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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"Oakville's SMLS continues to be a premier independent school for girls Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 since 1891. "Millie" graduates take on the world with confidence and the knowledge that they can do anything.

  1. Signature Programs in Global Citizenship, STEM & Robotics, Active Healthy Living, Arts & Design
  2. Professional Internship Customized for Each Girl (Grade 11)
  3. Focus on whole girl and student wellbeing
  4. Enriched curriculum, Advanced Placement, DELF

—From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Girls)
  • Progressive curriculum; Reggio Emilia
  • $26,187 to $33,602
 
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St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School 26187 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls

Branksome Hall


Toronto, Ontario
Bloor Street East/Mount Pleasant Road
 
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"Branksome Hall is Toronto’s only leading International Baccalaureate (IB) World School for girls in JK-Grade 12, developing the leaders of tomorrow through the nurturing of curiosity and critical thinking at every age.

  1. Picturesque 13-acre urban campus
  2. Athletics and Wellness Centre that prioritizes healthy food and living
  3. IB programs: JK to Grade 12
  4. Leadership opportunities for all grades and students

—From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Girls)
  • Liberal Arts curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $38,990 to $78,600
 
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Branksome Hall 38990 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls

St. Clement's School


Toronto, Ontario
Yonge St./Eglinton Ave.
 
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"Our goal is for SCS students to understand learning as an outcome in and of itself. Learning that doesn't follow a straight path. And if it gets messy, that's okay, because at SCS it's safe to explore and be who you are.

  1. Girls' school, founded in 1901
  2. Enriched and balanced academics at all grade levels
  3. Unrivaled Advanced Placement course offerings
  4. 100% university acceptance

—From the school

  • Gr. 1 to 12 (Girls)
  • Liberal Arts curriculum
  • $38,000
 
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St. Clement's School 38000 Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls

Havergal College


Toronto, Ontario
Lawrence Avenue West/Avenue Road
 
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"Havergal has been preparing young women to make a difference since 1894 through its innovative curriculum and future-ready programming with a focus on wellbeing and student agency.

  1. Beautiful 22-acre campus in the heart of Toronto.
  2. Innovative curriculum and future-ready programming for students.
  3. Small class sizes with a focus on wellness and student agency.
  4. Award-winning Art, Music and Drama departments.

—From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Girls)
  • Liberal Arts curriculum
  • $41,520 to $79,905
 
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Havergal College 41520 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls

Holy Name of Mary College School


Mississauga, Ontario
Mississauga Rd/QEW
 
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"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

  1. University preparatory school
  2. Catholic academic tradition
  3. Academic Excellence
  4. Mini-Medical School

—From the school

  • Gr. 5 to 12 (Girls)
  • Progressive curriculum
  • $25,300 to $26,200
 
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Holy Name of Mary College School 25300 MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
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"Confident Learners. Inspiring Leaders. Creating a thriving world.

  1. SMS is Western Canada's only girl-centred boarding school
  2. SMS was the first girls-school in Canada to integrate a STEM curriculum into daily programs
  3. Visual and performing arts options are woven into our weekly programs

—From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Girls)
  • Traditional curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $19,992 to $74,006
 
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St. Margaret's School 19992 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls
Toronto, Ontario
Spadina/St Clair Ave W
 
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"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 $2 million available in financial assistance." —From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Girls)
  • Progressive curriculum; Reggio Emilia
  • $37,500 to $72,400
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The Bishop Strachan School 37500 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Langside St./Westminster Ave.
 
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"Parents trust us to personalize the educational experience of each girl, to care for each girl, to challenge her to grow, to build a supportive community around her, and, most importantly, to prepare her for the future." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 12 (Girls)
  • Progressive curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $17,850 to $74,650
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Balmoral Hall School 17850 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls
Ottawa, Ontario
Buena Vista Road/Springfield Road
 
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"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." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 12 (Girls)
  • Progressive curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $16,970 to $32,800
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Elmwood School 16970 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
Toronto, Ontario
York Mills/Leslie
 
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"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." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 12 (Girls/Coed)
  • Liberal Arts curriculum
  • $17,000 to $40,000
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Hawthorn School 17000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Homestay Day Day Girls Coed
Ottawa, Ontario
Iris St/Woodroffe Ave
 
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"Empowering girls from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 through bilingual education." —From the school

  • Gr. JK to 8 (Girls)
  • Progressive curriculum
  • $17,400
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Academie Jeanne d'Arc 17400 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Girls
Aurora, Ontario
St. John's Sideroad/Shining Hill Way
 
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"Girls at St. Anne's will thrive in an inspirational and progressive learning environment. The school’s focus on STEM/STEAM, community giving, leadership, and wellness will develop well-rounded, global-minded citizens." —From the school

  • Gr. 5 to 10 (Girls)
  • Traditional curriculum
  • $41,440
  • Day school
  • 173 students
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St. Anne's School 41440 MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
London, Ontario
Richmond Street/King Street
 
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"A Canadian Private Secondary Boarding school, located in the heart of London, Ontario. LIA is authorized to grant the Ontario Secondary School and International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme." —From the school

  • Gr. 9 to 12 (Coed/Girls)
  • Traditional curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $16,000 to $32,000
  • Boarding
  • 345 students
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London International Academy 16000 HighSchools Boarding Boarding Coed Girls
Westmount, Quebec
Mount Pleasant Avenue/Cedar Avenue
 
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"Located in Montreal, QC, Miss Edgar’s & Miss Cramp’s School offers a bilingual education for girls from K-11. From entrepreneurship to STEM, our unique learning environment empowers girls to lead the way." —From the school

  • Gr. K to 11 (Girls)
  • Progressive curriculum
  • $21,800 to $26,380
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Miss Edgar's & Miss Cramp's School 21800 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
Aurora, Ontario
St. John's Sideroad/Yonge Street
 
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"With a tradition dating back to 1899, St. Andrew's remains the single largest all-boys boarding school in Canada. Our 126-acre campus provides our students with an ideal setting for learning and growth." —From the school

  • Gr. 5 to 12 (Boys/Girls)
  • Traditional curriculum
  • $41,440 to $77,070
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St. Andrew's College 41440 MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Day Boys Girls
Westmount, Quebec
The Boulevard/Place Braeside
 
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"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." —From the school

  • Gr. K to 11 (Girls)
  • Progressive curriculum
  • $26,200 to $29,380
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The Study 26200 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
Montreal, Quebec
Atwater/Docteur-Penfield
 
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"Since 1861, The Sacred Heart School of Montreal, the city’s only all-girls English Catholic high school, has been preparing girls to change the world. We offer grades 7 to 12, day school and boarding." —From the school

  • Gr. 7 to 12 (Girls)
  • Traditional curriculum
  • $21,790 to $47,559
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The Sacred Heart School of Montreal 21790 MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Day Girls
Halifax, Nova Scotia
 
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"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." —From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Boys/Girls/Coed)
  • Traditional curriculum
  • $14,370 to $20,130
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Sacred Heart School of Halifax 14370 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Day Boys Girls Coed
Toronto, Ontario
Yonge/St. Clair
 
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"The Linden School's transformative teaching and socially-progressive values inspire academic excellence, wellness, and civic engagement, empowering students to become changemakers ready to take on complex global issues." —From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Girls)
  • Progressive curriculum
  • $21,850 to $29,450
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The Linden School 21850 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
Whitby, Ontario
Garden Street/Hwy. 2
 
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"Whether exploring science and technology, creating art, or competing in athletics, there is nothing a Trafalgar girl can't handle." —From the school

  • Gr. 4 to 12 (Girls)
  • Liberal Arts curriculum
  • $29,348 to $78,215
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Trafalgar Castle School 29348 MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls
St. Catharines, Ontario
Ontario St./Welland Ave.
 
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"Heuristic & autodidactic, inspired by Sudbury & democratic models. Students are self-directed, and holistically empowered. Voluntary attendance, year-round calendar, agency, & consent inspire free learning. Also Forest" —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 12 (Coed/Girls)
  • Progressive curriculum
  • $57 to $10,000
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Agate Private School 57 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools eSchool Day Homestay Boarding Coed Girls
Calgary, Alberta
17th Ave SW/Richmond Road SW
 
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"In addition to academics, our focus on mentorship, hands-on learning in and outside the classroom, and character development, will allow our students to thrive academically and personally as they discover who they are." —From the school

  • Gr. K to 12 (Coed/Girls/Boys)
  • Progressive curriculum
  • $14,000 to $16,000
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North Point School 14000 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Day Coed Girls Boys
Calgary, Alberta
Crowchild Trail/Flanders Ave. SW
 
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"Clear Water Academy is the only private Catholic school in Alberta. We offer a rigorous academic program from Jr. Kindergarten to Grade 12 for students of all faiths. 100% of our students pursue post-secondary education." —From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Coed/Boys/Girls)
  • Liberal Arts curriculum
  • $15,700 to $17,400
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Clear Water Academy 15700 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Day Day Coed Boys Girls
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