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St Mary’s school Gerrards cross

(26 Posts)
canary1 Mon 17-Feb-20 23:47:24

Any experiences with this school? Considering it for my daughter in 2 years time.planning on going to the next open morning, but would like to hear real experiences from it. It looks small but I’d like her to be somewhere very supportive and caring.

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Prepmumm Tue 18-Feb-20 00:47:48

One of our daughters attended this school, did very well there, and was very happy. We chose it over RMS, even though our daughter wasn’t particularly shy or in need of a smaller school; it just felt like a warm & supportive environment for her to be. Are you looking at prep or senior?

canary1 Tue 18-Feb-20 10:29:10

Many thanks for your reply, and also that your daughter did well and was happy there. I’m looking at moving my daughter from state to independent ( year 4 currently), and am interested in St Mary’s as a run through from year 5, to senior school ( at least until GCSEs)

Did your daughter try prep, or senior, or both?
Also considering RMS and Berkhamsted as could run through to senior school.


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Zodlebud Tue 18-Feb-20 11:19:04

St Mary’s is VERY different to Berkhamsted. Berkhamsted regularly ask children to leave if they are not making the grade and not every child in the Prep is invited to stay on to the senior school. It’s a very competitive school with great academics and sports, but it is a world away from the supportive and caring environment of St Mary’s.

St Mary’s is very small with less than 40 girls in each year group. That’s no bad thing but that’s fewer girls from which to find your tribe. It has a fabulous reputation for pastoral care and girls do well there.

Another two all girls all through schools known for pastoral you might want to consider are Pipers Corner and Abbott’s Hill, but obviously depends on your location. Both are still small but bigger schools and as such have better facilities e.g. swimming pools and theatres.

canary1 Tue 18-Feb-20 15:26:11

Many thanks for that. They sound like very different places indeed then. I wonder if you know how well St Mary’s girls fare academically? On the face of it ( just on their presented stats), Berko are coming in stronger on results, with RMS next and St Mary’s behind both. But St Mary’s looks like a really caring place to be. Pipers too far from my location really, must look into Abbott’s Hill which I haven’t heard of. Thank you so much for your advice!

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Zodlebud Tue 18-Feb-20 16:18:01

A lot of children are tutored outside school at Berkhamsted and as I mentioned above, children are frequently asked to leave. Not just at 7+, 11+ and 16+ either. If you are likely to bring down their scores then they will boot you out. My good friend’s son was asked to leave at the end of Y12 for no reason than his grades weren’t high enough. Two children in my daughters year at prep joined after being kicked out of Berkhamsted. They also have a lot of Chinese students join in the sixth form which bolsters grades.

That’s how they get the good grades!!!!!

Don’t get me wrong, if you are bright and sporty then it’s a fabulous school. The children are pushed academically and do very well. I have several friends with children there and they are universally happy with it. It’s just not for everyone.

Apart from an Open Day visit I don’t know very much about St Mary’s I’m afraid. Don’t forget though that it will always suffer from being in a grammar school area and will scoop up the kids who don’t pass. I would ask them about their value add - so are they turning the girl who would have got a C or equivalent at GCSE into a B or even an A grade? Schools like this are usually very good at this kind of progress but unfortunately it’s hard to see if you are only given actual GCSE grades results. I am a great believer that if your child is happy then they will do well.

All the best for your search!

canary1 Wed 19-Feb-20 12:23:31

Thanks so much Zodlebud. I really appreciate your knowledge -and explanations!

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BubblesBuddy Wed 19-Feb-20 13:34:01

There is some comparison data on the official government web site. The attainment data for St Marys is similar to Holmer Green Secondary school but lower than The Amersham School, Cressex School and Waddesdon School which are all secondary moderns. Their Ebac results are similar to Holmer Green and several of the better secondary moderns too. Therefore you are essentially paying for secondary modern results and these are nowhere near the grammar schools, as you would expect. From these results it is doubtful progress is stellar.

Being totally honest with you, I would say it is very much a school where DDs have not got into the grammar schools or gone to better independent schools. Would you not look at Maltmans School? Godstowe in High Wycombe is the best prep school and does not select. My younger DD went there in Y3.

Obviously nearly every child changes school at 11. Although Godstowe is largely at 13, some leave for grammars at 11. I would think you might want the best for your DD and is secondary modern performance really what you want? Or would you be better off preparing for the Bucks 11 plus or looking at better independent schools if that does not work out. Many pupils get fed up with through schools and ones without A levels do not always attract the best teachers as the teaching is a bit mundane with no stretch. It is your money though......

canary1 Wed 19-Feb-20 16:00:23

Many thanks, do you mind letting me know the website with the comparison data. I will look at Godstowe too. I just liked the idea of moving to stay, rather than for years5-8 or so, and then onto yet another school. I’m keen on educating independently rather than looking at any state options, as I want to move her out of state education ( from my experience of it so far). Many thanks

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Prepmumm Wed 19-Feb-20 16:48:38

I have to disagree I’m afraid. People do choose schools for other reasons besides how they look on league tables. Our daughter could have gone to other independents, and had the option of joining grammar; but we felt she would be happier and better supported, in an environment that was free from the pressure of collecting stars for the tables...
Our daughter was above average ability, but struggled in some things at primary, due to an undiagnosed dyslexia, which was dealt with brilliantly at the school. So much so, she achieved A*s in both her GCSE English exams, and A in A level English literature.
As for eBac, while some schools like Berkhamsted prioritise this as another league table favourite...St. Mary’s are more interested in what is best for the individual child. Our daughter struggled with languages, so although she was given support, it certainly wasn’t something we lost sleep over.
The year groups joining in recent years had grown considerably, averaging around 45. More than enough to find your tribe. And what a lovely tribe they were. Kind, friendly and supportive. Not the dog eat dog, sharp elbowed mentality of some. If that’s what you’re looking for, then yes, St. Mary’s is not for you. But if your no.1 priority is the happiness of your child, and being somewhere she will feel very much part of one big family..and being somewhere where she is more than a potential source of data to boost their tables and selling points...then I would absolutely consider this school.
For all my initial concerns at how relaxed my daughter had appeared to be, in the years and months before her GCSEs...while all her friends at grammar, were attending revision courses and private tutors...I need not have worried. She did far better than most of those girls. 6th form was a particularly happy time, and most of her year group stayed on, in spite of being offered grammar places for A level. AAB in 3 strong subjects as well as her EPQ...and is now well on course for a 1st at a highly regarded RG. Absolutely no regrets, and a happy, well grounded, confident young lady at the other end.

Prepmumm Wed 19-Feb-20 16:59:49

Can I also just add in relation to government attainment understanding is that this can be highly misleading, as independents offer some subjects in iGCSE..which are not included in GCSE tables. Look beyond that when you do consider.
Yes my daughter’s year group had a range of abilities, but the vast majority of the girls, did very well, and are at good universities. They were also very good at supporting her less academic friends, seek suitable places.
The average A level grade attained by the local grammars, ranges from C to B. So by that comparison, I would say the girls did rather well.

canary1 Wed 19-Feb-20 23:13:12

Gosh thank you so much for this Prepmumm, that’s been really helpful indeed.

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BubblesBuddy Thu 20-Feb-20 23:48:01

It’s a web site with school comparison data. If the data is there, it meets the criteria. Of course some DC will do well. They do have DC who get great GCSEs and A levels at the secondary moderns I mentioned. However if you don’t have SEN, are bright enough to get to a grammar, why not choose the grammar or an independent school with a similar profile to a grammar? My DD1 got a very high pass mark for Bucks Grammars, but we chose private. Academically there was no difference. That was vital for us. However she had no SEN snd flourished at the school we chose because plenty of DDs were like her.

I don’t see the attraction of through schools either. The DDs get bored and there is something exciting about moving on to new opportunities and facilities. Mine grew out of primary and needed to move on. They also wanted new friends and to spread their wings.

Prepmumm Fri 21-Feb-20 08:22:36

‘In England, International GCSEs have not counted in school performance tables since the corresponding reformed GCSEs became available. In the UK, therefore, International GCSEs are mainly taken by students in independent schools.’ Per Ofqual

As for is a school’s measure, not a pupil qualification, so for most people who are not league table obsessed, they are not bothered if not all children are forced to study subjects that don’t interest them, or have to worry about getting an A in language, when they have constraints that make it difficult. My daughter theoretically, didn’t pass her Ebacc...because of her language. But she did brilliantly in everything else. Has it mattered one jot? She is now at a top RG uni and already has a lucrative profession training contract lined up for when she graduates. People’s obsession with league tables only serves to fuel the schools who use them as selling points for their own success. It’s a self perpetuating fascination. I’d much prefer a school that focusses and caters for my child as an individual, and not a child who can bolster their tables. My youngest child has also passed super selective grammar with a very high score, has no SEN issues..and will be going to an independent school that features little on the tables. We chose it, because we know she will be happy there, and valued as an individual; and that’s what matters to us most.

canary1 Fri 21-Feb-20 19:33:07

Thanks, I looked at that site, and when I looked into the detail, they had not counted some subjects, rating them as 0% as the students didn’t take GCSE ( but take IGCSE). What misleading data... so St M was downgraded on those tables incorrectly, and no doubt other independent schools too. How unhelpful of a government website, but no surprise there...

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canary1 Fri 21-Feb-20 19:35:31

Thanks for alerting me to this xx

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BubblesBuddy Sun 23-Feb-20 18:11:49

It’s still not anywhere near a grammar school regardless of government tables. If it was, it would have s 6th form. Also bright DC can and do take the Ebacc. High percentages at selective schools. With good reason. Many students should not be allowed to drop subjects after year 8 or 9. They need a balanced education and one that doesn’t entirely indulge them to get results for the school.

canary1 Sun 23-Feb-20 19:13:59

But it does have a sixth form???

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Prepmumm Sun 23-Feb-20 21:00:38

Yes it does have a 6th form Canary. A small one of course, but it was a very happy & supportive place for my daughter to be. I really do try and turn a blind eye to this league table snobbery, but it never ceases to amaze me how entrenched some people are. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had the inferior comparison comments, including friends who had this notion that their children needed to be in high league grammar schools to do well. Every time another round of league results would be announced, they would comment proudly on what amazing schools they if it somehow meant their children were guaranteed academic stellar success. Which of course, it didn’t...
And the one child who went on to the same RG as my daughter...had tutoring all through 6th form...although the irony never seemed to be noticed! Yes my daughter’s year had a range of abilities and academic aspirations, and all her friends went on to study at good universities. You’ll be able to determine what suits your daughter best Canary, you will only know once you see it for yourself. Yes it doesn’t have flash facilities or acres of land...but it has a wealth of warmth, which for our daughter, was a huge, hands down winner. Good luck with your journey xx

Prepmumm Sun 23-Feb-20 21:09:15

And just to add regarding EBacc, this was only ever a government measure, brought in to increase uptake of these subjects within state schools as a whole. It is not and was never intended to be an individual qualification. It does not matter whether your child studies all the component subjects or not. It only matters for the schools that use this as one of their selling points.

Prepmumm Sun 23-Feb-20 21:22:24

Per website
‘A study by the UCL Institute of Education shows that studying subjects included in the EBacc provides students with greater opportunities in further education and increases the likelihood that a pupil will stay on in full-time education. Sutton Trust research reveals that studying the EBacc can help improve a young person’s performance in English and maths’

Brought in to encourage wider access to higher education...NOT as an individual measure of education.

underneaththeash Sun 23-Feb-20 21:33:47

Like Pipers....St Mary's seems to excel at getting average girls decent GCSE grades.
I have many friends who have very happy daughters there.

I would not recommend it if you have a high achiever.

Prepmumm Sun 23-Feb-20 22:09:13

My daughter had an above average profile, I’d say a few of her year group were perhaps more ‘average’...and a good few were well above average. They all did well, and more importantly, were all supported and encouraged in line with realistic expectations, which I do feel is quite important too. Her friends went on to study a range of subjects..including law and dentistry, and a degree apprenticeship with a global brand. Not bad for a non league table performer!

Zodlebud Mon 24-Feb-20 09:10:36

I agree that people tend to get wrapped up in the headline numbers for a school and ignore everything else it offers. Some academic children thrive being surrounded by other extremely bright children, for others being top of the class at a less academic school is a better environment. If you know your child well then you know which is the better scenario for your child.

Unfortunately, particularly in wealthy areas, parents are so focussed on getting their children into the school with the best reputation that they are blinded to what is right for their child.

Your gut reaction is almost always the right one but you have to be brave to break from “the norm”. We will be turning down a grammar place and an academic scholarship from another school in favour of a school we think really is best fit for my daughter. She’s the only one from her school going there and we all think it’s “right”. Other parents can’t believe we have chosen it over a grammar place. That’s their problem!!!!

Prepmumm Mon 24-Feb-20 10:07:54

We are experiencing similar reactions with our youngest Zodle, it really is such an ingrained snobbery around here. With very high 11+scores, people seemed amazed we were not considering grammar; but the more we looked into it, the more we realised how mediocre they really were. Look behind the government data showcasing various performance statistics, and a different picture emerges. There are a lot of 'average' pupils attending Bucks grammar schools, and a lot of tutoring and sustained pressure, goes into bolstering those grades.
The year our daughter sat her A levels at St. Mary's; I looked at the performance of other 'high achieving' schools that were supposedly brimming with brighter children...and compared her subject results, with both the local grammar and St. Helen's...around half the girls had achieved lower grades than she did in her chosen clearly not the full stellar line up, these tables would have you believe. Every child is an individual, and their academic success is down to a myriad of different factors. In our daughter's case, it was a combination of fairly good ability, the support of good teaching staff (her English teacher was nothing short of inspirational), and most importantly, their happiness and sense of belonging in their school..and I do believe this had the biggest impact on our daughter's outcome.

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