Q+A: St Francis' College, UK
St Francis' College, an independent day and boarding school for girls aged three to eighteen, answers our questions and takes us on a virtual tour...
What happens when parents visit your school?
Parents who are interested in sending their daughter to St Francis’ are encouraged to visit. On arrival they have the opportunity to meet the Headmistress and spend some time with her discussing their daughter’s education. Following this, they are given a tour of the school by some current students. Finally, they will be taken to the Boarding House, where they have the opportunity to meet Boarding Staff and have questions answered about boarding life.
Potential students are also invited to come and spend a taster day and/or night, to really get to know us.
What assessments are required to enrol?
All applicants will sit entrance exams in English, Maths and non-verbal reasoning. There is also an interview with a senior member of staff. This can be conducted via Skype if they are unable to visit in person.
For applicants who do not have English as their first language, their English assessment will be an English as a Second Language paper.
We will also ask for a reference from the applicant’s current school.
How many students do you have?
The total school roll is 400 students, from Kindergarten to Sixth Form, with 275 of these being in the Senior School (from Year 7). This size allows the staff to really get to know all the girls, and be able to challenge and support everyone as an individual.
What curriculum do you follow?
As a traditional British boarding school, we follow the English National Curriculum. Students take GCSEs in Year 11 and A Levels in Year 13.
How have your pupils performed in examinations in recent years?
St Francis’ girls consistently perform well in their exams. Our three-year average for A* —B at GCSE is 89% and at A Level it is 79%. We pride ourselves on our value-added scores, in that our grade tracking, from Years 7–11, demonstrates that St. Francis’ girls outperform their potential.
What is the teaching programme in your Sixth Form?
The majority of girls in the Sixth Form will take three subjects at A Level. In some circumstances four subjects can be studied. All girls are given the opportunity to take the EPQ (Extended Project Qualification). Students will also have timetabled extra-curricular lessons to help develop and extend their skill base.
St Francis’ recognises that girls need more than good qualifications to succeed in the workplace. We are committed to providing opportunities to allow students to develop workplace and leadership skills to ensure they thrive in their chosen career.
Are there any residential trips?
Yes, girls across all year groups, from Year 5 upwards, have the opportunity to partake in residential trips. In the Senior School many of these are abroad, allowing the students the possibility to experience other cultures. These trips are very important in supporting the work undertaken in the classroom.
Do you do much work in the community?
We feel that it is very important our girls learn about compassion and how they can help others.
There are many opportunities for our students to get involved in community work. Each House and Form has their own charity, and girls organise a number of activities throughout the year to raise funds. The whole school supports the Kanyike Project in Uganda, and the Sixth Form have the opportunity to visit the project and get involved in supporting the community.
How do you encourage enquiry-based learning?
P4C (Philosophy for Children) is an opportunity to build thinking ‘outside the box’ skills. It promotes listening, questioning and synthesising skills. The girls own this learning. They vote on the question to be discussed and lead the ‘enquiry’ themselves. The teacher facilitates the process. The girls love this opportunity to discuss, debate, to question and to express their opinions.
St Francis’ also supports the Growth Mindset philosophy of Carol Dweck. All teachers have had training on how this can improve the development of the students.
What additional help do you provide for children with learning difficulties?
We have an Individual Needs Department, which provides support to students with mild, specific learning difficulties. All staff are aware of the particular needs of the girls and are fully involved in their care. All pupils on the Individual Needs register are offered lessons on a one-to-one basis or within a small group setting. These lessons focus on whatever is needed for the particular pupil.
How are students with English as an additional language supported?
St Francis’ has a dedicated English as an Additional Language (EAL) Department. There are currently two teachers, both of whom are qualified to teach English to speakers of other languages. Our aim is to ensure that all the girls within our care have a happy, successful and fulfilling time at the College. We hope to instil confidence in them so that they are better able to cope, not only with day-to-day life at school, but also with university life and beyond.
The number of EAL lessons each girl receives very much depends upon her level of English and the stage at which she joins the College. We draw up a timetable to suit her individual needs. We increase each pupil’s ability to access fully the curriculum offered at St Francis’ by extending vocabulary, and working on grammatical range and accuracy through a variety of written and spoken tasks. We also offer specific subject support as requested by members of the teaching staff or the girls themselves.
What opportunities exist for parents to speak to their child’s teachers should they have any worries or concerns?
We pride ourselves on our relationship with parents. Every girl has a tutor who oversees their wellbeing and is the main point of contact for parents. In the first instance, parents should contact the tutor with any concerns they may have, and form tutors are always happy to arrange meetings to speak to parents. We do also hold annual parents’ evenings for parents to meet all their daughter’s teachers.
What performing arts opportunities do students have?
The school boasts an exciting and inclusive music department, with a multitude of opportunities for all girls to experience. From orchestras and choirs through to bands and chamber ensembles, girls of all ages enjoy making music. St Francis’ College is also immensely proud of its 300-seat theatre and the range of drama opportunities available. The school hosts regular productions, which are always well supported and directed to a high standard.
We also have our own dance studio, and many girls take dance lessons as part of the extra-curricular programme.
What musical instruments can children learn at your school?
Basically, any instrument they wish to learn. We have a number of visiting music teachers who are able to offer experienced teaching across a wide range of instruments. Girls are able to sit the Associated Board and/or Trinity Music examinations at the end of every term.
Do you offer the Duke of Edinburgh Awards?
Yes, this is a very popular activity. We have fully trained experts in school to help the girls successfully progress through the award programme from Bronze to Gold.
Do students have the opportunity to participate in the Model United Nations (MUN)?
Yes, Sixth Form Students take part every year, and thoroughly enjoy getting involved. This offers a unique challenge for girls to explore current world issues, as well as to practise communication and presentation skills.
Do you have a swimming pool on site?
Yes, we have an indoor heated swimming pool.
Does the school provide after-school care or a homework club?
Yes, we recognise the busy lives that parents lead, and girls are able to come to school early and stay late. Girls staying late are fully supervised, and they have the opportunity to complete their homework before going home.
Is there a school bus service?
St Francis’ runs a number of buses to a wide range of local towns and villages. Buses arrive at school at 8.30am and depart at 4.15pm. Bus routes are reviewed on a regular basis, and amended to reflect the needs of parents.
Do you have a wide range of food options?
At St Francis’ we recognise the importance of healthy eating, and use the renowned catering company Brookwood to provide a varied and delicious menu. Established in 1996, Brookwood offers the highest standard of fresh, quality food to independent school pupils across all school ages, whether they are day pupils or boarders.
Their expert staff serve three meals a day (brunch and evening meal at weekends), which are on a three-week menu rotation. In addition to this, they also provide staples for the boarding house, including bread, cereal, fruit, milk, tea and coffee, packed lunches for school trips and hot and cold buffets for conferences and meetings.
Do you arrange for guest speakers to come to the school?
Yes, we have a varied programme of visiting speakers to the school across all year groups. Speakers can address students in assemblies, in lessons or at organised evening events involving other schools and visitors. These can be to support what is being taught in the classroom, or to help widen the girls' understanding of the world. We aim to inspire all students, and show them how they can inspire others through their actions.
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