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Marymount International School London

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No liturgical vestments in obvious sight but a strong spiritual undercurrent runs deep, and all faiths are celebrated. ‘It’s a spiritual place,’ the head groundsman wistfully agrees, referring to his love of the grounds after 30 years on site. Teaching for the IB ‘starts from the get-go’. Takes the heat out of the potentially overwhelming demands of the diploma; as school puts it, ‘It’s not how well you do in the IB, but how well you do the IB.’ Delicious food in the canteen – more akin to …

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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 with a values based environment and 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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International Baccalaureate: diploma - the diploma is the familiar A-level equivalent.

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

Other features

Music and dance scheme - government funding and grants available to help with fees at selected independent music and dance schools.

Choir school - substantial scholarships and bursaries usually available for choristers.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2021, Margaret Giblin, previously deputy head at Woldingham Catholic School for Girls, which she joined in 2012. Experience in education spans over two decades in both the UK and Ireland (her homeland). MA in Catholic school leadership from St Mary’s and higher diploma in teaching and a BA in theology and English from National University of Ireland and St Patrick’s Pontifical University, respectively.

Is keen to shine a light on this ‘hidden gem’ of a school. Says that it being faith-based was a draw for personal as well as educational reasons but is quick to point out that it welcomes students from ‘all or none’ (faiths) offering spiritual leadership and guidance. Firmly believes in girls’ education (no going co-ed just yet – much to the disappointment of families with boys too). ‘It’s a strong environment in which to develop girls,’ she tells us, explaining that ‘there is a liberation from some of the peripheral things that can otherwise cause angst with teenage girls’ (think rosy cheeks and messy hair after a hard-fought game of football) and no self-selection of subject choices – physics being as popular as design here. ‘We foster an assuredness in girls,’ she continues; ‘they contribute to whatever domain they want.’

Parents say she is ‘warm and approachable’, takes a ‘human and empathetic’ approach to difficult situations and ‘knows where she wants the school to go’. ‘I like to have clarity,’ as she puts it. Girls have a healthy respect for her, less ‘rules are there to be broken’, more ‘the rules are clear’. All agree that her old-school approach (no sloppy uniforms please) is delivered with a progressive outlook, warm Irish lilt, and ready laugh.


Girls arrive from schools across London and overseas; no feeders though school is now engaging with local prep schools to build understanding of the IB. Top heavy; approximately 25-30 girls arrive in grade 6 (equivalent year 7) and numbers continue to build thereafter to almost 60 by grade 11 (sixth form). School accepts applications for all grades (in-year too) focusing on fit over numbers. ‘We make space for the right girl,’ they say.

A gentler entrance process than most schools in London. ‘A relief compared to the brutal 11-plus,’ say families. Grade 6 entrance days in the November and March preceding year of entry. Baseline tests in English, maths, verbal, and non-verbal reasoning along with ‘games’ (aka team building and critical thinking exercises) and all-important interview (helps match the fit). ‘No preparation needed,’ says school. ‘It was very relaxed and not pressured at all,’ confirm parents. Overseas students sit tests at home, on an honesty basis. Older girls complete two written assessments and interview. References assess approach to learning and contribution to the larger school community rather than focusing on scores.


Top-notch results lead to top-notch universities – impressive for a school with a broad intake. Students head across the UK and around the world. Popular courses include business, psychology, liberal arts and fine arts. A few gap years. A few girls leave early if the IB is ‘not for them’ but school supports that journey. Some parents worry about universities recognising the value of the IB – unnecessarily so, especially given current discourse surrounding the ENC moving towards a baccalaureate, and school is good at addressing concerns. Other families recognise the breadth of the programme as affording many options, here and overseas, and say their girls graduate more ‘university ready’.

In 2023, popular destinations include Russell Group, eg University College London, King’s College London, Durham, Edinburgh, Bath, and Central St Martin’s. One medic, none to Oxbridge. Others to Europe (Spain in particular) and Asia (eg Japan).

Latest results

In 2023, average IB diploma score of 36 including one 45 (full marks); 36 per cent scored 40 or more and 43 per cent gained bilingual certificates. In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), average IB score of 37.

Teaching and learning

Only all-girls Catholic day and boarding school in the UK to offer the IB; and school embraces it, confident in what it has taught expertly for over forty years. The IB follows a ‘concept and context-driven’ programme, meaning concepts are taught and contextualised within the real world. School calls it a ‘contemporary’ education that has ‘vitality and relevance’. Families say girls quickly understand they aren’t learning for learning’s sake and that it feels more ‘relaxed’ and engaging than teaching to the test. Those not initially familiar with the IB quickly won over and agree that the ‘road less taken’ (no GCSEs – ‘Hurrah,’ say parents) results in girls achieving beyond expectations.

Teaching for the diploma ‘starts from the get-go’. Study skills, essay writing and critical thinking developed from grade 6 (year 7) girls quickly become well versed in IB-style learning. Takes the heat out of the potentially overwhelming demands of the diploma; as school puts it, ‘It’s not how well you do in the IB, but how well you do the IB.’ In the first year, value is placed on ‘how you show up as a learner’ rather than absolute grades. School tells us, ‘It is about bringing everyone from different levels and abilities together and enabling everyone to be their best.’ Parents concur: ‘They let girls develop.’ Girls are encouraged to follow a wide range of academic interests leading up to their grade 10 middle years project. One girl taught herself braille and wrote a braille book, another learnt how to code in Python, while another knitted a jersey.

Heading into diploma years (grades 11 and 12) pressure naturally builds but is recognised as being reflective of the demands of the IB rather than school itself. Wide praise for school’s willingness to timetable any combination of subjects (within the structure of IB subject groups) with parents relieved that school doesn’t play to league table pressure. Girls encouraged to keep up arts within their options but can swap out if they want to. No computer science (but there is a coding club) or design technology but sports, exercise and health science are in the mix. Super spread of languages, eg Norwegian, Czech, Korean, in addition to the usual (some at extra cost) and fantastic offering for mother tongue or previously learnt languages. Fabulous library (and librarian) with its ‘Around the world in books’ section.

Small class sizes (fewer than 12) universally praised. ‘The depth of understanding her teachers have of her is incredible. They get the best out of her.’ Consistent mentions of the dedication of highly experienced and ‘iconic’ teachers who recognise and nurture the spark in girls.

Teacher support outside of classroom hours is ‘great’ but girls are hugely supportive of each other. ‘It’s not competitive,’ say parents, adding, ‘but it is ambitious. They try to lift all girls, not pit them against each other.’

We dropped into a grade 6 English lesson with girls studying Animal Farm by George Orwell. Young hands quickly shot up to proudly inform us that the book is a political allegory – the story of the Russian revolution that ‘teaches us not to give up’. The same teacher spotted later in the morning taking a grade 9 class, this time Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger and a discussion about the portrayal of women and whether the book is anti-feminist. Parents love that teachers teach across all grades, as ‘they get to know the girls, how they learn and what they need’. In science, we came across grade 8s studying DNA mutation and grade 9 maths studying distance formulas. Engaging teachers, confident girls.

Academic integrity is a priority, girls (and parents) taught to strike a balance between citing external sources (eg Chat GPT) and thinking creatively and critically for themselves. ‘They are encouraged to get satisfaction from their learning.’

Widespread agreement that academically the school ‘far exceeds expectations’, especially given that it is ‘one of the less selective’ schools. Girls blossom in confidence under encouragement. ‘Even without pressure, these girls get there,’ parents happily report.

Communication praised. ‘They are always happy to talk to parents and staff are easy to get hold of,’ parents say, continuing, ‘Girls are taught to be advocates for themselves, to ask questions, so you don’t need much teacher contact, but they are great if you do.’

Learning support and SEN

‘Amazing’, ‘outstanding’, we heard countless times, specifically for the head of learning support, who parents say readily offers help regardless of diagnosed needs or not. Students may visit the department voluntarily to hone their learning skills (rather than as extra tutoring) and learn how to organise themselves and how to study effectively etc. Parents rave about the ‘transformative’ effect and the confidence it builds in girls to ‘do it themselves’ rather than creating a crutch in later years.

Specific needs (eg dyscalculia, dyslexia) ‘get every possible help’; scaffolding and extensions put in place quickly. ‘The way they swung into action was amazing, together we hatched a plan and they made it happen,’ said one mother. Other grateful parents commented, ‘Their attitude is that as long as the child is hungry and willing, they can teach them. In other schools, they’d be labelled, here they reach their potential.’ The gifted and talented programme also sees equal numbers.

The arts and extracurricular

‘The amount they do for a small school is fantastic,’ say parents. Performing arts, dance and theatre all hugely popular. School sees these as important – to ‘learn grace and poise’ as well as to develop performance and public speaking confidence. Royal Society dance exams and LAMDA by way of qualifications; dance showcase, musical showcase and annual productions etc for all – Grimms Fairy Tales was underway on our visit. ‘They always try to find plays with many parts so everyone can be involved, and those who don’t like being on stage are still an important part of the production with set design, lighting etc. There are no divas,’ parents say approvingly.

Music is more homely. No long corridor of soulless practice rooms, instead the music block is like stepping into a music lover’s home with instruments galore and two glass-sided practice rooms. No formal orchestra, but no complaints either. The art studio is comfortably messy; ubiquitous array of self-portraits on the walls and fabulous work in all different mediums displayed all around. Girls encouraged to give anything a go. ‘If a girl can dream it up, we’re going to do it,’ we were told, think life-sized papier-mâché horse.

The IB’s CAS (creativity, activity, service) element necessitates additional activities and judging from those highlighted in the morning assembly (which we enjoyed), they range from confirmation practice and fundraising activities to MARS (Marymount astrophysics society) – ample spread for all. Crossover between subjects (Shakespeare festival in line with studying plays in English) and between Marymount schools (Model United Nations in Rome anyone?) keeps things lively.


The international nature of the school is most keenly felt in the sports department. Not your typical array of London school sports (netball et al) but rather varsity and junior varsity teams in eg badminton, volleyball, tennis and soccer. Other sports, eg swimming and equestrian, accommodated outside school with girls encouraged to compete under the Marymount banner in ‘whatever they want’. Parents happy that as a small school it ‘thinks outside of the box’ and that ‘they punch above their weight’, saying it’s ideal for girls who want to be ‘sporty for life’. The wall of trophies in the super indoor sports complex (complete with viewing deck and bar – in which they celebrate victorious wins presumably) suggests they enjoy their fair share of successes. The gym (one of the sweetest smelling we’ve ever been into, no sweaty boys bulking up here) put to good use by girls between lessons or after school.


‘When you enter this loving school consider yourself one of the special members of this epic family’ – the boarding house welcome sign (created by two grade 8s) sums it up neatly. A quarter of all girls are boarders, very few in younger grades but numbers increase as girls get older. The boarding block is firmly at the heart of the school, overlooking the stunning grounds with rather luxurious (for boarding school) shared rooms (two to four girls), modern bathrooms and super common room – pity the girls who get used to this ahead of university! Girls do their own laundry, to the cheers of parents.

The boarding programme caters for overseas students, girls choosing to stay on when their parents relocate (as is the way in an international community) and older girls making the most of facilities and access to teachers in diploma years. School is very accommodating (flexi, weekly, full boarding all offered) and happy to support requests at short notice, to the relief of working parents. The head of boarding (a Marymount alumna herself) runs a fun ship – we would have signed up for boarding in an instant! The boarding council (volunteer group of boarding students) successfully initiate activities to knit together the diverse community. Girls love it, so much so they may not ever want to leave! School goes to great pains to keep girls entertained at weekends: gym, yoga, movie nights, trampoline parks, etc. The ‘spring a boarder’ programme a lovely idea for those wanting a break at a friend’s house.

Ethos and heritage

One of the 19 RSHM – Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary – global network of schools across Europe, South America, US and Africa. Marymount London was established in 1955, with sisters on site for over sixty years (playing host to Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 1988, who arrived by helicopter and joined students in prayer and hymns). Now under lay leadership, the sisters retain an advisory capacity as governors and are well revered and ever present in little touches, eg the Sister Anne-Marie sports hall and the four houses based on the founders’ saint names. No liturgical vestments in obvious sight but a strong spiritual undercurrent runs deep, and all faiths are celebrated. ‘It’s a spiritual place,’ the head groundsman wistfully agrees, referring to his love of the grounds after 30 years on site. A multi-faith garden building sits next to some outdoor classrooms (a student-led initiative), welcoming with comfortable bean bags and a colourful prayer tree – a haven for those seeking a quiet, reflective moment. The school chapel the domain for formal gatherings, religious and community, with a prayer box for each grade. On our visit, the chapel was adorned with Remembrance Day poppies and stones on which girls had painted messages for loved ones and the fallen.

School sits on a stunning seven acres of the Coombe estate, a wealthy enclave of Kingston upon Thames, well away from London’s hustle and bustle. The gardens offer an immediate wow factor; beautifully manicured and thoughtfully landscaped, not just for show. Girls enjoy reading under the trees, sitting out at lunch or playing football on the mini pitch.

Parents talk about school being a ‘safe, happy environment’ and it’s easy to see why. Phones in younger years put away on arrival, grade 9s and above reminded that ‘you own the phone, the phone doesn’t own you’. A few comments that maybe they need to ‘dial it up’ for older students (cross over with a boys’ school perhaps?) but all agree that school allows the girls space to grow and develop a can-do attitude.

Delicious food in the canteen – more akin to a modern restaurant than school refectory – and fresh, homemade morning snacks on offer around the campus. Girls certainly don’t go hungry, though some mutters that the staggered mealtimes mean some girls eat too late. School disputes this, saying it allows them to offer fresh food for every year group. But if this is the biggest complaint we could dig up, you know that school isn’t doing too badly across the board!

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

‘Caring not nosy. They call to say, “She feels a bit tired, is there something we should be aware of?”’ say thankful parents. Kindness and respect nurtured in equal measures. The school counsellor is on site three times a week (available after school too) and girls can self-refer. Anxiety and friendship the most common concerns; no reports of bullying whatsoever. ‘Of course there’s drama, but there is in the real world,’ said one parent, neatly summing up what seems to be a recurring theme: recognition that the girls live in a bit of a bubble but that school does well to ensure girls are aware of it. ‘They talk to the girls quite directly, there is a world out there a long way from George Road!’ Praise also for school’s balanced approach. ‘There are always two sides to a story, and they are good at getting girls to think about what role they played.’ The benefits of a small school, we heard, being that school really has their finger on the pulse, they make it personal when speaking with girls and are there to help them through.

Pupils and parents

A small school with a big reach – 55 nationalities at the last count. Most families live locally – Kingston, Kew, Wimbledon etc – but are largely either long-term expats living in the UK (often citing the school as the reason for bedding in) or returnees (many dual-nationality families). Plenty of two-working-parent families from aspirational professions: media, City, lawyers etc. Boarders come from further afield, including Spain and Japan. Many alumni, many siblings.

Parents agree that international diversity adds to the ‘magical community’ and say that they love that the girls learn that the world isn’t ‘all made up the same people and can hold very different views and backgrounds’.

Many parents relieved that (given small class numbers) their daughter found ‘their group of people’ with no cliques or exclusions. ‘Everyone has someone about whom they can say “I get you and you get me”,’ we heard. Some turnover, as you might expect in an international school, but largely in younger years and it’s more a case of school adding in numbers than watering out. They are ‘really good at welcoming’ new students and girls love having friends the world over – parents too, referencing the super parent community and activities – international fair, tennis groups etc.

Money matters

Expensive, even in comparison to other fee-paying schools in this affluent area of London. ‘Is it worth the money? Absolutely,’ say parents, noting the individual attention, superb quality of learning, the clubs and ‘that beautiful campus’. A dozen or so girls on bursaries.

The last word

Girls arrive brimming with enthusiasm and leave bursting with confidence. This small international school that ‘feels like family’ offers top-notch academics within a nurturing environment in which girls can bloom without going wild. A super balance between traditional and progressive, ideal for those looking for an IB programme and global outlook.

Please note: Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
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 Y
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

Who came from where

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