York House School

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York House School
4176 Alexandra Street
Vancouver, British Columbia, V6J 2V6
Coordinates 49°14′57″N 123°08′28″W / 49.2491°N 123.1411°W / 49.2491; -123.1411Coordinates: 49°14′57″N 123°08′28″W / 49.2491°N 123.1411°W / 49.2491; -123.1411
Type Private
Motto Not for Ourselves Alone
(Onward and Upward)
Established 1932
Head of school Chantal Gionet
Grades JK-12
Enrollment 656
Language English
Colour(s) Green and Gold         
Mascot Tiger
Last updated: September 2014

York House School is an independent day school for girls located in the heart of Shaughnessy, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Founded in the middle of the Great Depression by seven insightful women, York House continues to honour its traditions of the past by providing challenging opportunities for girls in academics, fine arts, athletics and community service. Their mission is to provide an unparalleled learning environment where each girl is empowered to develop her abilities and pursue her passions. From Junior Kindergarten (4-year-old program) to Grade 12 , they honour what makes each girl exceptional, and enable her to excel in her chosen path.


York House School was founded during the Great Depression in 1932 by a visionary group of women: Mrs. Lena Cotsworth Clarke, Mrs. Janet Mitchell, Mrs. Grace B. Faris, Mrs. Virginia Moore Mackay, Mrs. Marie Gerhartdt-Olly, Mrs. Gladys Jopling and Mrs. Gretchen Hyland.[1]

The school opened with 17 students in September 1932 at 4355 Granville Street in Vancouver as a residential and day school for girls, and was named after the cathedral city of York, England, home to founder and first Headmistress, Mrs. Clarke, who led the school for 26 years.[2]

The school grew rapidly and in 1939 moved to its present site at 4176 Alexandra Street. Since that time, enrolment has increased to 656 students and there have been many expansions and renovations to the school campus. The grand old homes that originally housed the school have given way to newer buildings, attesting to the school’s commitment to provide facilities that meet the educational challenges of the future and maintain the standard of excellence envisioned by the founders.[3]

For a time during the 1970s and 1980s, York House did allow boys to enroll at the elementary school level (grades 1 through 6).

The school’s development over the years has been directed by the successful leadership and guidance of its nine Heads.[4]

Lena Cotsworth Clarke 1932 - 1958
Clare Buckland 1958 - 1964
Clare McDougall 1964 - 1967
Peter Tacon 1967 - 1970
Bryan Peet 1970 - 1984
Rouviere Ritson 1984 - 1993
Wendy Warburton 1993 - 1994
Gail Ruddy 1994 - 2014
Chantal Gionet 2014–Present

Coat of arms[edit]

The coat of arms is an expression of the School’s heritage and was inaugurated in the presence of British Columbia Lieutenant Governor, David C. Lam, on April 28, 1993. It was a legacy gift given by the York House Alumnae on the 60th anniversary of the school.


“Not for Ourselves Alone” was chosen as the school motto by the founders and is a guiding principle for life at York House and beyond.

Shield of Arms

The school colours of green and gold, as chosen by the founders, are the background for the white York Rose. The York Rose is set in a Canadian maple leaf. The open book symbolizes scholarship, and contains the secondary York House motto, “Onward and Upward”.[5]


The gold doe is a proud symbol of York House as a school for girls. The foreleg of the doe rests on a gold York Rose, replicating the original school pin and signifying the founding Head, Mrs. Lena Cotsworth Clarke’s city of origin, York, England. As a fleet-footed animal, the doe also symbolizes sportsmanship at York House.[6]


York House consists of an award-winning Senior School building, Junior School, gym and playing field, and underground facility that connects the campus and includes a music room, art gallery, kitchen and 350-seat theatre.

The York House kindergarten is located a few blocks away from the main campus at the Little School, and accommodates Junior and Senior kindergarten students in a welcoming, home-like setting.


Founders’ Day

Founders’ Day was established in 1933 to recognize the 7 founding members of York House School and to honour the graduating class of the coming year. During Founders’ Day Assembly, members of the Grade 12 class receive their graduation pins from the York House School Alumnae Association.

Candlelight Service

In this assembly, students gather to celebrate the start of the winter break by lighting candles, reading poetry and singing traditional carols and songs.

Grandparents’ Day

This special day in April is for grandparents to visit the school and meet the teachers and friends of their grandchildren.

Celebration of Community

Annual holiday music concert held in the month of December, at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.


Grade 8-11 Prizegiving Ceremony

This special assembly, for all students in grades 8 to 11, is held in June and honours the recipients of academic, athletic, fine arts, and citizenship achievements.

Grade 12 Prizegiving and Graduation

This ceremony honours academic, athletic, fine arts and citizenship achievements, and is where Grade 12 students receive their high school graduation certificates.


York House offers a progressive and comprehensive academic program through Grades JK to 12. The school is currently ranked number one in the province, and has consistently maintained a first place standing in the Fraser Institute provincial rankings.[7] Through challenging and individualized instruction, the curriculum focuses on providing girls with the opportunity to explore a variety of disciplines.

The Little School emphasizes the importance of play for young children in their early years. The teachers base their methods on the Reggio Emilia approach to pre-school learning. Reggio Emilia recognizes that in the early years of development, children are just beginning to form who they are as an individual. Children learn best through interacting with others, including their parents, teachers and peers, in a nurturing learning environment. With this method, the children’s interests determine the curriculum. The girls work on in-depth projects, and the teachers learn alongside the children, documenting the learning process.[8]

Led by the Assistant Head of School, Kathy Kealey, the Junior School offers an enhanced version of the British Columbia Ministry of Education’s approved curriculum. The focus is on developing fundamental skills in language, math, science, social studies, art, health and physical education. The curriculum is enhanced with field trips, visiting instructors who are experts in their field, as well as resource teachers who help support the diverse learning needs of the students[9]

The Senior School offers a comprehensive and rigorous academic program that prepares young women for success in a university of their choice. Students experience the challenges of a college-level curriculum with the Advanced Placement (AP) program, which eases the transition from secondary school to university.The core academic program at the senior school has seven subject areas: English, science, social studies, mathematics, modern languages, fine arts and physical education. Courses in other subject areas, such as computer programming and graphic design are also available. Personal health and planning is emphasized with courses that focus on healthy decision making, personal goal setting, financial literacy, education planning and career development.[10]

Global Programs[edit]

The York House School community embodies its motto of “Not for Ourselves Alone” through a culture of volunteerism, regular fundraising events, international trips and community service program partnerships with organizations including KidSafe Society, YWCA Munroe House, Granville Park Lodge, BC Children’s Hospital, Family Services of Greater Vancouver and Cause We Care Foundation.[11]


York House extra-curricular athletics teams are called the Tigers.

Jr. School Athletics (Gr. 3-7)
Starting at Grade 3, girls have the opportunity to get involved in a variety of sports and levels of competitiveness. There are Jr. Tiger's teams in volleyball, cross-country running, swimming, basketball, ultimate and, track and field.[12] Jr. School teams participate in competition among other ISA schools.[13]

Sr. School Athletics (Gr. 8-12)
The Sr. School's athletic teams include:

  • Fall Season Sports: Volleyball, Field Hockey, Swimming and X-Country running.
  • Winter Season Sports: Basketball, Skiing & Snowboarding, students are invited to play water polo at St. George's School.
  • Spring Season Sports: Soccer, Ultimate, Badminton and Track & Field.[14]


York House has a strong tradition of athletic success; especially over the past 18 years. The Tigers have been best known for an outstanding basketball program; one of the best in BC. From 1998-2014, the Tigers have finished top 8 at the BC Championships every single season. During that time the Tigers won 8 AA Basketball Provincial Championships (1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011) and placed 2nd at the 2012 AAA BC's and at the 2007, 2008, 2009 AA BC's.[15]

Other successful York House teams include:

  • Swimming: won 4 Provincial Championships (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015) and placed 2nd in 2014.
  • Alpine Skiing: won 4 Provincial Championships
  • Ultimate: York House girls combine with boys from St. George's School, Vancouver for Ultimate and have won three BC titles.
  • Cross-Country Running: placed 3rd overall at the BC Championships in 2005.
  • Volleyball: placed 4th at AA BC's in 2014.
  • Track & Field: won 4 × 400 m gold medals in 2009.
  • Field Hockey: placed 9th at AA BC's in 2012.[16]

Sr. School teams compete in the Lower Mainland Independent Schools Athletic Association (LMISSAA) leagues and also participate in various invitational tournaments as well as ISA tournaments. The program focuses on building positive character and life skills through participation in competitive sport. Teams focus on the athletic journey and there is an emphasis on commitment, hard work and teamwork. Students develop and learn valuable skills through healthy competition in sport.[17]

Fine arts[edit]

Students at the Little School and Junior School are exposed to music, dance and the visual arts, and participate in musical games, storytelling, drama and drawing.[18]

Senior school students have access to a wide range of fine arts programs and extra-curricular opportunities in music, drama, textiles, new media, film and visual arts.[19]

In Music, the Senior Band and Senior Choir have received multiple awards. Every spring the Grade 8s and 9s combine bands to perform at the Whistler Music Festival, earning gold standings for the past 9 years. Every other year, the Senior Concert Band goes on tour. Past tours have included Spain, Eastern Europe, Hawaii, Austria, Italy and California.[20]

York House's award-winning choir program is composed of Chorista (senior choir), Bambina (junior jazz), Ragazza (senior jazz) and a mass choir called Une Voce which means "one voice". They premiered a piece called We are One arranged for them by Brian Tate at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts in 2012.

York House's drama program stages a production each year, alternating between musicals and plays. Some past productions include Fame, Seven Stories, Wizard of Oz, and Little Shop of Horrors.[21]

Notable alumnae[edit]

In the media[edit]

On September 15, 2014, York House School was one of nine buildings awarded the first-ever Vancouver Urban Design Award from the City of Vancouver, for the design of the Senior School.[23][24] The new Senior School building was also featured on the cover of the September 2014 issue of Canadian Architect. [25]



External links[edit]