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  • Queen Margaret's School For Girls
    Escrick Park
    Escrick
    York
    North Yorkshire
    YO19 6EU
  • Head: Mrs Sue Baillie
  • T 01904 727600
  • F 01904 728150
  • E [email protected]
  • W queenmargarets.com/
  • An independent school for girls aged from 11 to 18.
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: North Yorkshire
  • Pupils: 211; sixth formers: 80
  • Religion: Church of England
  • Fees: Day £23,271 pa; Boarding £34,695 - £40,236 pa
  • Open days: Open Days: January, February, March, April, May and June. Personal visits available all year round. Open Days and Personal Visits can be booked on school's website.
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Ofsted report: View the Ofsted report
  • ISI report: View the ISI report

What says..

Splendid setting at Escrick Park. Queen Margaret’s has a superb boarding offer which we think ticks a lot of boxes. Day girls are all full members of a boarding house so everyone is included. At A level the school has an amazing 30 subjects on offer and art is a particular strength. The QM twist comes in the provision of at least 30 minutes one-to-one support from a personal tutor for every girl every week…

Read review »

What the school says...

Awarded 'Small Independent School of the Year' in the Independent Schools of the Year Awards 2023.

Established in 1901, QM is an independent boarding and day school for girls aged 11-18. You will find us in glorious parkland about six miles south of York. But we are much more than our surroundings, we are more than a school:

We’re a home from home.
A family of learning and belonging.
In a truly inspirational setting.

We are somewhere each and every girl can thrive.
Where they’ll be happy and healthy.
Grow their knowledge, skills and confidence.
And make friends for life.

Somewhere that’s the bedrock for success.
Opens up opportunities and possibilities.
Inspires them to forge their own future.
And gets them ready for life, whatever their calling.

We nurture girls to fulfil their ambitions.
To realise their potential.
To become the best women they can be.
And give them an amazing start in life.
...Read more

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Sports

Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.

What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since 2019, Sue Baillie. With a degree in history from the University of Leicester she says, ‘Teaching was always going to be my vocation.' After a short foray into accountancy, which she says has stood her in very good stead for school leadership, she studied for her PGCE at Gonville and Caius, Cambridge. Her first teaching post was at Barnard Castle as teacher, then head of history and housemistress. Leadership roles at King Edward’s Bath and King Edward’s Oxford, then led to a return north to Newcastle Church High and deputy head roles at Kimbolton School and Newcastle Royal Grammar School. An accomplished school leader with a very measured and calm approach, she has great experience and an excellent grasp of the intricacies of boarding schools. ‘As a leader I want to make sure every individual has the care they deserve in an environment that makes them ready both to learn and take full advantage of extracurricular activities.’ For Mrs Baillie it’s all about personalisation: ‘No-one here, student or staff, is overlooked, we know names, what they like and don’t like and we want them to feel school is for them, on their side.’

The school is quietly reinventing itself to meet changing times – recent years had seen a fairly significant fall in numbers from a peak of over 300. Head is clear that they need to be ‘out there’ telling the story of what makes Queen Maragaret’s unique. For her, it is about that individuality which can be seen in a broad curriculum (especially post-16) and a boarding offer with a clear eye towards the rising popularity of flexibility. She insists there is absolute parity between boarders and day girls – ‘We are all in it together, regardless of how many times your head hits the pillow at school.’ The aim to grow back to capacity seems to be taking shape and intake is now rising.

This is a school where children are well known. Everyone we asked (head, pupils and parents) said a girl who wanted to be anonymous or who wanted a bigger environment wouldn’t feel at home here. We felt that was a real strength, no-one seemed to be getting lost at Queen Margaret’s: there’s space and support to fly and get things right, but plenty of back up and people to notice and care if they don't.

From Essex and married to a Yorkshireman, the head and her husband live on site with their daughter, who is a QM pupil, and two dogs. When not walking or supporting her daughter on the hockey touchline, she is a born-again crochet enthusiast. Having only recently taken it up, she says, ‘As a left hander I thought I couldn’t do it but I can and have learned so many new skills.’ She’s already led assemblies on the therapeutic value of crochet for mindfulness, discovered a community of ‘closet’ crochet enthusiasts amongst both staff and girls and led a programme of producing blankets for Ukraine. We felt this epitomised her creativity as an educator, leader and lifelong learner.

Leaving summer 2024 to become head of Woldingham. From September 2024, Nicola Dudley, currently the principal of Surval Montreux School for Girls in Switzerland. Educated at Wycombe Abbey, degree from Jesus College, Oxford. A linguist by training, she has 24 years’ experience in independent education, including leadership roles at Lomond School (deputy head), Scottish Council of Independent Schools (deputy director), Malvern College International (director of education) and Malvern College Hong Kong (founding deputy head).

Entrance

School is not selective. Once registered, girls are invited to sit assessments in mathematics and English in the January of the year of entry, as well as being automatically screened for dyslexia. This is used to ensure the school is the right fit and that any learning needs can be appropriately met. There is an interview with the head or a senior leader and the opportunity to attend a taster day. It is very unusual to say no to a girl. Relatively low entrance requirements for the sixth form given the strength of A level results. Places are offered based on GCSE (or equivalent) predictions. Five GCSE passes at grade 5 including maths and English and at least grade 6 in the subjects proposed for A level study.

Exit

Most of year 11 will move on to the sixth form (64 per cent in 2023); the year group remains largely the same size, as newcomers arrive from other schools. In 2023, ‘the vast majority’ made it to their first-choice university (including Exeter, Sheffield and Manchester), school tells us, to study neuroscience and games and virtual reality, among other subjects. No Oxbridge or medics this year.

Latest results

In 2023, 50 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 27 per cent A*/A at A level (53 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 58 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 42 per cent A*/A at A level (71 per cent A*-B). Externally validated value-added data show the pupils achieve at least as well as similar pupils in similar schools at A level and significantly better at GCSE, which is impressive given the non-selective intake.

Teaching and learning

Queen Margaret’s has a traditional curriculum but with an interesting twist, which seems to pay dividends in terms of girls’ achievement, motivation and capacity to learn. At key stage 3, every girl does the same curriculum, including separate sciences. No setting until year III, at which point it’s based on ability in maths, English and science. All take French, Spanish and Latin, although some international pupils will do English as an additional language instead of Latin. There’s food and nutrition and textiles as well as art and computer science. Although all of these are using new technologies and producing some very high-quality work (we were bowled over by the quality of the art), there isn’t any provision for design technology or graphic design yet. Head says this is on the wish list for future development.

The QM twist comes in the provision of at least 30 minutes one-to-one support from a personal tutor for every girl every week. The tutor is also the primary link with home. While some with SEN will get considerably more, this means that every girl has a degree of individualised support to help make the most of her learning and it continues right through to the sixth form. It’s a very significant USP for the school, and girls say, ‘There’s someone who knows how we learn inside out and all the teachers get to know what we need. It’s great there are no hiding places but always someone to help.’

At GCSE most girls will take nine subjects, a core of English, maths and science (offered as both separate and dual award), plus four others which can include further maths and ancient Greek. However, the number and type of GCSEs are determined by the girl’s individual interests, aspirations and needs. This can lead to a reduced number where necessary. Study of a language is encouraged.

At A level the school has an amazing 30 subjects on offer. About 10 per cent of lower sixth girls study the EPQ each year with topics ranging from feminism and the French resistance to equine physiotherapy. A BTEC in food and nutrition has been introduced recently and computer science started in 2023. The sixth form is small and we questioned hard to see whether all these subjects really run. Apparently they do, but with some very low numbers and sometimes on reduced teaching time. Occasionally, where a subject is not offered by existing staff, a student can pay to have tuition brought in. It is all clearly deemed worth of investment, however, as a new study centre opened in 2022.

Learning support and SEN

SEN department of three fully qualified and very experienced teachers is led by the SENCo, herself a maths teacher with master’s in both psychology and SEN. Specialist support is available for a wide range of needs including dyslexia, autistic spectrum disorder, social and emotional needs, and attention deficit disorder. There is no one-to-one withdrawal but for those with specific needs the support from the personal tutor will be greater, allowing for a focus on specifics like time management, revision technique, developing reading or examination skills. In our view, this very significant investment in every child’s learning needs is a tremendous asset for the school and plays a very big part in supporting the ethos of enabling every girl to be comfortable in her learning. Parents are extremely positive about the SEN department: ‘She’s come on fantastically, learning support is superb and they communicate so well with all the other teachers – it’s done a great job at building her confidence.’

The arts and extracurricular

Art is a real strength here. Taught in beautiful, modern, well-lit rooms, the curriculum stretches into textiles and graphics and the school proudly boasts of the textiles of A level students who have gone on to study architecture.

Drama facilities are superb. The Chapman Theatre is a modern, very well-equipped, purpose-built space with raked seating, thrust stage and a gallery that would be the envy of any professional company. It provides a great venue not just for drama teaching but for a myriad of school productions such as the recent Alice in Wonderland. Next door, a lovely quirky dance studio, complete with secret door in the mirror wall, provides a great space for teaching and learning.

There’s a rich musical tradition too, and around half of pupils take instrumental lessons. Music has its own building with plenty of practice rooms and two classrooms with all the right technology. The chamber choir leads worship three times a week as well as performing in venues such as York Minster and Durham Cathedral. All girls in years I and II (years 7 to 9) are members of the junior choir (Cantiamo) and singing is embedded in their curriculum. QM bands include The Tone Commandments, a female barber shop group, and the Lost Sock, a funk and soul outfit.

Wealth of other co-curricular opportunities from book club and gardening group to the international council and beyond allies, supporting and promoting diversity and inclusion. QM Princes Trust challenges lower sixth girls to compete to raise £2,000 over a ten week business project. There is also the Queen’s Society, made up of academic scholars, which meets 12 times a year to discuss subjects of interest. One parent commented, ‘The days are very long, she’s out at 7.15 am and generally we don’t pick her up before 6.15 pm on weekdays and 3pm on Saturdays, but it works because she’s so engaged with it all.’ There’s an enrichment week for all at the end of the summer term and lots of trips both home and abroad, all now reactivated after Covid, including a sports tour to South Africa and World Challenge treks to Malaysia and South America.

Sport

Sports facilities are very good. Superb, extensive playing fields, great floodlit all-weather pitch, a six-lane swimming pool, squash court and a small personal training space. There are stables where some girls livery their horses, riding lessons (naturally) and a cross country course leading off towards the temple/folly at a distant end of the parkland. Hockey, lacrosse and netball are the principal team sports with recent successes including years I and II girls reaching the youth school LTA tennis finals and several with county honours in lacrosse. It’s not a completely stereotypical offer as girls are also enthusiastically playing football and tag rugby. Parents say, ‘They spend such a lot of time on sports, health and wellbeing as well as a good balanced curriculum that she’s flourished in a way I don’t think would have been possible in a bigger state school.’

Boarders

Queen Margaret’s has a superb boarding offer which we think ticks a lot of boxes. About a third international with a predominance of Chinese, a few military and an increasing number of flexi boarders from the local area.

Not the most modern or luxurious accommodation we have seen but certainly one of the most homely, comfortable and flexible. Boarding houses are proudly horizontal based on year groups so there is no hierarchy; day girls are full members of a boarding house as well so everyone is included. The four houses are very different and offer a genuine progression of experience. Red House for years I and II is in a charming Arts and Crafts house a little way from the main school buildings. Five or six-bedded dorms, nice modern bathrooms, lovely family drawing room and a big farmhouse kitchen complete with Aga and scrubbed pine table make this a real home from home. Atholl house for years III and IV is in the grand main building, four-bedded dorms with mezzanine floor. Year V have a relatively modern purpose-built house, Winnies. This has four-bedded dorms, each with balcony and sink, as well as a corresponding study across the corridor so a nice separation of work and relaxation space. A new junior boarding house (Warwick) is planned for 2023. Lower sixth girls are in Cloisters with roomy, bright doubles. Finally the upper sixth are housed in several cottages with huge single study-bedrooms, and fully equipped kitchen. While there is an adult presence the girls are encouraged to live as independently as possible in preparation for university.

‘Our USP is everybody has a bed,’ say the deputy head in charge of boarding. As the school is running under capacity, all day girls have an allocated bed which can be used as much or as little as they like on a pay-as-you go basis, with no need to pre-book: it’s proud of its ‘bespoke boarding’, which basically means girls can stay whenever they like, sometimes deciding only on the day. Also one, two and three-day flexi as well as weekly and full boarding. How sustainable that will be if the school roll increases as planned remains to be seen. One parent of a day girl who was somewhat withdrawn at primary school said, ‘Within a few weeks she was begging to board one night a week so that she could do more activities and she isn’t missing me at all!’

Saturday evenings tend to be in-school activities as the girls are tired, although there are regular meals, cinema and theatre trips into York. On Sundays it’s chapel followed by longer day trips such as Alton Towers. There are also plenty of big school-based events such as Burns night and ceilidhs, as well as meet-ups with local boys’ boarding schools.

Ethos and heritage

Founded in 1901 in Scarborough, Queen Margaret’s was evacuated to Pitlochry in 1914 and Castle Howard in 1939, eventually settling at Escrick Park in 1949. Originally a Woodard school, it is now completely independent but retains a strong Christian ethos. Chapel three times a week is a cornerstone of the timetable.

Escrick is a few miles from York – a lovely, peaceful, rural setting; it’s a safe and secure campus with plenty of on-site activities. Buildings are generally very well cared-for, a mixture of the historic John Carr mansion house and associated outbuildings plus some lovely newer developments. Teaching spaces are tidy and well presented although a little mixed in age and spaciousness. There are some spectacular new buildings for the arts, drama, dance and the chapel – and a fabulous new sixth form centre called the 2022 room – but history and geography are housed in wooden buildings and the science labs seemed somewhat dated to us.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

We feel pastoral care is a real strength here. The school is very small so there is no reason why every girl can’t be known well. The integration of day and boarding girls into the same houses and the one-to-one support for all create real wraparound academic and pastoral care. Parents say, ’Communication is brilliant both pastorally and academically, someone always gets back to us within three hours.’ The head is clear that the impact of Covid on learning and development has been a profound one for most girls and that school has a job not just to help them catch up but to ensure this is done in a manageable way, taking full account of the girls’ mental health. The behaviour policy has been rewritten post-Covid to help girls back into a school environment, and there’s a strong focus on mindfulness, plenty of space for discussion and no taboos. In 2022 the school won the Leeds Beckett gold Mental Health Award.

Parents recognise the school’s strength in supporting girls to live and work together – ‘Of course there are fall-outs but they’ve seen it all before and deal with it calmly and transparently.’ All we spoke to agreed the food is fantastic, and after our lunch in the dining hall we tend to agree.

Pupils and parents

Parents are a mix of old girls, international, a couple of military, and a growing number who have moved their children from larger local state and independent schools. ’It’s the right size,’ said one. ‘They do get good results but it’s not über selective or academically pushy.’ School has recently made forays into state primaries to offer bursaries, which have proved popular. Parents like the fact that Queen Margaret’s is not as pinned down to the national curriculum as the state sector. ‘Although the push and challenge is there, with plenty of homework, it’s not a hothouse and we aren’t fearful school will leave our girls struggling with exam pressure as we’ve seen elsewhere.’

Notable alumnae include: business executive, Amanda Staveley; high court judge, Dame Eleanor King; the Manners sisters (Lady Violet, Lady Eliza and Lady Alice), Instagram stars and regulars in the pages of the Tatler and Vanity Fair. Not forgetting feminist writer Winifred Holtby, after whom Winnie’s boarding house is named.

Money matters

Means-tested bursaries up to 100 per cent; 15 per cent of students receive some sort of bursarial support. Scholarships include academic, choral, dance, drama, music and sports.

The last word

Lively, good facilities, great extracurricular offer, spot-on pastoral care and a very committed set of staff; Queen Margaret’s is small but perfectly formed and has everything you could wish for, unless you crave anonymity and getting lost in the crowd.

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

A Special Educational Need can take on a variety of forms and whether a student is experiencing a learning difficulty, medical condition or pastoral need, the Learning Support Department at Queen Margaret's serves to provide students with full support to enable them to flourish. As soon as contact is made with the School it is important to advise of any special educational needs a student may have. Everything can then be put in place right from assessment day. There is a process of continual monitoring in place and an ‘open door’ policy. All girls are screened for learning difficulties when they first join QM and then again in Year III (9) and in Lower Sixth Form. This ensures that any emerging difficulties are quickly identified and provisions made. The School is fortunate in having its own Specialist Assessor who sees the examination process through from start to finish for each individual girl, carrying out the appropriate assessments for examination access arrangements, implementing arrangements in the classroom for girls and ensuring the appropriate paperwork is completed and applications made to the examination boards. All girls on the Special Educational Needs register are offered weekly, personalised lessons, for which there is no charge. These are one to one, tailored to each girl’s individual needs and timetabled to fit with girls’ other commitments, so enabling girls to shine in all areas of the curriculum. The Learning Support Department embraces a ‘can do’ attitude and encourages girls that a special educational need is not a barrier to achievement. From the girl now reading English at Cambridge, to the girl who has set up her own underwear business, anything is possible.

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
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
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 Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment

Who came from where


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