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An extraordinary year at our Senior School: Prize Giving 2020

An extraordinary year at our Senior School: Prize Giving 2020

The extraordinary past few months have encouraged us more than ever to reflect on and value our core ethos, and the strength it gives us in these uncertain times. In March 2020 we rose to the challenge of moving the school online for the first time in our more than 120 years of education.

I would like to thank our teachers and support staff for making the transition to remote learning so seamless, and to our parent body for their unwavering suppor

We were thankful for the many supportive messages we received following the transition to remote learning. One parent wrote: “We are very grateful and amazed by how well the school was prepared for the distance learning. We are experiencing exceptional teaching and pastoral care even through remote learning. What a wonderful school and staff!”

These words, and the many more messages we received, served as rocket fuel to keep us all going. They echoed a 2019 independent survey run by RSAcademics, which showed that our parents truly value a St Mary’s education. From quality of teaching and leadership, to communication, academic challenge and pupil well-being, the survey revealed exceptionally high levels of parental satisfaction across the board.

The phrase ‘once a St Mary’s girl, always a St Mary’s girl’ has never been more pertinent. These intangible connections bind us through space and time; so, although the school shut to students in March, apart from the children of key workers, our community spirit continued to flourish. Our bonds – already strong – were remarkably and movingly, strengthened.

One of this year’s Mary Ward values, ‘valuing friendship’, has shone through, with the girls continuing to strengthen the lifelong friendships they have made here and to value the friendship and solidarity of their teachers and the support and administrative staff.

Looking back to earlier in the year, the school had a number of exciting developments and successes. At the start of the academic year we were thrilled to make it into the finals of the Independent Schools of the Year Awards 2019 in the ‘Independent Boarding School of the Year’ category, reflecting the excellence of our boarding provision at Mary Ward House.  

This followed on from our accreditation as a ‘High Performance Learning (HPL) World Class School’ at the end of Summer Term 2019. The school met demanding standards to complete HPL’s rigorous two-year World Class School Award scheme.  

In the Autumn Term, St Mary's School was awarded the British Council's Intermediate International School Award. The Intermediate Award is awarded to schools who: "have made links with other schools overseas and have worked on collaborative projects, are beginning to raise awareness of global issues among students and want to share educational practice with partners overseas."

In addition, we have started talks with our whole community to see how we can do more to support the ethos of the Black Lives Matter movement. Our pledge is to work with students to build on the actions we have already taken, and to work together to help make sure George Floyd’s death will not have been in vain. As a Headmistress I was proud to receive passionate emails from students, staff and alumnae on this issue, testament that the St Mary’s spirit is alive and well!  

I hope you enjoy our first virtual copy of Magnolian – a first in our 120-year history – and take time to look at the work of our Senior School and Sixth Form scholars in the scholars' showcase, as well as our prize giving films for Junior School and Senior School. You can also take a look at the wonderful works of art by our students in our GCSE, A Level Art and A Level Photography online exhibitions.

We have just learned that we have been shortlisted for two prestigious awards: as part of the Independent Schools of the Year Awards, St Mary’s Junior School has been shortlisted as the Independent Prep School of the Year, and St Mary’s has also been shortlisted for the Marketing Award for Brand Communication. We ensure that all of our girls know that #yesshecan be whomever she wants to be, whether that’s a sportswoman, an artist, a scientist or an author. In truth, our girls are all the ‘marketing’ we need: our happy, confident, compassionate pupils shine. We watch them grow and nurture them from Reception through to Sixth Form, as they gain the skills and values they need to live a happy and fulfilled life.

We look forward to fully welcoming back our Sixth Form in the Autumn Term.

Thank you for your continued support.

Charlotte Avery