St Mary's Calne

Logo of St Mary's Calne

Pupils Info

Gender – Girls' School
Age range – Age 11-18
Number of pupils on roll – 345 Pupils


Average Class Size: 15
Day and Boarding School
Oxbridge Entrance Percentage: 15%
Day: £24,150 – Boarding: £32,751
A* to B at A-Level Percentage: 94%

On the school’s homepage St. Mary’s Calne announce their dedication “to developing each pupil’s full potential by providing a nurturing environment for the girls to develop, grow and express themselves in.” If we are to ignore the cardinal sin of finishing a sentence with a preposition, it seems a perfectly sensible statement; and that is what St Mary’s Calne is: a sensible choice, producing sensible girls within a sensible environment. Located in the small market town of Calne in Wiltshire, St. Mary’s was founded by Canon John Duncan in 1873 and today the school remains in line with his vision: a good academic grounding for girls where individuality is celebrated. The St. Mary’s Calne girls are a plucky, caring, balanced lot who form lifelong friendships with one another; they are sensible and kind, without being boring.

Background and Reputation

With the majority of the Tatler office employees being St. Mary’s Calne alumni, it would be reasonable to assume that there might be some level of bias in their embarrassingly glowing review in the 2013 Schools Guide. However, the list of Calne’s recent achievements in art, music, drama, sport and academics is purely factual and so one mustn’t completely write it off as a work of fiction. Indeed St. Mary’s Calne deserves at much of this glowing praise: impressive previous head, Dr Helen Wright, was a dynamic leader, holding forth both in- and outside the school grounds about her views on the modern woman (most controversially voicing her opinion that Kim Kardashian represented ‘almost everything that is wrong with Western society’; one can’t argue with that). She was on every level an inspiring educationalist, providing a solid role model for the girls and a reassuring presence for the parents. Her departure at the end of 2012 marked a new chapter for a school that, under her guidance, has been going from strength to strength. We await the outcome with anticipation.

Academic and Exit Results

If their website is anything to go by St. Mary’s has two principal focuses: academic success and individualism. From talking to past and present pupils, there has been a considerable shift over the last few years with a greater focus on academia than ever before. Last year’s exam results certainly support this (2012 saw their best ever GCSE results with 85 per cent achieving A*s and As). Talking to the girls however, one gets the impression that while hard work and results are considered important, they are not the be-all and end-all and certainly not worth getting neurotic about. With new head Dr. Felicia Kirk (previous Director of Education at Wycombe Abbey) we can certainly expect an even greater focus on the academics; we only hope that this won’t be at the expense of the girls’ individualism or calm confidence. They can boast a strong language school – offering Japanese, Chinese and Russian for the more adventurous girls; all are given ‘taster’ lessons in Chinese in their first year. They provide the sixth formers with an excellent programme of guest speakers – topics are varied, ranging from History of Art to ‘UFOs and the Alien Presence’ and Women in Leadership. Every age group has the chance to take part in an Enrichment Week during which the school lays on a wide range non-curricular studies.

Social and Pastoral

They arrange the houses horizontally along year groups and, while you might fear that this prevents the girls making friends ‘vertically’, for such a small school it works very well. With strong pastoral care, the girls seem happy. As with many all-girls schools, there is the odd case of eating disorders and tricky friendship busts-up but the resounding message from the girls was this is much rarer and more quickly dealt with than in other schools. With a full time counsellor and a chaplain, the girls feel like there’s always an open door and a “friendly ear” happy to listen to any of their worries. With no uniform in sixth form, they claim to have a no makeup and “one stud per ear” policy. This must be a fairly lenient rule as the girl featured on their home page is wearing some rather nice dangly ankh earrings (no doubt picked up on a family holiday to Luxor before the Arab Spring disrupted their Easter routine; they’re now found in Val D’Isere with the rest of her classmates).

Sport, Music, Art and Drama

“It’s about the taking part that counts”, declares student A asher classmate giggles, “of course you’d say that, you’re in the thirds”. With multiple teams in all the mainstream sports, every girl can get involved. This attitude transcends all school activities and, as a result, there is a warm, inclusive feel to the place. No one appears overly competitive or worried about not being in the top set or the top team; this is not to say, however, that for a small, rural girls’ school they don’t punch above their weight; they do. With the beautiful purpose-built Delscey Burns theatre and their formal association with RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), St. Mary’s Calne has an impressive Drama department. The school’s approach to Art is, as ever, inclusive; most evenings and weekends there are specialist workshops giving the girls a chance to learn pottery, clock-making, calligraphy to name but a few. Nina Davies, the artist in residence, enjoys collaborating with the girls on a variety of exciting projects. There is no lack of inspiration. In 2010 the St. Mary’s chamber choir produced an excellent professional recording of David Bednall’s new Requiem that was played on the BBC and last year (2012) the sixth form choir made four professional recordings and helped raise over £15,000 for the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPt).


The staff and girls pride themselves as much on what is achieved outside the classroom as what is achieved inside.

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