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Bright girls, big futures at all girls schools

How girls' education is a ticket to success

The city noise is cranked to headache intensity by the bone-shattering whine of heavy construction work. It's happening right on their doorstep, otherwise Havergal College For Girls, located in Toronto where Lawrence Avenue West meets Avenue Road, on 22 acres of green and pleasant - and extremely prime - land. The campus is very much an oasis. If not a mirage.

Girls in private-school green - kilts, knee socks, striped ties - the sun highlighting the thick, clean hair falling over their scrubbed faces, dot the new-mown grounds. Some sit cross-legged, bent over schoolbooks; others are laughing, arms draped over one friend's shoulder as they lean in to listen to another. An Enid Blyton novel, a distaff Boy's Own Annual come to life?

As the girls themselves would say: Oh, pulease. There are 874 students here, only 64 of whom board and most of whom are too busy with school and all the extra-curricular activities to bother bolting like a Blyton heroine over the walls and away for adventure - or boys.

"You can see them after school," Grade 11 student Caroline Chua says with a shrug.

It's clear it's no big deal for her, although she confesses it was when she first came to the school. She fought that change in her life for a whole year. Her friend Lesley Henry remembers "bawling" in the uniform shop.

Now Caroline likes the all-girls environment. "You get to know people for who they really are. No one's into impressing people," she says.

And Lesley now believes wearing uniforms helps her and her classmates act naturally. "I don't want to have to worry about how I look," she says.

The girls think they're avoiding the competitiveness among girls found in some mixed-gender high schools - and believe there's no double standard, either.

At Kira Campbell's former public school, there were eight sports teams for boys and five for girls. "Here we get a chance to do all sports," says the Grade 7 student. "It's fair." In fact, Havergal has a total of 44 teams for all its age groups, from junior kindergarten on up.

Head prefect Ashley Morris says it's what Havergal has, not what it hasn't, that counts. "After the first year, you forget there are no boys here," she says. "There's lots of stuff going on, there's lots of energy." She's off to study at Yale University, a fact pounced on by Lesley, who jokingly accuses Ashley of living out the private-school cliche.

Although she knows Lesley is making fun of people's misconceptions about private school, Ashley does seem chagrined. "I didn't want to live up to the stereotype of private school, then Ivy League university. I tried to chose the least pretentious."

But the fact remains: A private school education is a ticket to success - it provides a good education, statistics make clear. At the same time, a private school is a good place to meet the "right people," the kind likely to be advantageous to know later, in the real world.

Both reasons are why parents pay $13,545 a year to educate their daughters at Havergal when adequate schooling is available free at, for instance, Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute, one of Ontario's finest public high schools, and so close to Havergal the two practically abut.

Parents of boarders pay even more. It costs $27,245 for a girl to board at Havergal for a year.

Aniya Emitage, although homesick for Barbados, where she hopes one day to practise law, knows she's getting the best of both worlds and is delighted with her Canadian experience.

She loves Havergal - but not unconditionally. "I don't think entering university should be the first time we're exposed to guys," she says.

Another boarder, Emily Mueser of Wheatley, Ontario (near Windsor), says she has to work "really hard" to re-connect when she goes back home. In adolescence, that can be hard work.

So why do it? Why endure being away from home, being accused of elitism, at great cost to your parents? What motivates so many parents to write those cheques?

A ratio of one teacher for every 10.5 students might be a factor; as might Havergal's $12.9 million annual operating budget. So might the safer environment of a private school and the opportunity to have their children learn within a shared belief system, high standards, higher expectations. But most say it's the school's academic record they're buying.

Of the 107 graduates of the Havergal class of 1998, 98 went to university. (The others took a year off to travel or work before going to university.) Of those in universities, 24 per cent are studying sciences, maths, computer science or kinesiology, 18 per cent business, commerce or economics, seven per cent engineering or architecture. Only three per cent of the grads chose to study fine arts and theatre.

So much for that other private-school stereotype of producing ladylike girls to marry well. In 1997, 55 of the 87 Havergal grads were Ontario scholars and 15 of those had averages higher than 90 per cent. "Here the standards are higher," says Ashley Morris, "because they're our own standards."

They are all motivated to get to university. And from 1993 to 1997, that was Queen's University in Kingston, hands down. Next in popularity was University of Toronto, followed by McGill University in Montreal, the University of Western Ontario in London, then American universities such as Brown, Cornell, Princeton and Stanford. Bright girls, big futures.

About that construction at Havergal. It's a new Junior school, plus an extension to the elegant main building, whose stone is blanketed in shining ivy. There also are a new dining room, theatre, student common area, science classroom, a library extension and music room.

This expansion is the first since 1979, and certainly the most extensive ever, says the principal, Susan Ditchburn, a composed and elegant Australian-born woman whose occasional wry, sidelong glances say more than words.

Despite the rooms of computers, the pizza lunches, the hip hop/awesome hall talk and the plethora of math and science grads, Havergal prides itself on its tradition, roots and, especially, its Anglican Church heritage.

But it now has students of many faiths, which may partly explain why attendance was dwindling at the school's traditional annual Founder's Day service at St. Paul's Anglican Church on Bloor Street East. It was also no longer mandatory.

Last year, that changed. In a significant break from tradition, the service was held in nearby St. Clement's Church on a school day. Ditchburn says it did ruffle a few feathers belonging to some Old Girls, who are determined to reconnect with St. Paul's and mark the day in the same way - and in the same place - as before.

Nor will members of the 5,000-plus contingency of Havergal Old Girls or graduates - they include writer Jane Urquhart, Liberal MP Dr. Carolyn Bennett and former New Brunswick lieutenant-governor Margaret Norrie McCain - change their name. They recently voted against it - resoundingly. Ditchburn admits their decision "took me aback."

Then she smiles. "But they like it." In Calgary, where she lived before coming to Havergal two years ago, Ditchburn belonged to a group exploring opportunities for women in education. While curriculum superintendent for the public school board there, she also helped set up single-gender classes focussed on different ways of teaching the two sexes. At Havergal she's determined to rectify what she sees as a lack of emphasis on feminist issues. She wants to set up a course on women's issues, even as she acknowledges the students are "wonderful, extremely focused, high achievers and high energy." They're comfortable with the mesh of school and their own family values, Ditchburn says.

They are privileged - only 57 students received financial aid last year - but they know they bear the responsibilities that accompany that state of grace."

This is about going to school to learn how to make a worthwhile contribution," Ditchburn says. "I look at these kids and they radiate good health and confidence. They have a sense of who they are and where they are heading."

Series: Girls Schools

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List of Bright girls, big futures at all girls schools


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  • Name
  • Cost
  • Alive Montessori & Private School (est. 2014)   2 Wembley Road, Toronto, Ontario, M6C 2E9
    (Bathurst St. / Eglinton Ave. West)

    • Preschool to K (Boys)
    • Gr. 1 to Gr. 8 (Girls)
    • Day school (5 students)
    50% off the first three months for new elementary students.  
    • Montessori
    • Accelerated
    $7,500 to $14,500 /year
    Day Boys Girls 7500 2-13 Toronto

    St. Margaret's School (est. 1908)   1080 Lucas Avenue, Victoria, British Columbia, V8X 3P7

    • JK to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Day school (220 students)
    • Boarding school (130 students)
    St. Margaret's School (est. 1908) is an independent school in Victoria, BC, offering empowering education for girls from JK to Grade 12. At SMS, girls don't just get equal opportunity; they get every opportunity.  
    • Traditional
    • Standard- enriched
    $9,500 to $49,300 /year
    Day Boarding Girls 9500 3-17 Victoria

    Hawthorn School (est. 1989)   101 Scarsdale Road, Toronto, Ontario, M3B 2R2
    (York Mills / Leslie)

    • 18 months to SK (Coed)
    • Gr. 1 to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Day school
    • Homestay school
    Hawthorn School is an all-girls school in Toronto that offers programs from toddler to grade 12. Our unique mentoring program is tailored to each girl to help them reach their full potential.  
    School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
    • Liberal Arts
    • Accelerated
    • Christian
    $10,000 to $31,400 /year
    Day Homestay Coed Girls 10000 1-17 Toronto

    Branksome Hall (est. 1903)   10 Elm Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 1N4
    (Bloor Street East / Mount Pleasant Road)

    • JK to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Day school (834 students)
    • Boarding school (66 students)
    Branksome Hall is an all girls school in Toronto, from JK to Grade 12, including 56 boarding students. Tuition ranges from $28,995 to $31,245 for day students.  
    School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
    • Liberal Arts
    • International Baccalaureate
    • Standard- enriched
    $29,590 to $56,855 /year
    Day Boarding Girls 29590 3-17 Toronto

    Trafalgar Castle School (est. 1874)   401 Reynolds Street, Whitby, Ontario, L1N 3W9
    (Brock Street / Hwy. 2)

    • Gr. 5 to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Day school (140 students)
    • Boarding school (70 students)
    Located just 45 minutes east of Toronto, Trafalgar Castle School offers world-class curriculum in a small-school environment that inspires and encourages growth. * Day and boarding * All Girls * Grades 5 to 12  
    • Liberal Arts
    • Standard- enriched
    $21,860 to $52,230 /year
    Day Boarding Girls 21860 10-17 Whitby

    Elmwood School (est. 1915)   261 Buena Vista Road, Ottawa, Ontario, K1M 0V9
    (Buena Vista Road / Springfield Road)

    • Preschool to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Day school (370 students)
    Elmwood School is Ottawa's pre-eminent school for girls from JK to Grade 12. Our high academic standards, small class sizes and safe, supportive environment ensure that each girl is inspired to reach her full potential.  
    School Expo Exhibitor - Ottawa
    • Progressive
    • International Baccalaureate
    • Standard- enriched
    $12,956 to $22,980 /year
    Day Girls 12956 2-17 Ottawa

    Heritage (est. 1984)   5600 Heritage School Dr, Provo, Utah,

    • Gr. 7 to Gr. 12 (Boys)
    • Gr. 7 to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Boarding school (115 students)
    Heritage offers expert care for at-risk adolescents including those diagnosed with Mood Disorder, depression, anxiety, defiance towards authority figures and those on the Autism Spectrum. Learn more on our website.  
    • Progressive
    • Student- paced
    • Troubled Teens, Special needs
    • Spanish immersion
    US $138,000 /year
    Boarding Boys Girls 138000 12-17 Provo

    Holy Name of Mary College School (est. 2008)   2241 Mississauga Road, Mississauga, Ontario, L5H 2K8
    (Mississauga Rd / Dundas St W)

    • Gr. 5 to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Day school
    Holy Name of Mary College School in Mississauga, is an independent Catholic school for girls in grades 5-12 offering an enriched university preparatory programme. The average class size is 12 students.  
    School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto, Halton-Peel
    • Progressive
    • Accelerated
    • Christian
    $16,350 to $44,500 /year
    Day Girls 16350 10-17 Mississauga

    Collège François-Delaplace (est. 1963)   365 Compton Street East, Waterville, Quebec, J0B 3H0
    (Rue Compton / Rue Principale)

    • Gr. 7 to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Boarding school (200 students)
    COLLÈGE FRANÇOIS-DELAPLACE is a private Traditional / academic boarding school in Waterville, Quebec. The school offers programs for grades 7 to 12 with enrolment of 200 boarding students.  
    • Traditional
    • Standard- enriched
    • French immersion
    • Christian
    • Sports-intensive
    $7,950 to $30,300 /year
    Boarding Girls 7950 12-17 Waterville

    Pensionnat du Saint-Nom-de-Marie (est. 1905)   628, chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine, Montreal, Quebec, H2V 2C5
    (chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine / Avenue Claude Champagne)

    • Gr. 7 to Gr. 11 (Girls)
    • Day school (1150 students)
    • Boarding school (60 students)
    École secondaire francophone privée pour jeunes filles située à Outremont, Qc. Les frais de scolarité sont de 3 800 $ par année. Elle offre les profils Éducation internationale, Danse-études et Musique-études.  
    • Liberal Arts
    • International Baccalaureate
    • Standard- enriched
    • French immersion
    • Arts-intensive
    $4,000 to $9,150 /year
    Day Boarding Girls 4000 12-16 Montreal

    Trafalgar School For Girls (est. 1887)   3495 Simpson Street, Montreal, Quebec, H3G 2J7

    • Gr. 7 to Gr. 11 (Girls)
    • Day school (140 students)
    • Homestay school
    Based in the heart of downtown Montreal, Trafalgar School for Girls is a diverse school community that challenges and inspires girls to love learning, build confidence and shape a better world.  
    • Liberal Arts
    • Standard- enriched
    $15,875 /year
    Day Homestay Girls 15875 12-16 Montreal

    Buffalo Seminary (est. 1851)   205 Bidwell Parkway, Buffalo, New York, 14222
    (Soldiers Circle / Chapin Parkway)

    • Gr. 9 to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Day school
    • Boarding school
    Independent day and boarding school for college-bound girls. Our STEAM curriculum is unique, and creative, independent thinking is valued. Located in Buffalo, NY, girls access the best of city living.  
    • Liberal Arts
    • Accelerated
    US $19,840 to $46,715 /year
    Day Boarding Girls 19840 14-17 Buffalo

    Linden School (est. 1993)   10 Rosehill Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M4T 1G5
    (Yonge / St. Clair)

    • JK to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Day school (115 students)
    The Linden School provides a challenging academic program for girls from JK - Grade 12. We create opportunities to discover the joys of learning and foster the development of critical thinking and physical well-being.  
    School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
    • Progressive
    • Standard- enriched
    $14,000 to $19,400 /year
    Day Girls 14000 3-17 Toronto

    Villa Maria (est. 1854)   4245 Decarie Boulevard, Montreal, Quebec, H4A 3K4
    (Av de Monkland / Boulevard Décarie)

    • Gr. 7 to Gr. 11 (Girls)
    • Gr. 7 to Gr. 8 (Boys)
    • Day school (1400 students)
    Villa Maria offers programs from grades seven to 12 in Montreal. Its average class size is 28 to 32 students.  
    • Traditional
    • Standard- enriched
    • French immersion
    $4,175 /year
    Day Girls Boys 4175 12-16 Montreal

    Venture Academy Troubled Teens Program (ON)   Minesing, , Barrie Area, Ontario, L9X 1E8

    • Gr. 7 to Gr. 12 (Boys)
    • Gr. 7 to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Homestay school
    Venture Academy is a therapeutic treatment and education program for students who may be struggling with ADHD, learning challenges, underachieving, behavioural issues, and a variety of clinical diagnoses.  
    • Traditional
    • Student- paced
    • Troubled Teens, Special needs
    $1 /day
    Homestay Boys Girls 1 12-17 Barrie Area

    Crofton House School (est. 1898)   3200 West 41st Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6N 3E1

    • JK to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Day school (885 students)
    Crofton House School in Vancouver, BC is a university preparatory school with JK to grade 12 classes. Tuition starts at $16,000.  
    • Progressive
    • Standard- enriched
    $18,960 /year
    Day Girls 18960 3-17 Vancouver

    Miss Edgar's & Miss Cramp's School (est. 1909)   525 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Westmount, Quebec, H3Y 3H6

    • K to Gr. 11 (Girls)
    • Day school (325 students)
    Miss Edgar's & Miss Cramp's School offers programs from kindergarten to grade 11 in Westmount, Quebec. Its average class size is 18 students.  
    School Expo Exhibitor - Montreal
    • Progressive
    • Accelerated
    • French immersion
    $19,150 to $20,440 /year
    Day Girls 19150 5-16 Westmount

    Alpine Academy (est. 2001)   1280 Whispering Horse Drive, Erda, Utah, 84074
    (Droubay Rd / Erda Way)

    • Gr. 7 to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Boarding school (70 students)
    Alpine Academy isn't just a school, it is an experience that prepares young women for life beyond our campus. Students learn to engage in not only academics, but also family, community, and interpersonal relationships.  
    School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
    • Traditional
    • Troubled Teens
    US $120,000 /year
    Boarding Girls 120000 12-17 Erda

    Study (est. 1915)   3233 The Boulevard, Westmount, Quebec, H3Y 1S4
    (The Boulevard / Place Breaside)

    • K to Gr. 11 (Girls)
    • Day school (370 students)
    The Study offers a bilingual mother tongue programme in both English and French from kindergarten to grade 11 in Westmount, Quebec. The average class size is 12 to 18 students.  
    School Expo Exhibitor - Montreal
    • Progressive
    • Standard- enriched
    $18,415 to $20,735 /year
    Day Girls 18415 5-16 Westmount

    Joan of Arc Academy / Academie Jeanne d'Arc (est. 1954)   2221 Elmira Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, K2C 1H3
    (Iris St / Woodroffe Ave)

    • JK to Gr. 8 (Girls)
    • Day school
    In our all-girls environment, academic achievement in both official languages is the norm. A Joan of Arc Academy bilingual education prepares the women leaders for the challenges of tomorrow. Come and see the difference.  
    School Expo Exhibitor - Ottawa
    • Progressive
    • Student- paced
    • Gifted
    • French immersion
    $14,825 /year
    Day Girls 14825 3-13 Ottawa

    St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School (est. 1891)   1080 Linbrook Road, Oakville, Ontario, L6J 2L1

    • Preschool to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Day school (550 students)
    Oakville's SMLS continues to be a premier independent school for girls Preschool to Graduating Year since 1891. "Millie" graduates take on the world with confidence and the knowledge that they can do anything.  
    School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto, Halton-Peel
    • Progressive
    • Standard- enriched
    • Gifted
    • Christian
    $9,000 to $26,300 /year
    Day Girls 9000 2-17 Oakville

    York House School (est. 1932)   4176 Alexandra Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6J 2V6
    (Granville Street / King Edward Avenue)

    • JK to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Day school (656 students)
    York House School offers programs from junior kindergarten to grade 12 in Vancouver. Its average class size is 16 to 20 students.  
    • Liberal Arts
    • Reggio Emilia
    • Standard- enriched
    $19,600 to $20,300 /year
    Day Girls 19600 3-17 Vancouver

    Sacred Heart School of Montreal (est. 1861)   3635 Atwater Avenue, Montreal, Quebec, H3H 1Y4
    (Atwater / Docteur-Penfield)

    • Gr. 7 to Gr. 11 (Girls)
    • Day school (230 students)
    • Boarding school
    The pre-eminent All Girls English Catholic high school in Montreal, with 156 years of experience graduating young women of action with solid skills and tools for success.  
    • Traditional
    • Standard- enriched
    • Christian
    $13,764 to $49,492 /year
    Day Boarding Girls 13764 12-16 Montreal

    Venture Academy Troubled Teens Program (BC)   Joe Riche Road, Kelowna, British Columbia, V1P 1G7

    • Gr. 7 to Gr. 12 (Boys)
    • Gr. 7 to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Homestay school
    Venture Academy is a therapeutic private school providing educational and clinical support services, individualized instruction and engaging interaction to get students back on track and restore confidence.  
    • Traditional
    • Student- paced
    • Special needs , Troubled Teens
    $1 /day
    Homestay Boys Girls 1 12-17 Kelowna

    Havergal College (est. 1894)   460 Rosewell Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M4R 2H5

    • JK to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Day school (870 students)
    • Boarding school (50 students)
    Havergal College is an all-girls school in Toronto for students in JK to Grade 12. Preparing Young Women to Make a Difference Since 1894.  
    School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
    • Liberal Arts
    • Standard- enriched
    • Christian
    $31,725 to $58,000 /year
    Day Boarding Girls 31725 3-17 Toronto

    Queen Margaret's School (est. 1921)   660 Brownsey Avenue, Duncan, British Columbia, V9L 1C2
    (Brownsey Avenue / Government Street)

    • Gr. 8 to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Preschool to Gr. 7 (Coed)
    • Day school (254 students)
    • Boarding school (94 students)
    Queen Margaret's School is an independent day/boarding Senior School for girls in Grades 8-12 and co-ed Junior School from Preschool to Grade 7 in Duncan, BC.  
    • Traditional
    • Standard- enriched
    $5,325 to $53,600 /year
    Day Boarding Girls Coed 5325 2-17 Duncan

    Bishop Strachan School (est. 1867)   298 Lonsdale Road, Toronto, Ontario, M4V 1X2
    (Bathurst St / St Clair Ave W)

    • JK to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Day school (825 students)
    • Boarding school (80 students)
    Located in Toronto, The Bishop Strachan School is Canada's oldest independent JK to Grade 12 day and boarding school for girls, welcoming students from Toronto and around the world.  
    School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
    • Traditional
    • Reggio Emilia
    • Student- paced
    • Christian
    $31,740 to $60,130 /year
    Day Boarding Girls 31740 3-17 Toronto

    St. Clement's School (est. 1901)   21 St. Clements Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M4R 1G8

    • Gr. 1 to Gr. 12 (Girls)
    • Day school (470 students)
    St. Clement's School develops outstanding women who are intellectually curious, courageous and compassionate.  
    School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
    • Liberal Arts
    • Standard- enriched
    • Christian
    $28,350 /year
    Day Girls 28350 6-17 Toronto