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All round excellence, helped by well-stocked staff room (overall pupil-teacher ratio of six to one). Pupils span just about everything from the mid-range and below to the giddy super-bright heights. A well-managed process steers a careful line between encouragement and pressure. The universally cheerful and confident demeanour of sixth formers just about to enter final preparation for A2 exams indicated that it was working. Pupils rated supportive ethos - ‘It’s cool to work’, said one - and extensive out of hours access to staff. ‘So many of the teachers stay late…

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2015 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Girls taking Music Performance: Group at an English Independent School (Grade 4 Music or Dance)
  • Excellent performance by Girls taking Religious Studies at an English Independent School (GCSE)

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 1999, Mrs Mary Breen BSc MSc (40s). Married, no children. Previously spent seven-year stint at Eton, where she ended up as head of physics. Before that, taught science at The Abbey School Reading.

Her career was kick-started by head at Wellington who, having appointed her husband to a teaching post, saw Mrs Breen’s useful physics degree lying fallow and suggested putting it to practical use. ‘A few months later, my first class was 22 Wellingtonians. I discovered I could do it and loved it,’ she says. The rest, as they say, is history or, in her case, science.

The school’s first lay head, she has commendably piloted St Mary’s through the choppy waters of changing educational fashions without once changing course. The result is a school...

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