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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 pleasantand extremely primeland. The campus is very much an oasis. If not a mirage.


Girls in private-school greenkilts, knee socks, striped tiesthe 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 extracurricular activities to bother bolting like a Blyton heroine over the walls and away for adventureor 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 schoolsand 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 Havergalbut 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 reconnect 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 percent are studying sciences, maths, computer science or kinesiology, 18 percent business, commerce or economics, seven per cent engineering or architecture. Only three percent 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 percent. "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 graduatesthey include writer Jane Urquhart, Liberal MP Dr. Carolyn Bennett and former New Brunswick lieutenant-governor Margaret Norrie McCainchange their name. They recently voted against itresoundingly. 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 yearbut 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."

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List of all-girls schools

 
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Ottawa, Ontario — Elmwood School is Ottawa's pre-eminent school for girls from PreK to Gr. 12. Our high academic standards, small class sizes and safe, supportive environment ensure that each girl is inspired to reach her full potential. View School Profile.


  • Recognized for academic excellence
  • Welcoming, inclusive and diverse community
  • International Baccalaureate World School (PYP, MYP, DP)
  • Round Square and Apple Distinguished school
  • Merit- and need-based scholarships available
Grades:
PS to 12 (Girls)
Type:
Progressive, International Baccalaureate
Tuition:
$15,540 to $29,700
Living:
Day
Enrollment:
370
Avg. Class:
15 to 17
Elmwood School 15540 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
 
 

Toronto, Ontario — Branksome Hall is Toronto’s only all-girls, all-years International Baccalaureate (IB) World School developing the leaders of tomorrow through the nurturing of curiosity and critical thinking at every age. View School Profile.


  • 13-acre downtown campus
  • Athletics and Wellness Centre
  • IB programs: JK to Grade 12
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Boarding starting in Grade 7
Grades:
JK to 12 (Girls)
Type:
Liberal Arts, International Baccalaureate
Tuition:
$35,700 to $72,500
Living:
Boarding/Day
Enrollment:
954
Avg. Class:
12 to 22
Branksome Hall 35700 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls
 
 

Toronto, Ontario — St. Clement's School's goal is to develop and equip compassionate, courageous, curious, and adaptable learners, empowering them to make impactful contributions in local, national, and global communities. View School Profile.


  • Girls' school, founded in 1901
  • Enriched and balanced academics at all grade levels
  • Unrivaled Advanced Placement course offerings
  • 100% university acceptance
  • Extensive athletic, arts, and co-curricular programs
Grades:
1 to 12 (Girls)
Type:
Liberal Arts
Tuition:
$32,850
Living:
Day
Enrollment:
460
Avg. Class:
16
St. Clement's School 32850 Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
 
 

Oakville, Ontario — Oakville's SMLS continues to be a premier independent school for girls Preschool to Grade 12 since 1891. "Millie" graduates take on the world with confidence and the knowledge that they can do anything. View School Profile.


  • Signature Programs in Global Studies, STEM & Robotics, Active Healthy Living, Arts & Design
  • Professional Internship Customized for Each Girl (Grade 11)
  • Enriched curriculum, Advanced Placement, DELF
  • Focus on whole girl and student wellbeing
Grades:
PS to 12 (Girls)
Type:
Progressive, Reggio Emilia
Tuition:
$20,000 to $30,160
Living:
Day
Enrollment:
550
Avg. Class:
Varies
St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School 20000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
 
 

Toronto, Ontario — Havergal has been preparing young women to make a difference since 1894 through its innovative curriculum and future-ready programming with a focus on wellness and student agency. View School Profile.


  • Beautiful 22-acre campus in the heart of Toronto.
  • Innovative curriculum and future-ready programming for students.
  • Small class sizes with a focus on wellness and student agency.
  • Award-winning Art, Music and Drama departments.
  • More than 80 co-curricular athletic teams.
Grades:
JK to 12 (Girls)
Type:
Liberal Arts
Tuition:
$35,700 to $65,280
Living:
Day/Boarding
Enrollment:
1000
Avg. Class:
18 to 22
Havergal College 35700 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls
  • Toronto, Ontario
    York Mills/Leslie
  • NS to 12 Girls/Coed
  • $18,180 to $37,000

Hawthorn School is located in Toronto. We offer a co-ed toddler-SK program and an all girls program for grade 1- grade 12. Our unique mentoring program is tailored to help students reach their full potential.

  • Day/Homestay
  • Liberal Arts
Hawthorn School 18180 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Homestay Day Girls Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Spadina/St Clair Ave W
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • $34,760 to $65,850

The Bishop Strachan School is a leading independent JK-Grade 12 day & boarding school for girls. Students build the academic skills to thrive at university and beyond. Over $1.6 million available in financial assistance.

  • Boarding/Day
  • Progressive
The Bishop Strachan School 34760 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls
  • Victoria, British Columbia
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • $17,200 to $69,100

St. Margaret's School offers inter-disciplinary and experiential learning from JK3 to Grade 12. Confidence, leadership and academic rigor lead to student success. At SMS, 'She Can'!

  • Boarding/Day
  • Traditional
St. Margaret's School 17200 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls

The Study  

  • Westmount, Quebec
    The Boulevard/Place Braeside
  • K to 11 Girls
  • $22,860 to $25,810

The Study, founded in 1915, is one of Canada's premier all-girls' schools. Dedicated teachers offer a warm and stimulating bilingual mother-tongue environment from kindergarten to grade 11. The World Needs Great Women.

  • Day
  • Progressive
The Study 22860 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • $26,200

With over 120 years of excellence in all-girls’ education, our rigorous academic program is complemented by strong arts, design technology and athletic programs. Financial assistance is available.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Crofton House School 26200 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • JK to 12 Girls/Coed/Boys
  • $13,290 to $18,620

With a global network of schools around the world, a rich and proud history, and a strong and unique set of core values, Sacred Heart offers not just an education but an experience that is unparalleled in Nova Scotia.

  • Day
  • Traditional
Sacred Heart School of Halifax 13290 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Day Girls Coed Boys
  • Whitby, Ontario
    Garden Street/Hwy. 2
  • 4 to 12 Girls
  • $25,000 to $67,585

Trafalgar Castle offers a close-knit, academically challenging environment where girls feel a strong sense of belonging and discover their unique talents and interests.

  • Boarding/Day
  • Liberal Arts
Trafalgar Castle School 25000 MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls
  • Mississauga, Ontario
    Mississauga Rd/QEW
  • 5 to 12 Girls
  • $19,315

We strive to take the best aspects of Catholic teaching & interpret it in a modern context for the confident young woman of today. They are imbued with a strong work ethic, sense of purpose & a desire to change the world

  • Day
  • Progressive
Holy Name of Mary College School 19315 MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • Westmount, Quebec
    Mount Pleasant Avenue/Cedar Avenue
  • K to 11 Girls
  • $19,525 to $23,000

Miss Edgar's & Miss Cramp's School offers a Tier 1 education for girls from K-11, located in Westmount, Qc. We develop bold leaders and creative thinkers — equipping each girl to be the entrepreneur of her own future.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Miss Edgar's & Miss Cramp's School 19525 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • Montreal, Quebec
    Atwater/Docteur-Penfield
  • 7 to 12 Girls
  • $17,355 to $62,797

Since 1861, The Sacred Heart School of Montreal, the city’s only all girls English Catholic high school, has been graduating exceptional leaders. We offer grades 7 to 12, day school and boarding.

  • Day/Boarding
  • Traditional
The Sacred Heart School of Montreal 17355 MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Boarding Girls
  • Ottawa, Ontario
    Iris St/Woodroffe Ave
  • JK to 8 Girls
  • $16,500

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.

  • Day
  • Progressive
Academie Jeanne d'Arc 16500 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Girls
  • Erda, Utah
    Droubay Rd/Erda Way
  • 7 to 12 Girls
  • US $120,000

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.

  • Boarding
  • Traditional
Alpine Academy 120000 MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Girls
  • London, Ontario
    Richmond Street/King Street
  • 9 to 12 Girls/Coed
  • $21,200 to $26,000

A Canadian Private Secondary Boarding school, located in the heart of London, Ontario. LIA is authorized to grant the Ontario Secondary School Diploma, and International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.

  • Boarding
  • Traditional
  • International Baccalaureate
London International Academy 21200 HighSchools Boarding Boarding Girls Coed
  • St Catharines, Ontario
    Ontario St./Welland Ave.
  • NS to 12 Coed/Girls
  • $350 to $5,200

Heuristic & autodidactic, inspired by Sudbury & democratic models. Students are self-directed, holistically empowered. Voluntary attendance, year-round calendar, agency, & consent inspire free learning.

  • Homestay/Boarding/eSchool/Day
  • Progressive
Agate Private School 350 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Homestay Boarding eSchool Day eSchool Coed Girls
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba
    Langside St./Westminster Ave.
  • PS to 12 Girls
  • $15,450 to $49,440

STEAM and experiential learning are at the heart of our program, making learning at BH both dynamic and meaningful. With a focus on post-secondary guidance and internship, BH girls graduate with purpose.

  • Day/Boarding
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Balmoral Hall School 15450 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Yonge/St. Clair
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • $19,550 to $26,350

The Linden School is a socially progressive community where innovative, research-based practices in girls’ education promote and strengthen personal well-being, academic excellence, and civic engagement.

  • Day
  • Progressive
The Linden School 19550 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls

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