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Friendly and unpretentious. Not the best facilities but good for a small city school. They provide a caring environment that promotes hard work - ‘There is a very clear focus on ensuring that everybody achieves to their maximum, but not in a po-faced way,’ say parents. Upstairs in the music room, a class was split into small groups dotted around the  various practice rooms. The theme was Elements of Rock ‘n Roll and the teacher looked as if he was having just as much fun as the pupils. The head of music was very excited about an upcoming trip to Italy...

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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

Headmistress

Since September 2016, Sarah Dunn, previously deputy head of Plymouth College. Studied at Exeter and Oxford (PGCE); started as a biology teacher at Torquay Boys' Grammar, working her way up to become deputy head of sixth form and head of careers. Joined Plymouth College in 1995 as deputy head and introduced girls throughout the school.

Academic matters

Academically selective, Maynard is one of the highest performing schools in the South West. The main reason for most parents choosing the school is ‘the academic focus’. Results are good year on year. In 2017 65 per cent of grades were A*/A at A level (83 per cent A*-B). At GCSE 69 per cent were A*/A./7-9.

Girls take 10 GCSEs. Maths and sciences score particularly well, with many girls continuing these subjects at university. Three modern languages, French, Spanish and German, are offered. ICT is delivered through the higher level EPQ. Girls with LDD are supported well, enabling them to make as much progress as their peers. One parent of a girl who had only just started a few weeks previously said, ‘They handle her dyslexia with care and attention to detail. During the first full week she had reading aids, and all her printed work was done on blue paper to help with her reading.‘

iPads are being rolled out, starting with year 9. All staff have iPads and have had extensive training, including cyber safety. Sessions for parents on safety are available too. Staff keen to ‘respect all traditions of this old school whilst meeting the challenges of the 21st century.’

Classrooms displayed impressive and interesting work, particularly the classics room; the annual Roman Banquet looked like lots of fun. In the food and nutrition room, there was a particularly happy class whipping up a chickpea curry, and over in a science laboratory we saw a GCSE class working out how to test the hardness of water. The teacher had a ‘get on with it' attitude, encouraging the girls to think independently and learn by their mistakes. Good, practical teaching.

At sixth form, there are 23 AS and A2 options plus an Extended Project Qualification on offer. Parents say that with such good standards across the board, girls find it hard to choose which subjects to specialise in. Not a bad dilemma to have. We saw classes of sixth formers having maths and science lessons, more than expected at a girls’ school. Many go on to study engineering, economics or sciences at university. One teacher believed this was one of the benefits of being a single sex school. A parent agreed, saying she felt ‘the school will give [her daughter] confidence to pursue any career she wants and will not pigeonhole her, or any pupil, into "female" pursuits.’

Games, options, the arts

Parents say, ‘It would be nice if the school had its own grounds and more facilities for sports activities’ – but this is a city school and space is limited. Some say, ‘the lack of facilities means that the sports department staff work even harder to ensure that the school puts out as many teams as possible.’ This seems to be the case and there’s enough choice here for everyone to find a sport they enjoy. For a small school, there’s a good number of girls excelling at swimming, netball, hockey and athletics at county level. Other sports on offer include badminton, tennis, rounders, gymnastics, dance and fencing. On site, there are three netball/tennis courts, a huge and impressive sports hall, plus a gym. To compensate for its lack of grounds, the school acquired a sports field last year, just 10 minutes’ walk away. They also make good use of the Astroturf at the university, and the local swimming pool.

Art and music are in one creative building. There are two art studios plus dark rooms. There were some very impressive life drawings and textiles on display as well as some abstract work. The sixth form art studio is light and airy and is in constant use throughout lunchtimes and free periods. On our visit, there was an Art in Residence Day for sixth formers. The girls have a whole day with a local artist to explore ideas and ultimately give them a break from the curriculum. We were really impressed by this approach: the girls are provided with a good work/life balance that can only help them in the future when they’re juggling it for real.

Upstairs in the music room, a class was split into small groups dotted around the various practice rooms. The theme was Elements of Rock ‘n Roll and the teacher looked as if he was having just as much fun as the pupils. There’s a good mix of music on offer, ranging from jazz bands and choirs to orchestras, and most girls learn an instrument. The head of music was very excited about an upcoming trip to Italy where the choir will be performing in Venice and then Verona.

New performing arts theatre in 2017. Drama can be studied at both GCSE and A level, and LAMDA classes are available. There are usually 8-10 productions a year plus an annual performance that involves girls from all years. Past productions have included Sweeney Todd, The Fantastic Mr Fox and The Just So Stories. There are theatre trips on offer for all years including an annual trip to Stratford for sixth formers. The school regularly invites local theatre companies to come and perform at the school, giving the girls an opportunity to meet the production teams directly.

However, ‘It is beyond the curriculum where the real difference is made,’ said one teacher. This particularly applies to the sixth form, where the girls are encouraged to be independent and develop in all areas of life to prepare for university and work. The Aspire Plus programme focuses on university and helps with applications by asking ‘Who do you think you are?’, encouraging girls to look at their core skills and interests. The weekly extension studies programme includes car maintenance, critical thinking, philosophy, politics and cookery. There is a Voluntary Work Scheme plus the Young Enterprise Club where girls liaise with local businesses to develop products, sell them and make a profit. Outdoor challenges like Duke of Edinburgh and the Ten Tors challenge are extremely popular, as are foreign exchanges. There is a biennial ski trip and trips to Greece and Italy with the classics department, plus an upcoming trip to Iceland. Older girls have raised their own funds to go on World Challenge trips to India, Borneo, Morocco and Venezuela in recent years. Recently, the sixth formers went on an expedition to Peru to help with an irrigation scheme in the Sacred Valley. Adventures and challenges are really big here.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in 1658 by Sir John Maynard, it’s the third oldest girls’ school in the country and is a registered charity. The school moved to its current city centre site in 1882. Old and new buildings work well together, the latest addition being The Murdin Link built in 2008. It brings the senior and junior school together and houses year 6, textiles, food and nutrition and ICT. There’s a beautiful oak-beamed school hall, decorated with stained glass windows and wooden plaques of past awards, that remind you this is a traditional school at heart. Colourful, bright murals are dotted around the outside of the school and there are pockets of gardens, an allotment, an outdoor classroom and play areas. The school grounds feel bright and calm, and there’s a feeling of space, even though it really is very small and in the city centre.

Lunch is self-service and ‘lovingly’ created on-site by the very popular chef. All produce is locally sourced and all dietary needs catered for. Sixth form girls say they rarely bother to bring packed lunch. In fact, they say, they rarely bother to go out of the school even though they can. They prefer to run lunch clubs, or use the art studio or library. Seriously well-behaved girls.

There is a well-balanced mix of male and female teachers. Until recently there has been a very low turnover of teachers, but retirement has seen some newish appointments. One is Tom Hibberd, head of sixth form, relocated from a large boys’ school in south London. He says the girls have been very welcoming and the staff couldn’t be more supportive. Having just finished his first month, he said he was impressed how the ‘girls thrive on autonomy and motivate each other’, worlds apart from the boys’ school, no doubt.

‘There is a palpable sense of community support and mutual respect,’ said one parent, and it seems the girls really are happy to help each other and others. There is also a new voluntary scheme – Kissing It Better – where sixth formers visit old people’s homes, sing, chat, play Scrabble and get to know the older generation.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

The Maynard claims to be ‘expert in girls’, and to treat them all as individuals. During our visit, we really got the sense that this is true, they really do care. One parent said, ‘I applaud the school’s approach to a democratic education…they accept that everyone learns in different ways. I have direct experience of this with one of my daughters, who had serious health issues and was unable to follow the standard route.’ The girls feel valued and there is mutual respect between pupils and staff. Girls say bullying rarely occurs and there’s a system for reporting and dealing with it.

There’s great autonomy, particularly for older girls. Independence is possible because of the small numbers, enabling staff to keep tabs on the girls fairly easily. No rebellious actions to report. No set school rules. Girls are encouraged to behave responsibly and they are rewarded with a fair share of independence and respect. This seems to work very well.

Pupils and parents

Parents are medics, farmers, solicitors, from all walks of life and all ‘very hard working’, according to school. Some girls are funded by grandparents. Some live locally, others travel up to an hour to get to school. Parents say they can be as involved in the school as much as they like, there’s no pressure. The parents’ association does lots of fundraising and socialising and is run predominantly by mothers. One parent questioned this, suggesting that ‘the school is maybe missing out on a broader perspective or set of views?’ Sounds like the dads want to get involved. Families are regularly invited to music and dance recitals or mini-productions. Most recently they were invited to a Dine With My Daughter day to taste the culinary delights of the school’s kitchen, all cooked on site with local produce.

Old girls and parents regularly come back to share their experiences at university or work or to discuss job opportunities. While we were there, a recent leaver was back from Cambridge to chat about her biochemistry degree and another leaver was due to visit to chat about her internship at Accenture. Old girls include Professor Dame Margaret Turner-Warwick - first woman president of British Medical Council; Claire Morall, author, short-listed for Man Booker Prize; Diana Brightmore-Armour, MD Lloyds TSB corporate banking division.

Entrance

Girls sit tests in English, maths, reasoning and reading plus an interview. We were pleased to hear that they look for potential, not just current ability. Taster days are encouraged.

Sixth form entrance is based on an interview, GCSE grades and a reference from the previous school.

Exit

Eighteen per cent left after GCSEs in 2017. Nearly all sixth formers go to university, a few after gap years. Bristol, Birmingham, Durham, Edinburgh, Manchester and London universities are the most popular destinations. One medic in 2017. Other popular courses include STEM subjects, veterinary science, economics and the arts (including fashion).

Money matters

There are a variety of bursaries and scholarships available and the school is keen to make this an affordable education for all. One parent said, ‘This is also what I love about the school, the diversity of families. There are families who can easily afford the fees, and those that work two jobs to do it. This makes my children aware of the different backgrounds of their peers.’ All parents questioned agreed it was ‘a good deal financially’. Means-tested bursaries can cover up to 45 per cent of fees. There are also five scholarships offered at senior level, plus sports, arts and music scholarships at sixth form level. Recently introduced eight new 13+ scholarships, four in sport and four in performing arts. Two of each category to existing students, others to new entrants. Nineteen new Maynard awards, a combination of scholarships and means-tested bursaries. Five of these, for sixth form entrants, offer 100 per cent fee remission. The school offers sibling discounts, provides free wrap-around care from 8am-5.30pm, provides all textbooks and subsidises educational trips whenever possible with the help of the parents’ association fundraising

Our view

Friendly and unpretentious. Not the best facilities but good for a small city school. They provide a caring environment that promotes hard work - ‘There is a very clear focus on ensuring that everybody achieves to their maximum, but not in a po-faced way,’ say parents. Girls are happy and parents truly believe in the school. One parent of a nervous, studious girl said: ‘The Maynard has allowed her confidence to grow. I am certain that the time she spends at school is a big part of what makes her happy’. Another agreed, saying ‘I know my three (very different) girls will thrive and leave with good results, as well rounded women, knowing that if they work hard they can achieve anything they put their minds to.’

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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
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
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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