St Mary’s, Calne

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St Mary’s Calne is a top boarding and day school of around 350 girls aged 11–18, including a very strong Sixth Form of 110+ students. Approximately 80% of the girls board and it is a rich boarding life, with all girls participating in the full-curriculum and extracurricular activities on offer.

St Mary’s is committed to providing a broad and fulfilling education that will challenge and inspire its pupils. In the May 2017 ISI Report, the inspectors commented: ‘Pupils have outstanding attitudes to learning and they readily acquire the skills, knowledge and understanding necessary for success.” This is reflected in the girls’ superb examination results. In 2017, 24% of entries were graded A*, 70% A*-A and 93% A*-B. Almost 90% of the girls secured their first choice of university and went on to study at a range of leading Russell Group universities including: Oxford, Cambridge, Cardiff, Birmingham, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Imperial, LSE, Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton and Warwick.

The 2017 Leavers are now studying a diverse range of subjects at their chosen universities, including: Anthropology & Archaeology, Biological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Business Management, Computer Science, Drama, Economics, English, Fine Art, Finance, French, Geography, History, History of Art, International Relations, Law, Mathematics, Medicine, Modern Languages & Cultures, Natural Sciences, PPE, Philosophy & Theology, Psychology and Social Anthropology

The school is renowned for its outstanding pastoral care. Every girl is known and cared for as an individual and has a Tutor to support and guide her through every aspect of school life; from organisational skills and subject choices through to university application.

All girls go on to higher education (around 10-15% to Oxbridge on average) and the purpose-built Sixth Form Centre, a tailor-made lecture programme, a women in corporate culture conference, debating competitions, careers advice, leadership roles and much more prepare the girls for university and beyond.

The school recently completed an £11.5 million boarding refurbishment programme (the new Lower Sixth Form House won the 2016 West of England LABC Building Excellence awards for Best Educational Building) and a new, multi-million pound sports complex is being built (to be completed in April 2018).

St Mary’s sportswomen compete at a national level in several major sports and the school fields a successful team for the British Schoolgirls’ Ski Races. All girls work for the Bronze DofE Award with large numbers going onto higher levels. 80% of girls play musical instruments and take part in a variety of ensembles. Drama productions transfer to the London stage and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the department boasts a unique relationship with RADA.

The girls have had a spectacular career at St Mary’s; I am not measuring this just in attainment or success in exams but they have also seized every opportunity – on the sports field, in music and as representatives of the school… I am incredibly proud that they have been able to attend a school like this.” Former parent

Gifted & Talented

At St Mary’s Calne we aim to help all students to fulfil their potential.  This is achieved through small class sizes, enthusiastic and talented subject specialists and a strong tutorial system.  In addition to this, extra provision is made specifically for Gifted and Talented students.

Gifted and Talented students are identified through standardised test results (MidYis, Yellis and ALIS) and by teacher nomination.  Gifted and Talented pupils are invited to join certain activities which include:

  • a Scholars’ Programme taking place on Friday lunchtimes
  • trips, such as participation at a Study Day for Gifted and Talented Pupils
  • the annual Scholars’ Dinner with a Guest Speaker in the Spring Term
  • Gifted and Talented pupils in the Sixth Form are encouraged to become involved in the Oxbridge Programme which encourages deeper learning and wider academic pursuit.


The Scholarship Programme involves sessions that are demanding, often cross-curricular, and designed to stretch and challenge the girls and inspire independent thought and research.  These girls are likely to apply to high-ranking universities and the Scholarship Programme aims to prepare them for potential interviews.  There are two groups, one for Junior Academic Scholars (LIV Form to UIV Form) and one for Senior Academic Scholars (LV Form to UVI Form), meeting on alternate weeks.

Here are some examples of sessions that the Junior Academic Scholarship Programme has included:

  • Mathematical Team Challenge – the girls were given a number of clues and had to work together to solve the problem.  The activity tied together a range of mathematical topics including averages, patterns, algebra and numerical facts and helped the girls to develop their team-working skills.
  • ‘Two Things’ – the girls read an Oliver Burkeman column in which he discussed the ‘Two Things exercise’ in which people try to summarise what is special about their interests into the two most important and insightful aspects.  For example, for Medicine: 1. Do no harm; 2. To do good, you must risk doing harm; and for Economics: 1. Incentives matter; 2. There is no such thing as a free lunch.  The girls then each summarised a number of their own interests into ‘Two Things’.
  • Left v. Right – using a detailed infographic from to provoke discussion, the girls explored the differences in beliefs, political ideas, economic principles and views about society between left and right political groups.  They explored how this differs for different countries (especially comparing the UK and US), drew on their knowledge from history (including comparing Communism and Fascism) and discussed where they each stood on the political spectrum.

The Senior Academic Scholars’ sessions have included:

  • Game Theory – Game theory is the science behind strategic thinking, and the girls learnt about it by examining situations such as the ‘Prisoners’ Dilemma’ and the ‘Ultimatum Game’.  In pairs, they then solved a challenging game theory problem which had been posed at an Oxbridge interview.
  • Twitter stories – the girls discussed what their favourite books were and why; and what are the characteristics that make a good story.  We then discussed the rise of Twitter, read some ‘Twitter stories’ by famous authors (stories in 140 characters or less) and then the girls tried their hand at writing their own Twitter stories.
  • 200 years that changed the world – the girls used the immensely valuable Gapminder World resources and a video presentation by Dr Hans Rosling to understand how the world has developed economically and socially since the industrial revolution.  This led to a discussion on how statistics can be used to improve our understanding of the world in which we live and thus to boost global development.

All girls are screened for any indications of learning difficulties when they start at St Mary’s. Any issues are monitored and action taken as, and if, appropriate. Girls are given lessons in study periods or during lunch breaks so they do not miss lessons. Lessons are one to one and are timetabled as one per week at the same time, on occasion a girl may receive two lessons per week.

Lessons are geared to the individual, we do not follow a particular spelling or comprehension programme; everything is aimed to support the individual needs of a child in an academic, secondary school environment.

Students are encouraged to email or drop in if they have any concerns about their learning and the staff work closely with subject teachers and tutors.

St Mary’s has three part-time qualified Learning Support teachers, one EAL teacher and one part-time Extra Maths teacher. The school also uses two Educational Psychologists who can come in to assess, and girls must have a full EP assessment for exam concessions.

Recommendations are given to teaching staff so they can support the student as much as possible. Parents are able to contact Learning Support Staff as and when they need to, and reports are also written twice a year.

A Learning Support Register with information helpful for teaching staff is sent out to staff regularly, so that they are aware of any difficulties.

Bursaries & Scholarships

At 11+

Scholarships available

  • Academic
  • Art
  • Drama
  • Music (for first-study instrumentalists)
  • Sport

Candidates shortlisted at Entrance Day for the Academic Scholarship will sit papers in English and Mathematics in the January of the year of entry. These examinations are sat at St Mary’s Calne. For entry to St Mary’s in September 2017, the examinations will be held on Tuesday 17th January 2017.

The Art, Drama, Music and Sport Scholarship Auditions and Assessments take place in December of Year 6 and are conditional on good performance at either Common Entrance or St Mary’s own entrance examinations in January. Art, Drama, Music and Sport Scholarship candidates may alternatively choose to sit the Academic Scholarship papers if they wish to be considered for an Academic Scholarship as well. The auditions and assessments will take place on Monday 5th December 2016.

In addition to the full Academic Scholarships, Academic Exhibitions may be offered to candidates showing outstanding ability in a single subject or group of subjects.

For more information on these scholarships, please contact the Admissions Department.

At 13+

Scholarships available

  • Academic
  • Bodinnar All-Rounder
  • Art
  • Choral (for first-study singers)
  • Drama
  • Music (for first-study instrumentalists)
  • Sport

Candidates shortlisted at Entrance Day for the Academic or Bodinnar Scholarship will need to be registered with the ISEB by St Mary’s Calne and will sit the Common Academic Scholarship papers in February of the year of entry. The application fee charged by the ISEB for the examination is £110, and a cheque made payable to St Mary’s School Calne should accompany the application form.

The Assessment Day for Bodinnar, Art, Choral, Drama, Music, Choral and Sport Scholarships takes place in the February of the year of entry and scholarships will be offered by the middle of March. All Art, Choral, Drama, Music and Sport Scholarships are conditional on good performance in either Common Entrance in June or St Mary’s own entrance examinations in February. Art, Choral, Drama, Music and Sport Scholarship candidates may alternatively choose to sit the ISEB Common Academic Scholarship papers if they also wish to be considered for an academic award as well.

In addition to the full Academic Scholarships, Academic Exhibitions may be offered to candidates who show considerable promise in a single subject or group of subjects..

Academic Scholarships (including Bodinnar) at 11+ and 13+ and external Sixth Form Scholarships are awarded up to 40% of a scholar’s boarding or day fees, as applicable. To be able to allocate funds to those girls who would most benefit from them financially, only a proportion of the percentage offered – 5% – is awarded automatically. The remaining 35% – or a proportion thereof – is allocated, subject to a means test, at the Governors’ discretion. This process remains entirely confidential and parents may request the relevant forms at the time of the scholarship award.

Academic Exhibitions may be awarded up to 10% of a scholar’s boarding or day fees. Only 5% will be awarded automatically, the remainder being subject to a means test at the Governors’ discretion.

Art, Drama and Sports Scholarships are honorary awards, for which the recipient will receive £1000 per annum. Music Scholars will be offered two free music lessons per week.

Foundation Scholarships

One Foundation Scholarship is available annually at 11+ and one at Sixth Form to particularly gifted and talented pupils from the state education sector who, for reasons of financial restriction, might otherwise be prevented from applying to the school. All Foundation Scholarships are retained to the end of the Sixth Form. The Scholarships are means-tested and could reduce the Day fees by up to 100%.

At 11+, the Scholarships are granted solely on merit as the result of competitive examination and require the support of a candidate’s Head Teacher. Candidates sit examinations in English, Mathematics and Verbal Reasoning and, in addition, are interviewed by a member of teaching staff and the Headmistress.

At Sixth Form, Scholarships are made subject to academic record, interview, reference and personal statements. Although they are not exam based, work relevant to the A Levels you to wish to study must be submitted with the application form. Consideration will go particularly, but not exclusively, to girls whose parents have not themselves been to university or higher education, but who strive for this for their daughters.

All Foundation Scholarships share the same application process. Applicants should register interest in the Scholarships in September of the year preceding entry. An Information Evening is held in late September which includes a tour of the school.

The Information Evening for the 2017 awards is Tuesday 27th September 2016.

The closing date for applications for the 2017 awards is 14th October 2016.

Sixth Form Foundation Award Interviews take place on Friday 21st October 2016 for 2017 entry.

11+ Foundation Award Examinations take place on Friday 4th November 2016 for 2017 entry.

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