St Mary's School, Shaftesbury

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St Mary's School
Motto Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam
To the Greater Glory of God
Established 1945
Type Independent day and boarding school
Religion Roman Catholic
Headmistress Mrs M Arnal
Resident Priest Fr Andrew Moore
Chair of Governors Maj Gen Sir S Roberts
Founder Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Location Donhead St Mary
Coordinates: 51°00′22″N 2°09′54″W / 51.006°N 2.165°W / 51.006; -2.165
Local authority Dorset
DfE number 835/6003
Students 243 (January 2016)
Gender Girls
Ages 11–18
Colours Green
Publication The Beech Tree
Diocese Plymouth

St Mary’s School is an independent Roman Catholic day and boarding school for girls located in a rural setting near Shaftesbury, Dorset, England.

St Mary's School has a sixth form and is a member of the Girls' Schools Association.

Although the school's postal address is in Dorset, its site lies just over the county border in Wiltshire, within the parish of Donhead St Mary.


The entrance of the school, as viewed from the drive

St Mary's was founded in 1945[1] by the nuns of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (also known as the Sisters of Loreto) whose principles are based on the life and works of The Ven Mary Ward. Hence it has the same motto as its sister schools in Ascot and Cambridge.

The school became a registered charity in 1995 and is managed by a board of governors, but retains its strong Catholic ethos. As of September 2011, it changed its intake age from 9 to 11 and is now solely a secondary school.

Pastoral care[edit]

As a Catholic school, pupils attend mass and worship services on a regular basis. Spirituality is considered an important part of school life. The houses take turns to lead services, giving pupils a chance to participate in the service themselves. Spiritual retreats are held by year groups throughout the year.[2]

The school's excellent pastoral care was commended in the 2007 ISI Inspection.[3]


Over two thirds of its pupils are boarders. All boarders are full-time and are organised by year groups into seven boarding houses.[4]

  • Hewarth: Years 7-8
  • Loyola: Year 9
  • Givendale: Years 9-12
  • Harewell: Years 9-12
  • Mulwith: Years 9-12
  • Newby: Years 9-12
  • Mary Ward: Year 13

Academic achievement[edit]

St Mary's is one of the top performing independent schools in the county.[5][6] It was one of the few schools in the county which did not suffer from the new GCSE grading system using the English Baccalaureate introduced in 2010, as candidates achieved a 100% pass rate.[7]


Spirituality is at the heart of St Mary's and girls are involved at every level – from formal masses to simple night prayers. Many local and international charities are supported by the school and fund raising events are organised by the school to support the charities.

The School Chapel

Pupils compete at national and county level on the sports field. Music is an important part of life at St Mary’s, with a £1m complex housing individual practice rooms and a concert hall. Drama and art are also popular with frequent cultural trips.

Notable former pupils[edit]


  1. ^ Freeman, Jane; Stevenson, Janet H (1987). Crowley, D.A., ed. "Victoria County History: Wiltshire: Vol 13 pp126-138: Donhead St Andrew". British History Online. University of London. Retrieved 23 June 2016. 
  2. ^ Faith Life
  3. ^ "Gold star for girls' school". Dorset Echo. 13 May 2007. 
  4. ^ "Introduction to Boarding". St Mary's Shaftesbury. Retrieved 29 June 2016. 
  5. ^ "2009 A levels results". Western Daily Press. 28 August 2009. 
  6. ^ "Dorset schools are winners in league tables". Dorset Echo. 13 January 2010. 
  7. ^ "Dorset schools hits back over league tables change". Western Daily Press. 13 January 2011. 

External links[edit]