In A Class Of Its Own

Stonyhurst is the only school in the county to feature in Tatler’s Schools Guide, find out why…

Imagine an education that would give your child a broad curriculum that promotes knowledge and confidence and a co-curricular timetable that develops life-skills and lifelong friendship. You would think any school would be hard-pressed to deliver on all of those aspects.

Well, think again. At Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall youngsters are given opportunities in abundance enabling them to experience all that the school has to offer in terms of academic development as well as cultural, artistic and sporting progression.

If your child is approaching their final years at primary school, you may find that SATS loom large on the horizon – especially for teachers, who are under pressure to go through the assessment process to prove all pupils are at the expected standard. Pupils who are not already at that standard will quite understandably be prioritised, meaning more able pupils may not receive the attention and academic stretch and challenge they deserve.

Fr Christopher Cann, headteacher of Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall, explains: “In state primary schools the focus has to be on the pupils at risk of not achieving the expected SATS level. As a result, the capable pupils often become disillusioned and bored with school. For the talented ones there’s not enough time for sport, or the creative subjects of art, music and drama. This is not the case at Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall, where we deliberately offer a broad and balanced curriculum in Years 5 and 6 taught by subject specialists. For example, timetabled drama, swimming, dance, instrumental music, drama, French, Spanish, German and Latin are all part of our curriculum. We therefore see a good number of pupils joining us at this stage in their education.”

A move in Year 5 to Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall will enable your child to thrive in a highly creative learning environment that prolongs their childhood in the most positive sense. For children joining from the state sector, it provides a much cherished ‘middle school’ option, (Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall goes up to Year 8) to allow the children to make a much happier transition from junior to senior education.

Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall pupils begin their smooth journey from junior to senior education through Years 5 to 8, experiencing the distinctive year-group ‘playroom’ system in Lower Elements, Upper Elements, Figures and Rudiments: “It means the sudden and sometimes difficult move from junior to senior education is avoided and we can work with our colleagues in the College for the much happier transition at the end of Year 8. There is a set route allowing an intake from Year 5 upwards that enables pupils to be part of Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall and all that we have to offer in our distinctive curriculum,” explains Fr Christopher.

With a broad curriculum, pupils at Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall benefit from ‘real-life’ experiences at a young age so they are able to see exactly what they are learning about, whether that’s a trip down to the River Hodder to learn about geographical river features, erosion and tributaries or a walk across to the Stonyhurst College campus to visit the magnificent historical museum and archives.

“Pupils followed up their visit to the River Hodder by designing and making boats in their Design and Technology lesson. It is a far more imaginative way of learning and is very focused on key life skills – sadly in the state sector, given the constraints of a shortened day and a narrow prescribed curriculum, teachers so often do not have the time to do this,” adds Fr Christopher, who points out that prep pupils have access to Stonyhurst’s swimming pool, dance studio, Astro-turf, world-class tennis dome and professional on-site theatre, as well as specialist coaching.

“Our Year 6 pupils recently took part in a stage production of Matilda – it was like a little West End show! Those who weren’t in the cast had the opportunity to work alongside the lighting and tech team, so everyone was able to use their new skills and take part.”

As a leading independent school, Stonyhurst College and Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall has been educating girls alongside boys for more than two decades. At Stonyhurst parity is ensured across the board in terms of opportunities: “Girls’ sport is very robust at Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall – there is a real girls’ sporting culture that has been developed over the years,” adds Fr Christopher, who explains that one of the schools Year 6 girls has recently been ranked in the UK’s tennis top 10.

“The curriculum as a whole has developed and progressed through the years – it is very creative in terms of art and design, textiles and food technology. Year 4 have been making their own chocolate bars and cakes, designing the packaging and devising a marketing strategy.

“We work hard to ensure children are proud doing what they enjoy and developing their talents – it’s a very open culture that celebrates learning and success.”

Stonyhurst has also increased its bursary provision for exceptionally talented over-11 pupils: “As an organisation this has really grown. It’s a big part of our school to give talented children the opportunity of a Stonyhurst education. It’s a life-changing experience for gifted children, who have a pathway to support them.”

At Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall there is also an extended day – from 8am to 6pm – allowing for after school ‘studies’ (homework) to be completed as well as a packed programme of extra-curricular activities and evening meal included in the price. The extended day offers working parents great value, offering peace of mind and is fee inclusive.

As an international school Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall also offers full boarding and flexi-boarding facilities to pupils.

“We are in a beautiful part of the Ribble Valley with more than 400 years of tradition. We have children come here from all over the world, from Mexico, Madrid and Hong Kong, to name but a few. For local Lancashire children it’s an amazing opportunity to make new friends and learn about new cultures,” enthuses Fr Christopher, who explains that SMH pupils are part of a global ‘zoom generation’ that will learn and work globally.

“Having a dynamic, broad outlook has always been part of the Stonyhurst Jesuit tradition. For local Lancashire families Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall gives them the opportunity to send their child to a globally diverse school with a strong family identity.”
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Tedd Walmsley

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Tedd Walmsley managing director of Live Magazines shares his views on the latest topics in media.

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