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Nobody takes themselves terribly seriously while at the same time taking education very seriously. Year groups mix and senior girls give back in a big-sisterly way that’s magical to behold - yes, magical. Little girls told us they see sixth formers as role models. These are bright girls you’d expect to do well, but they and their parents are unstinting in their praise of the teachers. In the words of one, ‘they always deliver on their promises’. The school has long been noted for its sport at all levels from inter-school to international. Under the impetus of Miss Dunn, with her background in elite provision, this is set to improve further...

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What the school says...

Set in a leafy area of central Exeter in Devon, The Maynard School is the leading independent day school for girls aged 4 -18 (Reception – Year 13) in the South West.

Steeped in a rich history dating back to 1658, The Maynard today is so much more than a top academic school. Over the years we have built an outstanding reputation for excellence in the Arts, Music and Sport whilst our pastoral care is widely regarded as second to none.

We are a School where happy girls carve for themselves successful futures, create everlasting friendships and enduring childhood memories.

As the second oldest girls’ school in the country, we pride ourselves on being experts in educating girls. Statistically it is a proven fact that girls in single-sex schools outperform their peers and the Maynard’s long history is testament to this success.

We are an academically selective school and our students achieve outstanding public examination results year-on-year. League tables consistently place us as one of the highest performing schools in the South West.

However, a Maynard education isn’t just about academic achievement. It is about so much more; we boast numerous individual and team champions in the sporting arena with access to some of the best facilities available; we celebrate our femininity and are proud to offer Food & Nutrition and Textiles & Fashion classes as a life-skill; we are one of the highest achieving schools for music and drama in the county; we relish our timetable packed with trips and workshops to be enjoyed by the whole school. But we take our greatest pride from the happy, ambitious and successful students with whom we have the pleasure to work with each day!

At its core, The Maynard is an outstanding school that has deep rooted values and a clear moral purpose. We hope that when your daughter departs for the next stage in her life, she will take with her lasting friendships, have fostered a passion for life as well as learning and own the confidence to take on every new adventure.
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What the parents say...

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2015 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Girls taking Computer Appreciation at an English Independent School (OCR National First Award at Level 2)
  • Best performance by Girls taking Home Economics: Food at an English Independent School (GCSE)

Other features

All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2016, Sarah Dunn BSc NPQH. Educated at St Andrew’s International School, Bahamas, Exeter University (biology); trained to be a teacher at Oxford. First job at Torquay Boys’ Grammar, biology teacher, deputy head of sixth form, head of pastoral care and careers. Never one to be daunted by a gender headwind, she opened up her next school, Plymouth College, to girls. As deputy head there for 21 years she was instrumental in developing the school’s sports partnerships to Olympic standards.

Fizzes with energy, openminded, wholly unfazed by our more penetrating questions. Competitive, as you’d expect, dead set on bringing out the best in this, one of the oldest girls’ schools in the country. She plays to win and retains her ‘real passion for sport’ - she runs, cycles and rows. If this sets you thinking, ‘Ah, the jolly hockey sticks sort’, think again. Divides her working day into two parts: daylight for people, darkness for paperwork. Impeccable sou’westerly pedigree, ‘all my friends’ network is down here’, so she has a sound knowledge of the school’s place in the local market. She’s pragmatic: she understands that life’s greatest joys are attained through self-belief and hard work, making her a good modern role model for her girls. Sound a bit austere? At heart hers is a romantic conception of what school is all about: ‘School,’ says Miss Dunn, ‘should be as much fun as possible’. Then you walk round and see for yourself and discover that, by jingo, that’s exactly what The Maynard is. In the words of a parent, ‘If I didn't know it, and someone described the Maynard School to me, I would probably feel it sounded too good to be true.’

The school’s minibuses proclaim the school to be ‘the leading independent girls’ school in the South West’. To a faintheart this may look like a hostage to fortune, while a sceptic might observe that it all depends on what you feed into your calculation. Without going there, we can attest to the school’s longstanding excellence on any number of measures from academic to the arts to sport. So it’s not as if Miss Dunn inherited a fixer-upper. Far from it; in the year she took over the school inspectors marked it ‘excellent’ in most categories. Her focus is on marginal gains (incremental improvements that add up to an overall improvement - think Sky cycling team) while at the same time safeguarding the unique and precious happiness of the school community, which is its most conspicuous attribute. At the heart of that is the single-sex nature of the school, and it is on the perceived value of this that parents choose between The Maynard and equally high-achieving competitors.

Academic matters

Solid academic curriculum plus food & nutrition and psychology. STEM strong and evident in university choices. Humanities strong too. Three modern languages + Latin, popular and successful at GCSE but less uptake at A level. Twenty-two subjects on offer at A level including fashion and textiles, introduced 2017 by student request. Notably small set sizes in the sixth form. Good library with, commendably, the Booker shortlist in a prominent row when we visited.

These are bright girls you’d expect to do well, but they and their parents are unstinting in their praise of the teachers. In the words of one, ‘they always deliver on their promises’. It’s the warmth of the relationship that makes all the difference. And the laughter. One girl told us, ‘We all work hard because we don’t want to upset them’. Teachers go out of their way to support the girls in their own time; we were told about one who came in during the holidays to help a young woman prepare for an audition. They are creative in finding time outside lessons for a bit of extra tuition. Relationships between students and staff are supportive, humorous yet entirely professional. Students see their teachers as human beings and work all the harder because if it. And if you’re not the brightest girl in the class? A student told us, ‘It’s cool to be the nicest girl in the class’. Another told us, ‘Teachers here tend to get to you before you know you’ve got a problem’. A parent told us there is a ‘definite sense of purpose and drive, yes, but with equal measures of warmth and respect’ between students and staff. All agree that this is definitely not a sweatshop and no one is left behind. Girls are ‘both competitive with, and completely supportive of, each other.’ We spoke to any number of girls and were struck that none of them talked about stress. About being as busy as can be, yes, but not stressed.

As you would expect of a selective school, numbers of students with (mild) special educational needs (SEND) are low - around 20. Specialist support is reinforced by the close understanding of the pupils by their teachers. All girls are closely monitored so that any who are overstretched can also be supported.

A level results 2017: 83 per cent A*/B, 65 per cent A*/A. GCSE results: 69 per cent A*/A or 7-9. Value added score at the top of the ‘average’ range, perfectly respectable but arguably susceptible to marginal gains yielding more Oxbridge places.

Games, options, the arts

Not blessed by a patrimony of green acres, like many another city school. But the nearby university has plenty, and there’s the local swimming pool, so there’s a rich provision of sports on offer including nascent football together with some high-level coaching. We watched a bunch of girls larking happily until galvanised by a single whistle-blast into mightily impressive netball players. The school has long been noted for its sport at all levels from inter-school to international. Under the impetus of Miss Dunn, with her background in elite provision, this is set to improve further; indeed one of her intended building projects is to provide a fitness suite in the present sports hall. Impressed as we were by the athletic prowess of the team players, our favourite Maynard activity remains junior running club. It’s a lunchtime thing for the younger girls. They jog and skip around a tennis court, pink and giggling, and stand and do exercises under the guidance of a PE teacher and some senior girls. It epitomised for us everything that makes the school so admirable and so charming.

Art thrives at a high level. Lots going on, all of it eyeworthy. Here’s a measure: in 2017 there were three A level candidates (not an especially small group by Maynard standards) and all got A*. In the spring the school hosts a public art exhibition featuring top local and national artists. Miss Dunn has recently installed retractable seating and professional standard sound and lighting equipment in the sports hall, transforming a dated space into a modern performing arts facility. Much needed. Big annual whole-school production and biennial musical in cahoots with the art and music departments. Performances normally at the Barnfield theatre a few streets away. Music a longstanding crown jewel, all the ensembles you can think of. Very strong choral tradition; the choir is invited to participate in projects by such organisations as the British Council and the Royal Opera House. Yes, they’re that good. In 2015 they were selected to sing at the welcome ceremony for the Australia World Cup rugby team.

For outdoorsy girls there is D of E and Ten Tors - with Dartmoor and the seaside a stone’s throw away. Decent range of out of school clubs: lots of sport and music, Model United Nations, chess, eco-warriors, maths Olympiad, Young Enterprise. Mostly curriculum linked. Senior girls play a big part in leading clubs. Exchange visits and trips, of course, masses of trips, cultural, musical and recreational.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in 1656 as the Blue Maids Hospital School, renamed after its founder Sir Henry Maynard in 1912. Moved in 1882 to the leafy suburb of St Leonards where it resembles nothing so much as, in the head’s words, ‘a walled island’. Buildings mostly late C19 and later. The sort of site that necessitates the most ingenious use of space. It feels hugger-mugger but it works. Interiors cheered by artwork, displays and the like, not to mention the school dog, Nula. When we met her she was being read to along with a class of little girls.

The prevailing atmosphere is, of course, girly. This is what girls can be like when there are no boys around. Unselfconscious. Natural. Growing up in their own way, in their own time. The small size of the school plays a supporting part: everyone is known to everybody; there’s a strong sense of community promoted by events like the annual staff play, and the annual sixth form review when students gently (or not so gently) pull the legs of their teachers. All agree that everyone knows where to draw the line. Nobody takes themselves terribly seriously while at the same time taking education very seriously. Year groups mix and senior girls give back in a big-sisterly way that’s magical to behold - yes, magical. Little girls told us they see sixth formers as role models and admire not just their talents but their caring attitude to other students. One girl said, ‘Girls are naturally kinder to each other when there aren’t boys around’. Another said ‘This is a place of strong, lifelong friendships’, a place where, in the words of a parent, ‘You’re allowed to be quirky, you can be who you want to be’. Another parent said, ‘Girls are engaged with their learning, full of infectious enthusiasm for life, keen to reach their potential in everything they do, but are not highly strung, pushed or that dreaded, much-used accusation "hothoused" in any way.’

We asked girls if they’d like to have boys around, even in small quantities -- for things like plays (where they’re quite useful for, say, male roles). The response was ‘No need for them’. Not having them certainly makes available a far wider range of interesting and challenging parts. Not that they’re anti-boy; some of them have brothers, some live next door to one, they like boys, they mix with them after school. And they like their school as it is. They are encouraged to identify with eminent women role models. This is a feminist environment characterised by strong confidence. Is it all just a bit too cosy and sheltered? Some may think so, though every parent we spoke to evinced no reservations; they want their child to be nurtured. When it’s time to leave, are these girls ready and prepared to take on the world as it is? Again, no parental misgivings. Our observation is that the senior girls we met and were looked after by were completely at ease with, and uninhibited by, strange adults. We were especially struck by one parent, a local business person who’d had no intention whatever of sending his daughter to the school… until he took a Maynard girl on for a summer holiday job. Industrious, commonsensical and personable, she had him ringing for a prospectus.

The benefits of a single-sex education are all out there in the form of statistics and studies and theories. Regarding statistics, there is evidence that the so-called reformed GCSEs and A levels are narrowing the gender attainment gap. Regarding theories, every argument has its counter-argument.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Discipline not a big deal here. There’s a widely held sense that ‘we’re all in it together’ so instead of rules there’s a culture of trust between students and staff together with a widely held feeling that the school genuinely values every child. Mental health issues rare, lots of meetings deal with it. An essentially practical approach to social media develops students’ understanding of it so that their approach can be self-regulating. Students noted that staff keep a watchful eye on what they’re eating, particularly lower down the school. Parents report that teachers are very responsive to email contact by parents and girls out of hours and really like the way the head welcomes students and parents at the school gates every morning. It was clear from discussions with students that the school provides excellent careers advice from year 10 onwards. We pressed both parents and students by means of the most ingenious questioning to tell us what they think the school could do better. They thought and they thought and collectively came up with two interesting ideas. One mum said, ‘A bit more interaction with boys.’ One girl said it would be ‘nice to have ham more often at lunch’.

Trad uniform: Black Watch-y kilt, navy jumper, white blouse. In the sixth form you get to go smart casual. A parent told us: ‘There’s nothing buttoned up about it,’ adding, with feeling, ‘no sixth formers dressed like office workers’.

Pupils and parents

Parents and their daughters from up to an hour or so away, most from business and professional backgrounds plus a sprinkling from the university, which brings smartness and dash to the city, making it appealing for DFLs - down from Londoners.

Hugely supportive parents with their own charitable trust, the Maynard Parents Association. Lots of jolly socials and a lot of fundraising. Especially popular: the annual new parents’ supper.


School encourages sending your daughter for a taster day before you commit. Online tests in January in English, maths and reasoning for years 7 and 8 with a science paper thrown in for years 9 and 10. Papers pretty much tuition-resistant. Apply whenever in the school year if there are places available. For sixth form entry, interview + reference from current school together with the academic requirement of level B/6 in all GCSEs and level A/7 in proposed A level subjects.


Some 80+ per cent stay on after GCSEs, Exeter (tertiary) College being a popular destination. Post-A level, pretty much everyone to Russell Group universities to do ‘hard’ courses like neuroscience, aeronautical engineering and philosophy. None to Oxbridge in 2017; normally a handful.

Money matters

There’s a culture of low fees at the top academic schools in Exeter so expect to pay up to £1500 a term less than at other schools in the commutable hinterland. Usual range of scholarships - academic, sport, the arts. Means-tested bursaries up to 45 per cent of full fees for girls whose parents who can’t afford full whack. Special Maynard Awards - ‘because we have a moral obligation to open the school gates a little wider’ - offering a bursary plus scholarship, so potentially a huge discount. Three free places for sixth formers. Sibling discounts. The school is open from 8.00am til 5.30pm including free wraparound care.

Our view

Parents of a bright girl in Exeter are spoiled for choice: co-ed or single sex. Take a spreadsheet approach and you’ll end up having a statistical breakdown. Take the line that the goal of education is the attainment of selfhood and you’ll start getting somewhere. This Guide doesn’t take sides, obviously. We simply note that The Maynard is a heartstealer.

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Special Education Needs

The Maynard School aims to provide appropriate support and adjustments for specific learning difficulties or disabilities to girls who meet the academic entrance criteria. Interested parents are encouraged to make an appointment with the Learning Support and Special Educational Needs Coordinator. The needs of the potential pupil can be discussed and a taster day and assessment can be tailored to fit individual circumstances. All pupils are now screened, using LUCID software, for underlying processing difficulties and memory skills which may affect their academic progress. If difficulties are detected at entrance, in the classroom or through the screening programme, parents will be informed and the type of support possible in school explored. The SENCo role includes providing colleagues with practical information on ways to make adjustments for pupils' specific difficulties and support all pupils' learning. Lively study skills sessions led by the SENCo are part of the tutorial programme. Study skills teaching aims to raise awareness of study habits, time management and learning styles, with a view to encouraging mixed approaches to learning: visual, listening and speaking, and kinaesthetic. Pupils are taught strategies which maximise memory strengths from their screening. Individual or small group help may be offered where pupils experience difficulty with the curriculum. Whenever possible, this help is arranged for a time which avoids lessons being missed. Assessment for examinations Access Arrangements can be arranged in or through the school. The Maynard School recognises that each of its pupils may have a special gift and/or talent which should be nurtured by the school environment. The school seeks to enable its pupils to enjoy the benefits of one another’s “gifts and talents”, which may relate to exceptional academic learning ability, exceptional talent in a specific curricular or extra-curricular area, or exceptional attributes which benefit the whole school community e.g. leadership, creative imagination or social maturity. It is not part of the Maynard ethos to create divisions by unnecessary labelling, and the Maynard teaching departments recognise that careful differentiation and subtle stretching in methods of teaching are effective means of challenging the exceptionally able. 10-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
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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