Good afternoon from Oxfordshire!
On a Tuesday morning at 10am three weeks ago, our managing director Ferdinand Steinbeis left his home in Richmond in South London by car, only to arrive at all-girls boarding school Marymount International School (MIS) 15 minutes later.
Ah, the joys of living so close to our partner schools!
MIS is as beautiful as it is impressive. A small school with a stunning campus full of unselfconscious, impressive young women who ace their IB exams as readily as they put on professional-level musical productions and win football tournaments all over southern England.
Looking for a school to turn your girl into a responsible, happy and successful leader of tomorrow? Well, look no further!
Marymount upon arrival - the main house entrance
MIS is located at the southern tip of Richmond Park, London’s biggest and arguably most beautiful park. This is where Londoners come on weekends to get away from it all. To watch deer peacefully grazing by the roadside as sweaty, lycra-clad cyclists race past.
MIS is at the end of a private road adjacent to the park. Visitors arrive in front of a beautiful, wood-panelled, Edwardian house wedged by more recent additions. The school’s grounds are stunningly elegant with manicured lawns, colorful flower beds and - much to our delight - hedges sculpted in the form of teddy-bears! What’s not to love?
the hedges sculpted as teddies!
The garden is surrounded by the old main house, modern class-room blocks, music rooms, the boarding house, gym, new dining hall, theatre, brand new dance studio and the all-new STEAM hub. But more about the latter later.
Overall, the school feels very compact, which given its relatively small size is not surprising.
glass lamps inside main house
What (we think) Marymount is about.
For us, MIS is first and foremost a small, very caring international girls school built on Christian values and whose girls achieve great things in and outside the classroom.
Let’s look at this more closely.
Firstly, MIS is an all-girls boarding school with all of 275 girls from over 40 nationalities. That’s a small school by normal boarding school standards of around 500 pupils on average, but very diverse. The school houses 35% British, 25% European and 14% Asian girls with the rest stemming from anywhere else. The small size ensures that all girls receive the individual academic attention and pastoral care needed to flourish.
main house reception
Secondly, MIS is a school with strong Christian values. Founded by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary (RHSM), it is part of a global network of schools. Does this mean that you have to be Christian, or even religious to join MIS? Absolutely not! We were told that only about 20-25% of girls actively practice their religion. Also, the school had, if anything, a rather secular vibe.
Thirdly, the school does achieve great things in how it empowers its pupils to succeed. MIS is non-selective and manages to achieve very high IB averages considering - 37 points average in 2019! Compare this to the highly selective Sevenoaks School with an average of 39 points and you’ll see what a feat that is. But it does not stop with the academics: whether it is theatre, dance, sports or the creative pursuits, MIS helps its girls to excel through caring guidance. Thanks to being a girls-only school, the girls take positions of responsibility and leadership that would traditionally be assumed by boys.
the school's art department - state-of-the-art facilities
MIS is an IB school through and through and has been for over 40 years now.
No GCSEs. No A-Levels!
Instead of the GCSE programme, the school offers the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP). comprising eight broad subject groups: Languages & Literature, Language Acquisition, Individuals and Societies Science, Mathematics, Artsi, Design and Physical Health Education. The central focus here is on developing a conceptual understanding of academic subjects and the most effective approaches to learning.
great DT facilities to complement MIS's STEAM initiative
This is then continued with the IB diploma in the last two years.
As mentioned above already, MIS is non-selective and achieved an IB average score of 37 points, 7 points above world average. That is truly spectacular!
The secret? Two things, we were told: Firstly, dedicated, inspirational teachers that give the girls as much individual support as they need to succeed. Secondly, an environment where girls can focus on learning, undistracted by boys.
the school's brand-new STEAM hub
We were especially taken by the school’s recent focus on STEAM - the marriage of science, technology, engineering, art and math to teach pupils to become the scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. For this MIS has created a decidated space - the STEAM hub - that allows girls to create and collaborate with each other, using the latest in creative technologies such as lazer cutters and 3D printers.
MIS is big on the performing arts. Dance, music and drama are huge here. So big that the girls’ art projects get displays in London’s art galleries. Also, the school will be offering IB Dance as a subject, which makes MIS the first British school to offer this.
the school's busy art department
The girls we spoke to raved about the many academic field trips. From travels to the Somme for history to trips to South America for geography, MIS girls are spoilt for exciting and regular travel.
Lastly, MIS’s higher education team struck us as very competent. Girls told us how they bend over backwards to help with university applications, organising university visits and giving advice on most appropriate courses of study. Girls last year had offers from prestigious universities like Oxford and Cambridge in the UK and Stanford and Harvard Universities in the US.
the new dance studio
Like all boarding schools of repute, MIS has a broad spectrum of exciting extracurricular activities on offer.
Let’s start with theatre. This is one of the most popular activities at MIS. The school’s major, yearly drama production involves at least 50% of girls in one form or another - either on stage as actors of off-stage as costume designers, directors or technical team. Girls can also participate in ISTA festivals and take the prestigious LAMDA exam.
the performance hall
Next up is dance. We got to see the spanking new dance studio and met the charismatic Head of Dance Sylvia Rose. From ballet to hip hop, MIS caters to a wide range of interests here.
On to sports. Football, badminton, volleyball and tennis are huge and successful here. Especially the football team is very competitive, both in local and international competitions.
Music is on offer aplenty here. With over 20% of pupils taking private instrumental or singing lessons, there is ample opportunity to participate in bands, ensembles or chamber groups.
And the best of all? What the school doesn’t provide, that little known town called London, right on MIS’s doorstep almost certainly will.
the corridor leading to the boarding rooms
25% of girls at MIS board. From the perspective of an international pupil, this speaks against the school and true to style, we told them so. However, the director of admissions Mary Burke Tobias changed our thinking. She told us of the close bonds between boarder and day girls and how common it is for boarders to stay with day girls. Bottom line: the integration between both groups could hardly be better!
cozy boarding rooms
We loved the boarding house we saw. The rooms were spacious, modern and light.
Unusually, all girls do their own washing at MIS - what a great way for the girls to take responsibility for their own things!
Marymount's gorgeous campus
Applying to Marymount
MIS will accept applications into any year except Y13. The school is non-selective, yet expects applicants to visit the school at least 6 months prior to starting.
the terrific school lawns
We love MIS. A gem of a girls school far from the crazy London day schools and much more grounded than the big-name girl schools Southern England has to offer.
Essential facts about Marymount