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Parents cannot speak highly enough of the pastoral care: as one put it, ‘compassion and kindness run through the veins of this school’. Staff say ‘we want to get it right for the girls, so they feel very secure and know that there’s always someone there for them’. The jewels in the boarding crown are the upper sixth cottages: ‘something to look forward to,’ the girls say. Head girl has the first pick of houses; all have large kitchens, 'great for entertaining', and communal sitting rooms; cottage life has the feel of a college campus...

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What the school says...

A Queen Margaret's education is an exciting, challenging and enriching experience. Our girls are part of a community of people who care for each other and grow as individuals. They develop a wealth of skills for use in their own lives and ideals to make a difference in the world. At the heart of a QM education is a love of learning, which is supported by a healthy body and healthy mind.

When a girl has completed her education at QM she will be a freethinking, courageous individual prepared to take her learning to the next level and her place in a changing world.

More than 75% of girls are full boarders, and the quality of pastoral care and strong sense of community ensure that all girls settle in quickly and join in every aspect of school life with enthusiasm and purpose. Our girls thrive on healthy and energetic lifestyles. Sport is very important at QM and the school boasts exceptional facilities. The creative arts also play a central role in life at QM. The purpose-built theatre, dance studio and modern art and technology facilities provide the ideal setting for every girl to discover and develop her talents, whatever her interests.
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What the parents say...

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2016 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Girls taking French at an English Independent School (Level1/2 certificates)

Sports

Fencing

Shooting

What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since 2015, Mrs Jessica Miles MA PGCE (late 40s). Educated at girls’ boarding school Farnborough Hill in Hampshire and a scholarship student at Oriel College, Oxford graduating with a degree in modern languages. Worked for short time in arts administration, then did PGCE at King’s College, London. First teaching post at Dulwich College, where over 11 years she became head of Spanish, deputy head of upper school, head of sixth form and director of rowing. After a move to Dorset in 2007 and a year teaching Spanish and French at Sherborne School, she moved to Leweston School as deputy head. Having succeeded Paul Silverwood, she is the first female head of Queen Margaret’s since 1982.

At Oxford was a member of the university drama society touring in Japan and Russia; she also rowed for her college. Fluent Spanish speaker, who once wanted to be a flamenco dancer. Married to Paul, a former teacher who now works in cricket development for Help the Heroes; two young sons at local schools.

Warm, charming and refreshingly genuine, has fantastic press from all that meet her. Tries to keep a day a week clear in her diary to observe first hand classroom and outdoor activities and matches, keeping her finger on the pulse of the school. Obviously pays off as girls find her very approachable and parents using girl-speak say ‘she’s cool’.

Believes the school’s special quality is the strength of its community, having ‘a real family feel’, and certainly this was top of the list of likes for many of the girls we spoke to on our visit. Head is passionate about the school ‘having a heart and soul with kindness, honesty and openness as its core values’. Parents speak of her glowingly, saying that ‘she has met any difficult challenge head on with intelligence and compassion’.

Her focus is preparing each girl for life beyond university, ‘providing skills and helping to shape values for use in their lives and to make a difference in society’. Wants to ‘unlock their self-confidence key’ and believes in building resilience, teaching girls to be brave, take risks, cope with failure and be able to move forward. Recognised and lauded by parents, who say, ‘she is spearheading the move to banish the need for “perfectionism” in our daughters and replacing it with courageous bravery. Bravo indeed’. Has introduced a sixth form diploma as a tool to complement the academic curriculum and as a culmination of earlier co-curricular opportunities to assist each girl to reach her potential.

Emotional maturity and well-being feature high on her list and has introduced mindfulness in the PSHE curriculum. Wants to further strengthen the link between boarding and academic staff, is mindful of the increasing mental health problems faced by young people, and aims to ensure that girls realise that there is ‘no shame in feeling down and are very aware of the enormous support there is for them’.

Current priorities are looking to strengthen Oxbridge preparation, careers advice and business links and to enhance the ‘outstanding teaching’ by improving the library facilities for independent study. Constant improvement to boarding facilities is taken as read. Staff development is top of the list to ensure school recruits and retains top teachers.

Academic matters

Excellent academic results almost taken as read by parents and success matters despite entry not being particularly selective. Overall A level performance consistently good, though 2016 grades 50 per cent A*/A and 79 per cent A*/B marginally the lowest of the last four years’ results. Mathematics, biology, economics, English, chemistry, languages and the arts popular and no weaknesses; psychology a new addition.

Improving and pleasing GCSE results: 64 per cent A*/A grades and 87 per cent A*/B overall in 2016. Mathematics, sciences, humanities and art all had an excellent proportion of top grades.

Wide range of subjects available at examination level with 31 subject choices at A level. Along with usual three subjects, the girls complete an enrichment activity under the umbrella of the QM diploma, and are encouraged to complete one activity in each of its five strands, which cover excellence inside and outside the classroom, independent thought, learning and research, emotional maturity, and community and school activity and participation

No option blocks and 23 subjects at GCSE - timetables are built around each girl’s subject choices though usual STEM and one MFL are compulsory for all. Mandarin, Spanish and Latin on timetable for first two years with French, German and Arabic options in year 3, all on offer at GCSE and A level. Around 50 girls have individualised programmes for English as an additional language taught by suitably qualified specialist teacher; small group and individual sessions according to need, leading to international recognised qualifications.

Class sizes around 10-12, maximum 16, and we saw evidence of interactive teaching and engaged pupils across a number of subjects, notably a history lesson considering WW1 propaganda posters.

IT embedded in the curriculum but not given high profile, though plenty of computers and Wifi site wide. Surprisingly no overt computing or programming clubs, though the head of physics is a Raspberry Pi educator and led the QMSKYPI project, which culminated in a high altitude balloon launch for Margaret the knitted teddy bear.

Around 90 girls receive some sort of SEN support, mainly mild difficulties and dyslexia (all pupils have a screening test as an entry requirement). A team of two teachers works closely with academic colleagues to provide classroom and prep support where needed, some one-on-one where girls have slightly reduced timetables.

Games, options, the arts

Sport for all here - lots of healthy outdoor and indoor life with games keenly contested at house level and a full inter-school fixtures list. Stunning facilities - floodlit all-weather pitch, two swimming pools (one indoor, one outdoor), sports hall, tennis/netball courts, dance studio, new sixth form cardio suite etc – hard to find something that’s not on offer. Riding popular (private riding school on campus); some girls bring ponies, school keeps a number.

Traditional team sports, winter lacrosse, hockey and netball and summer tennis, athletics and cricket. Links with local sporting clubs and training offer opportunities for talented sportswomen, scholars receive weekly sports conditioning session with a personal trainer. School supports and encourages girls whose sporting prowess involves competition at regional, national or international level. Sports tours - most recently to Sri Lanka.

Music on rotation for the first three years then timetabled. About a third of girls have individual instrument lessons with plenty of ensembles to showcase their talents, from wind to rock band, orchestra to songwriters’ collective. Catiamo year 7 and 8 choir compulsory, training for the senior chamber choir, together with close harmony pop up group covering popular repertoire. Weekly informal concerts, summer and Christmas concerts, annual musical production. Usual outreach performances, including singing in local cathedrals but no tours.

Fabulous drama facilities for aspiring luvvies. Two productions a year, one in collaboration with the music department - most recently an open air Midsummer Night’s Dream (a brave decision in Yorkshire) and a musical version of the edgy and gritty Bad Girls.

Not overwhelmingly 'arty' school but plenty of choice across the genres, textiles and photography as well - though no electronics, product design or resistant materials. A handful of girls go on to the top performing art and fashion colleges each year. Home economics for all through to small uptake at A level with Leith’s food and wine certificate part of sixth form enrichment. Inter-house Masterchef competition hotly contested and first year tea party a high spot on the calendar. School holds 2015 Tatler best school food award – opportunity to tap into professional expertise here.

The extensive range of extracurricular activities offers something for everyone and extends to clay pigeon shooting, driving remote control cars and climbing walls. QM diploma for sixth formers pulls together five strands of achievement and challenges them to achieve at least one element from each strand in two years. A breadth of activities ranges from science and mathematics Olympiads to dance and music qualifications, Duke of Edinburgh gold to Queen Margaret’s Princes Trust, Model United Nations to Amnesty International and takes great note of full participation in school life.

Boarders

Horizontal boarding structure: girls live with their year group all the way through. Really liked by both girls and parents. 'Enables great camaraderie and the foundations of life long friendships,' observed one pleased parent. As the girls move up through the school, their experience changes and grows with them, allowing for greater independence and personal study space. For 11 year olds Red House is a welcoming home from home with a Cath Kidston inspired kitchen for tea, toast and conversations around the Aga. For the next three years girls will be in houses at the top of school buildings whilst year Vs (15-16 year olds) move out into the grounds to purpose built boarding house, Winnies (named after old girl, journalist and writer Winifred Holtby). Dorms generally have between four and six beds, though there are some twins, but don’t feel cramped: clever use of mezzanine in high ceilinged rooms to create more space. Good sized bunks with drawers and hanging space. Individual study space only provided in Winnies; school used for prep for younger girls.

Lower sixth are in the heart of the school in Cloisters and enjoy the privilege of sitting and walking on the quad lawn. ‘Modern loft style living’ twin rooms with individual study areas enable girls to be well organised for busy lives. It is expected they will be actively involved in many aspects of school life.

The jewels in the boarding crown are the upper sixth cottages: ‘something to look forward to,’ the girls say. Reminiscent of the Emmerdale set, stepping back in time, the line of cottages leads to impressive wrought iron gates with the village of Escrick beyond. Head girl has the first pick of houses; all have large kitchens, 'great for entertaining', and communal sitting rooms; cottage life has the feel of a college campus. Individual study rooms, breakfast and snack preparation, responsibility for all their laundry, non-uniform dress code all contribute to the girls’ transition to post-school independent living.

No flexi-boarding but day girls, a quarter of pupils, all have allocated beds and can stay for a nightly charge. House activity nights for all on Fridays, a programme of weekend trips and visits and shared café and social spaces encourage girls of different ages to mix. Community weekends four times a term require girls to stay in school but at other times about 70 per cent remain. From year 4 girls are allowed off campus to the village garage – rather a shock for those who like to shop – though York on a Saturday afternoon allowed the following year. Greater freedoms for sixth form which they are careful not to abuse – cars allowed, York at free times on Wednesdays and Saturdays, supervised Cellars bar open on campus on Saturday nights – alcohol allowed with parental permission.

Termly room changes based on getting at least one of your choice of friends. If unhappy then a girl can be moved but house staff do encourage tolerance and social responsibility. Plenty of opportunity for Skyping or phoning home and parents uniformly mentioned the accessibility of staff when needed. Parents commented that their daughters feel hugely supported by house staff who ‘adapt their life around ours’.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in 1901 as a Woodard school in Scarborough; moved to Escrick Hall, a John Carr built Georgian country house in 1949. Independent from Woodard since 1986, the flag flies proudly from the rooftop as you spin up the sweeping drive past 70 well kept acres of North Yorkshire’s finest. A large yet compact and cohesive campus with a number of Victorian additions, clever conversions, complementary new-build with award-winning centenary theatre, chapel and indoor swimming pool. A throw back to earlier times - a cluster of timber cabin classrooms - add a quirky touch.

An Anglican foundation, the whole school meets four times a week in the stunning modern chapel for communal worship or communion. Catholics go to nearby Thicket Priory for mass and confirmation by visiting priest; half-termly vigil masses in school; girls prepared for annual Anglican confirmations by school chaplain.

Superb Mouseman reference library doubles as function room, wood panelling everywhere, open fire with huge windows looking out on to lawns – yet rather soulless. Small separate fiction library but both facilities need upgrading – on head’s wish list.

Circular dining hall (once an indoor lunging school) serves all meals to award winning standard, with school rarities such as a cappuccino machine and balsamic vinegar; younger girls envious of the privilege of pain au chocolat delivered to sixth form houses for breakfast - all very civilised. Breaktime snacks provided, excellent cakes and fruit, girls on school council keep a watchful eye over food provision and choice.

Girls are expected and encouraged to think big here, challenged to break out of their comfort zone and aim high. First class academically for some time, the focus is now very much on the whole individual, providing each girl with the confidence, strengths, maturity and values for an unknown future. ‘A greenhouse not a hothouse,’ says the head. Confident, articulate, reflective girls show great loyalty to their school and say, ‘we know we’re in a bubble but we know what we’re in for’. Hard working and committed to their peers, life long friendships are forged here, a hallmark of the school. The many house activities, communal social areas, buddying, mentoring and guardian angel schemes, not to mention the size of the school, make this a very supportive and close knit community.

Whilst 20 per cent of boarders are from overseas, this is not an international school. Girls find that where there are wide cultural differences this can preclude close friendships: ‘we’re friendly but not all best friends,’ say sixth formers. Parents comment on the overseas pupils ‘whose priorities are different and they are not so interested in sport or drama’ - they would not like to see this number grow. Cultural festivals are celebrated communally in house.

Good exposure for girls to global and topical issues through debating, extracurricula organisations and mock elections such as Brexit hustings and vote. Parents aware that this is a privileged life and take responsibility for widening their daughters’ experiences, though would like to see the girls do more in the community.

Girls encouraged to take responsibility for completion of prep and, if need be, learn by getting it wrong. As they progress through the years they choose where and when they do it - all part of building independence. Girls are kept pretty busy but told us ‘teachers are understanding if we require a bit of extra time on occasions’. Lots of support for new and younger girls who are monitored to check they aren't overdoing it and taking on too much in the early days.

Uniform is an attractive tartan and charcoal - no skirt lengths above the knee were observed - a first for us. Own clothes worn after tea - don't provide anything that you wouldn't want boil-washed. Relaxed smart casual dress code rather than uniform for sixth form.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Parents cannot speak highly enough of the pastoral care: as one put it, ‘compassion and kindness run through the veins of this school’. Staff say ‘we want to get it right for the girls, so they feel very secure and know that there’s always someone there for them’. Together with house staff each girl has a personal tutor who meets boarding staff daily with any concerns to SLT weekly. Some parents commented that in their experience the quality of tutor varied; maybe that’s why strengthening this link is on the head’s to do list. Currently there are around eight girls per staff member (including the head), and the system runs on a three year cycle. Sixth formers have a personal mentor who acts as a guide in their subject of choice to provide extra reading advice and support university applications.

Girls and parents feel the rules are very clear. Zero tolerance for smoking, unsupervised alcohol and drugs. There's a sanctions grid which escalates according to misdemeanour or repeat offenders, but girls and staff were quick to point out that behaviour is not a problem here with no full exclusions in the last two years.

Six houses promote lively competition through house points tally and a plethora of events: popular fun song with dance routine, choral soft song, sports day, Masterchef, drama, art – the list is endless. An army of sixth form posts of responsibility: head girl with three deputies, prefects covering the gamut of school life and six house captains.

Evolving from meditation groups, mindfulness is a recent introduction to PSHE lessons for first and fourth years and lower sixth (and at lunchtime for a group of staff). The head has introduced a 10 session course on mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive therapy delivered by a trained practitioner. In its early stages there is already an impact, with girls asking to meditate to calm themselves before examinations and one group cascading their learning to house mates by conducting a ‘beditation’ before lights out.

Pupils and parents

Welcoming, self confident girls, open and friendly, proud of their school, clearly enjoying the many benefits of living and learning in such a lovely environment. A real sense of collegiality across the campus, lots of smiling faces - a combination of the strong links forged through in-year boarding and full-on inter-house activity across the age range. Girls aim high in every arena – whatever their talent; higher education is a foregone conclusion.

Parents mainly upper and middle class: landowners, farmers, professionals. Boarders - some 20 per cent from overseas - span tens of nations and four continents; head using Spanish and South American networks to widen further. Many from Scotland, Cumbria, East Anglia and of course Yorkshire. Essentially the main catchment is the east coast train line - head keen to open the eyes of London prep schools to God’s own county, unexplored territory for many.

OMs include Winifred Holtby (author), Ann Jellicoe (playwright), Sarah Connolly (opera singer), Dame Justice Eleanor King (High Court judge).

Entrance

Own assessments at 11, 12 and 13; mathematics, English, dyslexia screening and observation of group working in two classroom activities. Additional intake into sixth form: two As and three Bs at GCSE/IGCSE, at least a C in mathematics and English and a minimum of a B in the subjects proposed for study at A level. Interviews for all admissions. Taster days for new boarders prior to admission with buddies for first years and guardian angels for third years, most popular boarding entry point.

Exit

Virtually all sixth formers to higher education nationwide – a strong showing of Russell Group universities, a couple to Oxbridge in 2016 (engineering and history) with Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Durham and Edinburgh all popular. Courses cover a wide spectrum and include engineering, business and finance, languages, law and ‘ologies’; in 2016, one medic and one dentist. Heartening to see numbers going on to prestigious art colleges eg Central St Martins.

Post-16, each year a few girls becoming restless and move to co-ed, local sixth form colleges or boarding schools like Uppingham and Oundle, usually ‘for a valid reason not a worrying reason,’ says the head. A number goes and looks elsewhere before deciding to stay put.

Money matters

Scholarships at 11,13 and sixth form; academic, art, choral, dance, drama, music and sport scholarships. Means-tested bursaries. Sibling remission of five per cent, maximum 15 per cent for three or more sisters in school.

Our view

A supporting and enabling atmosphere where girls thrive and their talents developed, whether they are academic, sporting or arts based. All rave about the pastoral care and the breadth of opportunity on offer. Girls prepared go to on to post-school life with their eyes open. As a number of parents told us, it seems ‘they’ve got the balance right’.

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Special Education Needs

The function of the Pupil Support department is to help individual girls improve their essential skills, which in turn increases self esteem and motivation. A girl who may need such help is first assessed by a specialist teacher and any subsequent educational programmes deemed necessary are tailored to meet her specific needs. Areas of specialist support include literacy, numeracy and EAL. Tuition is generally on a one-to-one basis and is available to girls at any time betwee the ages of 11-18. By employing a broad range of intervention strategies, the Pupil Support staff aim to provide the environment in which all girls can fulfil their potential. Nov 09.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers
Aspergers Syndrome [archived]
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders [archived]
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Delicate Medical Problems [archived]
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Epilepsy [archived]
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty Y
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
Not Applicable
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
VI - Visual Impairment

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