I attended the school’s open day along with about 200 prospective parents and their daughters. The day began with a fantastically polished introduction speech by the Headmistress Mary Breen.
Having a couple of friends who went to St Mary’s and all of whom spoke fondly of their memories of the nuns, I felt slightly disappointed to find out that the last nun had left last year! However, it very quickly became clear that the school has upheld all the values instilled in it by its founders (the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in 1885).
St. Mary’s is one of the UK’s largest Catholic schools. (You can read our reviews of others in the SLT Schools Guide). Although there are many Roman Catholic girls and co-ed boarding schools in the UK, none has as high a percentage as St Mary’s. St Mary’s is definitely the only full boarding, fully Roman Catholic girls school in the UK; although Ampleforth – a traditional boys’ public school – has recently started to accept girls.
I was given a tour of the school grounds by a sixth former who was a fantastic ambassador. She was particularly proud of, ‘Pets’ Shed’ and the Cookery Club – which she explained helped the younger girls feel more at home. She was also quick to point out the Rufus Sewell Theatre and the fact that dancer Darcey Bussell had opened the school’s sports centre! All the girls I met had an awareness that they were part of a very privileged and closely connected family, that is logically, pro-women. They really enjoyed the guest speakers and Old Girls’ visits and I felt this gave them a particularly strong sense of community that would serve them well in adult life.