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  • St Mary's School, Hampstead
    47 Fitzjohn's Avenue
    NW3 6PG
  • Head: Miss Charlotte Owen
  • T 020 7435 1868
  • F 020 7794 7922
  • E [email protected]
  • W
  • An independent school for girls aged from 2 to 11.
  • Boarding: No
  • Local authority: Camden
  • Pupils: 300
  • Religion: Roman Catholic
  • Fees: £18,540 pa
  • Open days: A series of Open Events with Headmistress and Director of Studies every term.
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • ISI report: View the ISI report

What says..

Particularly impressive since our last visit is the shiny new tech-tastic Global Learning Centre. This modern, innovative learning space has been designed to promote STEAM. As if the large interactive display screens (including the floor) and 3D printer wasn’t impressive enough, every pupil has access VR goggles to aid ‘interactive learning experiences’ as part of their lessons. While we visited, the girls were…

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What the school says...

Recently celebrating its 150th anniversary, St. Mary’s School is an exceptional (ISI – November 2022) Catholic school for girls between 2-11 years old.

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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2023 Miss Charlotte Owen, previously head of the lower school at Woldingham School for seven years. She was also a key member of Woldingham’s senior leadership team. Prior to this she was head of languages at Prior’s Field School. She has a degree in Spanish and Italian from Royal Holloway College, University of London.


Non-selective academically. Places go first to siblings, then to Catholics, then to non-Catholics. Family-orientated ethos means that other faiths and cultures are also welcomed. ‘We don’t believe that children should be assessed at 3 and 4 years old, and we also won’t choose one girl from a family and not her sibling,' says the school. Parents advised to register early. Particularly family friendly nursery arrangements – children are admitted from 2 years and 9 months and can stay to lunch or all afternoon with minimum notice. A few further places for girls often become available in year 3.


All girls gain entry to leading academic secondary schools. Francis Holland Regent’s Park the most popular in 2023, followed by South Hampstead High and St Helen’s. Odd one or two to St Paul's Girls’, Channing and Queen's College. Also to selective state schools (especially St Michael’s Catholic Grammar and Henrietta Barnett). School says it's all about the right fit, promising to get girls ‘into the schools they are right for and where they will thrive’.

Our view

The school comprises a spacious turn-of-the-century building with mosaic floors and vast country-like gardens. Founded in 1871 by the Congregation of Jesus, it moved here from Belsize Park in 1926. Against this gracious period backdrop, facilities are thoroughly up to date including a large, bright assembly hall and a well-stocked library - and there has been significant recent investment in updating all the classrooms to make them colourful and more modern.

Particularly impressive since our last visit is the shiny new tech-tastic Global Learning Centre. This modern, innovative learning space has been designed to promote STEAM. As if the large interactive display screens (including the floor) and 3D printer weren’t impressive enough, every pupil has access to VR goggles to aid ‘interactive learning experiences’ as part of their lessons. While we visited, the girls were taking a 360-degree tour through Egypt and learning about hieroglyphics.

A non-selective school, it still manages to pull off high-flying results. We saw sharp, lively and pupil-focused teaching, with encouragement favoured over a hothousing ethos. ‘There has never been one teacher my daughter didn’t like,’ said one parent; ‘Communication with the staff is excellent,’ added another. Students are monitored and assessed from year 1 so that, ‘by the time they get to year 6, they are used to exams and we can pretty much safely say what students will achieve academically,’ says the school. Four Rs - risk-taking, resilience, respect, reflection – have recently been introduced to the curriculum, which gets the thumbs-up from parents: ‘It encourages girls to take risks and leave their comfort zone.’ ‘This is not a gimmicky sales pitch – the girls genuinely understand the four Rs and focus their lives around it, even outside of school.’

Children choose where they want to sit in class to ‘take ownership’ of their learning. ‘We never want to say to a child, you’re no good at maths, go and sit on the green table,’ says the school. ‘And anyway, they may not be good at fractions, but they may be great at algebra.’ Excellent learning support is available, with one full-time SENCo and various SEN teachers based on the needs of that cohort, providing help in class and out of it (in lovely, bright teaching spaces). ‘My daughter’s issues were picked up on early on. She goes into school early to get extra support. The school have been great,’ said one parent. The brightest are stretched through an enriched curriculum. Lunchtime puzzle club particularly popular among this cohort.

Like many other schools, St Mary’s scrabbled around a bit during the first lockdown (‘lots of videos to watch and expectations on parents to assist’) but got their act together for subsequent ones (‘my kids loved lockdown by the end’). One parent told us, ‘They were told to have a wellness break three times a week and do something they enjoyed like reading, going out etc.’

Strong sport with good facilities and a well-equipped gym. All the usual team games on offer including cricket, netball, hockey, football, rugby and athletics. Swimming at Swiss Cottage baths for years 3 to 6. Athletics in Regent’s Park. Gymnastics popular, with pupils competing at regional and national level. High achievement too in music and excellent dance and drama (including an all-encompassing production in year 6). All girls can learn an instrument.

Heaps of clubs - everything from website design to debating, ballet and accounting, plus all the usual music clubs and a wealth of languages including Mandarin, Latin and Spanish. Particularly popular book club available to all year groups. Given that it is run by the head herself in her lovely office with freshly baked cookies (and lashings of ginger beer, we wondered?), it’s no surprise it’s so popular. After-school club with late pick-up of 6pm is available every day – these girls enjoy a varied programmed of activity, and there’s also a quiet area for homework or reading with a teacher. Parents appreciate this flexibility and can book emergency places on the same day. ‘The school will never turn you down if you need a space.’

Wide variety of trips across the year groups. Residentials kick off in year 4 with a single night away, then there’s an activity week in Devon for year 5s, while year 6s have a post-exam Alps trip where girls get to meet pen-pals and make croissants.

This is a school with a big heart. Charity runs through its core and during lockdown the school raised enough money to buy 22 toilets around the world as part of their ‘taps, toilets and trash’ initiative. Plastic bottles are now banned on site, and each child has been equipped with their own reusable bottle.

Very much a Catholic school, with just over half the parents coming from a Catholic background. ‘I think one of the most wonderful things about [the school] is that the Catholic ethos permeates every aspect of the children’s lives’, said one. Pupils participate in mass and study Catholicism, and those who wish can be prepared for first Holy Communion by much-loved Father Chris on his twice-weekly visits to the school chapel. ‘Many of our parents have had a Catholic education themselves and want that for their children,’ says the school. But nobody seems to feel excluded. ‘As a Hindu myself’, said one parent, ‘I did initially wonder why I was sending my child to this school. But they are very inclusive and will celebrate Diwali and other festivals too.’

Behaviour is mainly managed by everything being geared towards doing things ‘the St Mary’s Way’ - those who slip up are gently reminded of expectations. ‘We want pupils to do their best.' Pupils we met were smiley and noticeably well behaved. They had a certain girlish innocence to them, increasingly rare in today’s techno age. The group we spoke to on our tour said they were so in love with their school that the only criticism they could think of was that ‘it doesn’t go through to 18’.

Mostly professional families from Hampstead and the surrounding areas, with a wide range of backgrounds (from Europe, the US, Asia and the Far East). About half speak at least one other language at home (with good in-school support for newcomers on the foothills of English). Very welcoming parents we are told, ‘which can be unusual especially in the London private school bubble. But here they are grounded and down to earth.’ Despite its Hampstead location, this is a fairly understated place.

Money matters

Some bursaries available.

The last word

A popular little school (‘very much word of mouth’) which competes alongside some of the local heavyweights. Welcomes Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Balances being friendly and inclusive with high expectations. The ‘St Mary’s way’ could be your daughter’s first step on the path to some of north London’s most selective secondary schools.

Special Education Needs

St Mary’s School has a thriving Learning Support Department. When a pupil is identified as having SEN, we take action to remove barriers to learning and put effective special educational needs provision in place. Quality First Teaching remains our first response in relation to the identification of SEN, but we also ensure that the child receives high quality additional support and interventions carefully matched to their needs. Pupils receive maximum support to develop and encourage their potential and specialist teachers offer small groups or individual 1:1 lessons. Through consultation with the form teacher and parents, a flexible strategy of support is formulated. A strong link between the school and the parents is encouraged and this partnership is seen as invaluable for the child’s continued development.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Genetic Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty Y
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment Y
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability Y
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability Y
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment Y

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