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When girls were asked why they chose Marymount, one replied that she came for the sport and when you hear that one of their football trainers is with Chelsea, no prizes for guessing which team Marymount girls support. Consensus is that the most fun of all is the 'international day', when everyone shares their culture and cuisine. ‘The Japanese do the best, and the [boarding] girls are already planning even though it’s still months away’. Zumbathon – a fundraising activity involving the whole community beeping and bopping, swinging and swaying to music - was also…

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What the school says...

Marymount International School London - learn to connect the world through independent thinking and inquiry. Marymount is a community of day and boarding girls a values based environment, with a rich history and emphasis on pastoral care. As one of the first IB schools in the UK, Marymount excels with experience and continues to place among the top schools. Students ages 11-16 take part in the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IB MYP), an alternative to an exam driven curriculum, concentrating on independent investigations, connections between subjects and reflecting on ones strengths and successes. Students gain results in the top 5% of the world every year and attend top universities in the UK and abroad.
Located on a private estate just 12 miles from central London, Marymount offers modern facilities, including a Fabrication Laboratory (Fab Lab), in a secure suburban setting. Emphasis is placed on pastoral care. Class sizes are small and study programmes are planned to meet the needs of individual students. Boarding students are offered a range of extracurricular activities both in the evening and at weekends.
Marymount is part of a network of 19 schools around the world founded over a century ago by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. The school follows the faith vision of its founder, that all may have life and have it to the full by welcoming students of all faiths and backgrounds. Students at Marymount embody this philosophy through their education, social development and extracurricular life and are fully prepared for life in a global setting.

The school encourages parents and students to visit so that they may see the facilities, meet some of the teachers, and hear about life at Marymount from other students.
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Curricula

International Baccalaureate: diploma - the diploma is the familiar A-level equivalent.

International Baccalaureate: middle years - middle Years is a programme for ages 11-16.

Sports

Fencing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmistress

Since September 2017, Meg Frazier, previously head of upper school at the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart for girls, Washington DC (one of 147 Sacred Heart schools in 30 countries). History degree from Dartmouth College, has over 25 years of teaching and admin experience in the Washington area in the Jesuit and Sacred Heart networks of US and international schools, plus worked with international boarders at Georgetown Prep in Maryland. Describes herself as an avid gardener and reader, a rusty golfer and a life-long sailor who enjoys cooking and travel. She and her husband have three children, one daughter studying in London and two sons both seniors in US colleges.

Academic matters

Marymount is a Catholic secondary girls school offering the IB middle years programme (MYP) and IB to an international community. The first (1979) girls' school in the UK to take up the IB in Britain, Marymount’s grade 6-10 curriculum is built on solid institutional foundations. In 2016 pupils scored an average of 36, with 25 per cent earning 40+ points and 40 per cent awarded bilingual diplomas.

No resting on laurels; they’ve been reviewing the MYP to align it with IGCSE content, ensuring all topics are covered in the MYP context by end of grade 9. School wants parents to be assured of MYP rigour: the priority is to be learning-driven, not taught to the test. Range of IB subjects and results is excellent. Lots of sciences, ‘and we do lots of field trips’, say the girls. The school is offering a relatively new IB course, environmental systems and societies, which satisfies either the IB science or IB humanities requirement. ‘My sister likes geography and science so it’s perfect for her.’ Marymount’s MYP covers the broad spectrum of disciplines, with the interesting addition of philosophy to introduce the girls to ‘the language of philosophy’ before they embark on theory of knowledge at diploma level. Fab Lab (fabrication laboratory) full of computer controlled tools that can make 'almost anything' is used to teach computer programming, coding, robotics and design, and aiming to stimulating creativity across the arts and sciences. As would be expected, religious education is also a key part of the MYP.

School prides itself on the wide range of languages offered. Extra mother tongue support in German and French in grades 6-8 dependent on enrolment. Parents warn that languages are sometimes subject to demand and in a small school it's not always possible to satisfy all requests for second language. It seems that there are mixed messages here and prospective parents are advised to discuss this at the early stages to clarify. The school does its best to support girls in working out alternative options – as one pupil explained, ‘a friend who speaks Thai is taking IB Thai mother tongue; she’s self-taught with the help of a tutor’.

The school is wireless throughout; iPads now in grades 6-9 and move up the grades as pupils progress; girls were excited to show off the first new Mac TVs, and there are more to come. The library has undergone a complete refurbishment – it has 9,000 volumes and membership of London Library enhances the collection.

Classes never more than 16 and many, particularly at diploma level, only four to six, fewer still for languages. Some classrooms are designed with small seminar-style groups in mind.

The teaching faculty is an international bunch, average age 40s. Pupil-teacher ratio is six to one and all staff seem to know most of the girls, affirming parent comments about supportive and nurturing environment with a caring individualised approach. Low turnover and enough long-termers to provide a cohesive core. Plenty of support staff and school nurse on site.

Mild/moderate learning difficulties and other issues managed collaboratively by the learning resource coordinator, teachers, parents and students themselves. Lots of individualised support throughout the school and the girls themselves were quick to talk about peer tutoring offered during free periods or after school.

The enrichment programme for able students has about 40 on the register. These students are invited to apply to programmes sponsored by Ivy Leagues (Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Johns Hopkins) and top tier UK universities. Additional provision includes extracurricular activities as well as resources which are made available to students for independent study and wider reading.

Games, options, the arts

Mix of competitive and non-competitive sporting activities available for all grades on and off site. If the school does not offer a particular sport they will help connect with local teams. Marymount is part of the International School Sports Association and they have produced an impressive record of results in soccer, badminton and tennis at championship tournaments hosted by member schools in different parts of Europe. One pupil training with the Chelsea Ladies' development squad and several play with the Richmond Volleyball Club. When girls were asked why they chose Marymount, one replied that she came for the sport and when you hear that one of their football trainers is with Chelsea, no prizes for guessing which team Marymount girls support.

Musicians have plenty of opportunities to play in ensembles and chamber groups. About 20 per cent take private instrumental or singing lessons; school boasts a 100 per cent pass rate in grade exams. Entry to the choir is by audition and choristers participate in school concerts and annual tours to European cities, performing in major churches and cathedrals. Teachers encourage girls to perform in local festivals and competitions.

Drama is inclusive and the entire community builds up to a major production each year. Keen thespians can participate in ISTA (International School Theatre Association) festivals and when we visited girls were buzzing about their weekend ISTA trip to Stratford upon Avon. LAMDA examinations offered. Visual arts seem focused on painting and photography – the girls tell us that the art teacher is an inspiring photographer. Framed art by generations of pupils displayed throughout the school. Fab Lab includes a range of 3D printers, laser cutters and other digitally driven tools.

Consensus is that the most fun of all is the 'international day', when everyone shares their culture and cuisine.‘The Japanese do the best, and the [boarding] girls are already planning even though it’s still months away’. Zumbathon – a fundraising activity involving the whole community beeping and bopping, swinging and swaying to music - was also highly popular and yielded no casualties.

As a Catholic IB school, community service involves everyone at Marymount. Middle schoolers do environmental projects that include cleaning along the bank of the Thames. Older girls volunteer in local activities including soup kitchens and schools and further afield join other RHSM students in projects working with children in places such as Zambia. All students take part in the spiritual life of the school and attend an annual retreat. Girls of all faiths come to Marymount and this provides opportunities for students to learn about other beliefs and traditions; care is taken to ensure that everyone feels comfortable at mass and prayer. We visited on a Hindu feast day and the girls said they had started the day with a Hindu prayer; Muslim girls wear their headscarves with confidence.

Boarders

Almost one third of the pupils board and there are four halls, each with its own duo of houseparents. Boarding rooms (some bunk beds) have recently been refurbished (2016) and facilities are clean and pretty tidy. Boarding areas are kept locked during the school day unless a girl has a reason to be back in her room. Oldest boarders have the spacious shared bedrooms above and the remaining nuns living in a wing just off their hall. Sisters no longer teach but are very much part of the fabric of the school, occasionally eating or sharing cocoa and study evenings with the girls.

The school’s proximity to Heathrow is an attraction for boarding parents; the girls say that the school’s proximity to London is the attraction for them. The lure of London aside, boarders enjoy theatre and music trips as well as days out to the seaside (Brighton) and theme parks such as Longleat. There's plenty going on inside school too, including dance and music workshops and opportunities to explore and develop one's faith. Worth mentioning here that the school also takes weekly boarders from local (ie London) families and it is sometimes possible to arrange short-term boarding for day girls whose parents travel.

Clear procedures allow boarders off-campus freedoms to visit friends and family while ensuring their safety. One guardian who has long looked after boarders during half-term breaks told us that some older girls feel the school is too strict. She helps them, and their far-off parents who hear the grumbles, appreciate that the school is being cautious and not unreasonable. Two exclusions in the last three years of boarders who, after several warnings, broke the rules about leaving campus.

Background and atmosphere

Established in Kingston in 1955 by 10 nuns from the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary (RSHM), sent by the Eastern American Province. Mid-19th century French founder of RSHM aspired to provide charity for all classes through schools, homes and orphanages that worked interactively across socio-economic barriers. Schools opened in France, Ireland, Portugal, England, the US and later Latin America and the rest of the world. The first sisters who came to Kingston started a ‘year abroad’ programme for US university women, then a school offering the US secondary school curriculum. Early 70s saw the arrival of Sister Anne Marie Hill, a determined Irish mover-and-shaker, well known in international education circles and now executive director of the network of schools. She introduced the IB, making the school more relevant to its growing international student body and reflecting RSHM’s original ethos. During the noughties Marymount had a series of heads as RSHM grappled with transition to lay leadership and during that time the board of governors was created.

School works closely with the other Marymount partners under Sister Anne Marie’s guidance, meeting every six to eight weeks to discuss areas such as strategic planning and communication. Increasingly involvement with the international network of RSHM schools – 19 worldwide – is now bringing more opportunities to the pupils.

The school is based in an affluent part of Surrey occupying a large Edwardian house plus various more recent additions connected by walkways. Elegant grounds with lawns, manicured flowerbeds and sculpted hedges. ‘The teddy bear topiary sold me’, said one dad, ‘How can you not love a school that has teddy bear topiary?’ (We presume he had already consulted the GSG about minor details such as teaching and pastoral care.) Main house, with original wood panelling and stained glass, is head office and reception. The nuns are loved by the girls and parents appreciate their presence. Small school chapel is used by boarders and local community alike and plans to re-develop and open the ceiling to the rafters and heavens above are under way.

Modern blocks house multi-purpose classrooms, the newly refurbished library and university and careers counselling rooms. Another block has the gym (floor replaced recently), music rooms and auditorium for assemblies, all-school mass, drama. Yet another has more dorms, new dining hall with a 'chef's theatre' - and, school tells us, much improved food from new catering company - classrooms, infirmary, student lounges. A new quasi-Scandinavian wooden structure houses more small tutorial rooms just right for the many language classes and designed with IB language examination conditions in mind. Most of the buildings surround the garden and have big windows that bring the outdoors in and give a refreshing sense of space and light.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Spiritual values underpin the ethos of Marymount, rooted in the mission of the RSHM, ‘that all may have life’. These values are made explicit on the website: even the most casual browser will see them on every page, running alongside photos. School welcomes girls from all faiths but we think it might not be a comfortable environment for the girl who has none. Plenty of support available at the school: academic, social, emotional and personal; more expertise called upon if necessary.

Parents' Association hosts a welcome back family barbecue during the first weekend of the school year when boarding parents are there dropping off daughters so they are able to meet day families. One parent said the school went out of its way, allowing their daughter to board temporarily so she could start at the beginning of the year, before the family transfer to London took place. Another described how the teachers made an effort to encourage her daughter to join the orchestra for a big performance, even though her late arrival meant she had missed several rehearsals.

Pupils and parents

Marymount girls are internationally diverse, cheerful, articulate, academically motivated, quietly confident and as a bunch, quite enchanting. More aspirational than ambitious, they love their school and really enjoy having peers from all over the world. They look out for each other, especially new ones, and although one day girl said she wishes there were more ways to get closer to the boarders, everyone, including day parents, feels that the day girls and boarders are pretty integrated.

The girls are reflective about the realities of being in a single-sex environment. They feel they are able to focus more on learning, but they would like to find a partner boys’ school and the student council has made some moves in this direction. Trouble is that ‘all the boys’ (schools) seem to be taken’, but they have not given up. ‘When adolescent girls become interested in boys, it can be frustrating to see how much they measure themselves against the approval of the boys in the group. Without that distraction they can develop as intellectually rigorous learners; they are their own people.’

The families that choose the school value the ethos of school, its Catholicism and internationalism, but are equally attracted to the IB. There are 40 nationalities in the school, British representing just over half. Other significant groups are German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, US, Australian, Korean and Italian. The numbers within these groups are balanced very carefully to facilitate integration. The school bus service extends into London to Sloane Square and more routes are under consideration.

Parents' Association organises events including outings for parents which are appreciated by newly-arrived expats.

Entrance

Local families are urged to attend one of the open days. Inbound expats on ‘look-see’ trips to London may book appointments. Girls’ admissions based on availability and a review of school reports and teacher references plus interview. English language fluency is required with exceptions made for younger students for whom English is a second language. Most classes have waiting lists so best to apply a year in advance, though there is some turnover so you could be lucky.

Local feeder schools include Holy Cross, The Study, Fulham Prep, St Agatha’s, The Grove, The Old Vicarage, The German School (Deutsche Schule London), Garden House, Unicorn School, Cameron House, Ursuline School. Day girls come from most SW London postcodes including Richmond, Wimbledon, Putney, Chelsea, South Kensington.

Exit

Small number leave to do A levels elsewhere. Most head to university and the chart we saw on the college counsellor’s wall listing every 12th grader’s destinations confirms that they are applying to many countries. Counsellor stays in close contact with parents, especially boarder parents, about each girl’s plan and the process they must follow depending on the country of their destination. PSAT and SATS also offered.

One to Oxbridge in 2016; the rest go to eg Exeter, Edinburgh and Warwick. A good few to US as well as Japan, Munich, Netherlands, Libya and Egypt. Four to study medicine/biomedical science and engineering in 2016.

Money matters

School has no endowment so financial stability is maintained by tuition and fundraising initiatives. ‘Being an international school and in the current economic climate, we need to be sure we are guarded and forward looking – we can’t rest on our laurels.’ The PA also fundraises for activities that support the school and pupils.

Scholarships (academic, art, music, drama, sport, community service) for grade 6 and 8 students. Some offered for grades 10, 11 and 12. Some financial aid available for means-tested students. About 20 per cent of the pupils benefit from this.

Our view

Successfully serves a niche market of internationally-minded families seeking a girls’ school with a Catholic ethos. In the words of one parent, ‘We’ve been over-the-top-happy. The school provides excellent support and people from all over the world fit in and are welcome there.’

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Special Education Needs

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
Aspergers Syndrome [archived]
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders [archived]
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Delicate Medical Problems [archived]
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Epilepsy [archived]
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty Y
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
Not Applicable
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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