues within their topics – such as sustainable living, fairness and equality. It is in this aspect that Development Education has found its place. It aims to engage people in a dialogue about what change is needed to create a fair, equal and sustainable world. The values which underpin this ‘social philosophy’ are very much in-line with those of our school’s foundress – and in particular Promoting Christian Values of Justice.
Closely related to Justice is the concept of Sincerity, or becoming a 'Just Person' and a person of integrity. Pastoral care is a priority for us and is exercised through: friendships; form tutors; Heads of Year; deputies; our trio of nurses; counsellor; chaplain; and mentoring. Students are also urged to care for each other and share responsibility for everyone's care and happiness. It is through the pastoral system, the PSHCE programme and in lessons that students are encouraged to explore their values and put them into practice.
Freedom for Mary Ward meant freedom from attachment to materialism and anything that hindered someone from being fully themselves, fully alive and responding to God's call. This year we will be encouraging students and staff to become increasingly reflective by using the 'Review of the Day' or ‘Examen’ to help identify what enriches them and what hinders them. In addition to academic study the extra-curricular programme will provide many opportunities to develop independence and discover aspects of life which are personally fulfilling.
In a school with almost 120 years of experience in girls’ education, we are confident in being able to unlock our students’ academic, spiritual, cultural and physical aspirations and allow them to grow into fulfilled individuals who will make a difference in their adult lives in a broad range of areas and for the benefit of many different communities. It is through our living ethos, the Mary Ward Characteristics, that we are able to fulfil this ambition.