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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."

Series: Girls Schools

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  School Name Type Cost

Branksome Hall (est. 1903)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • Day school (836 students)
  • Boarding school (64 students)
Branksome Hall is Toronto’s only all-girls, all-years International Baccalaureate (IB) World School. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
  • International Baccalaureate
$33,630 to $66,805


Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls 33630

Elmwood School (est. 1915)  

  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • PS to 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. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
$13,960 to $26,960


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls 13960

Hawthorn School (est. 1989)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • NS to 12 Girls/Coed
  • Homestay school
  • Day school
  • Day 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. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
$14,500 to $36,500


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Homestay Day Day Girls Coed 14500

Trafalgar Castle School (est. 1874)  

  • Whitby, Ontario
  • 4 to 12 Girls
  • Day school (150 students)
  • Boarding school (80 students)
Located in Whitby, Trafalgar Castle School is an all-girls day and boarding school inspiring students in Grades 4-12. For nearly 150 years, Trafalgar Castle girls have become women of impact. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
$23,450 to $62,490


MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls 23450

St. Margaret's School (est. 1908)  

  • Victoria, British Columbia
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • Boarding school (118 students)
  • Day school (266 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. [View profile]
  • Traditional
$14,180 to $65,490

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Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls 14180

Odyssey Heights School for Girls   

  • school closed, Ontario
  • 7 to 12 Girls
  • Homestay school
  • Day school
school closed [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • Montessori
$1

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reviews (1)

• User reviews (1)
MiddleSchools HighSchools Homestay Day Girls 1

Xyna International School (est. 2010)  

  • Brampton, Ontario
  • 6 to 12 Girls/Coed
  • Day school (50 students)
  • Day school (50 students)
  • Homestay school (10 students)
Xyna International School offers programs from Gr 9 - 12 in Brampton(Co-ed) and 6-12 in Woodbridge(Girls only). At Xyna students have many opportunities to develop teamwork, communication and leadership skills. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$7,000


MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Homestay Girls Coed 7000

London International Academy (est. 2002)  

  • London, Ontario
  • 9 to 12 Boys/Girls/Coed
  • Boarding school (150 students)
  • Boarding school (145 students)
  • Day school (5 students)
A Canadian Private Secondary Co-ed Boarding school, located in downtown London, Ontario. LIA offers academic courses from Grades 9-12 and is authorized to grant the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). [View profile]
  • Traditional
  • International Baccalaureate
$11,000 to $41,900


HighSchools Boarding Boarding Day Boys Girls Coed 11000

Miss Edgar's & Miss Cramp's School (est. 1909)  

  • Westmount, Quebec
  • K to 11 Girls
  • Day school (320 students)
Miss Edgar's & Miss Cramp's School is a Tier 1 school for girls in Kindergarten through Grade 11, located in Westmount, Quebec. For every girl who has a mind of her own, we have a school to nurture it. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$18,763 to $21,417


Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls 18763

The Linden School (est. 1993)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • JK to 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. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$16,800 to $22,600

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Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls 16800

St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School (est. 1891)  

  • Oakville, Ontario
  • PS to 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. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
$18,000 to $28,430


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls 18000

Joan of Arc Academy / Academie Jeanne d'Arc (est. 1954)  

  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • JK to 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. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$15,750


Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Girls 15750

Pensionnat du Saint-Nom-de-Marie (est. 1905)  

  • Montreal, Quebec
  • 7 to 11 Girls
  • Boarding school (60 students)
  • Day school (1150 students)
École secondaire francophone privée pour jeunes filles située à Outremont, Qc. Les frais de scolarité sont de 4 500 $ par année. Elle offre les profils Éducation internationale, Danse-études et Musique-études. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
  • International Baccalaureate
$4,950 to $15,400


MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls 4950

Villa Maria (est. 1854)  

  • Montreal, Quebec
  • 7 to 11 Girls/Coed
  • Day school (501 students)
  • Day school (1117 students)
Villa Maria offers programs from grades 7 to 11 in Montreal. Its average class size is 30 to 34 students. [View profile]
  • Traditional
$5,000 to $5,700


MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Girls Coed 5000

St. Clement's School (est. 1901)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • 1 to 12 Girls
  • Day school (460 students)
St. Clement's School develops outstanding women who are intellectually curious, courageous, and compassionate. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
$30,750


Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls 30750

Holy Name of Mary College School (est. 2008)  

  • Mississauga, Ontario
  • 5 to 12 Girls
  • Day school (235 students)
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. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$17,950 to $18,250


MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls 17950

The Bishop Strachan School (est. 1867)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • Day school (825 students)
  • Boarding school (75 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. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$32,860 to $62,250

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Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls 32860

Buffalo Seminary (est. 1851)  

  • Buffalo, New York
  • 9 to 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. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
US $21,900 to US $52,750


HighSchools Day Boarding Girls 21900

The Sacred Heart School of Montreal (est. 1861)  

  • Montreal, Quebec
  • 7 to 11 Girls
  • Day school
  • Day school
  • Boarding school
Since 1861, The Sacred Heart School of Montreal, the city’s only all girls English Catholic high school, has been graduating exceptional leaders. Grade 12 will be offered beginning in 2019-2020. [View profile]
  • Traditional
$16,850 to $55,271


MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Boarding Girls 16850

The Study (est. 1915)  

  • Westmount, Quebec
  • K to 11 Girls
  • Day school (385 students)
The Study, a leading all girls'school,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. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$19,230 to $21,655


Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls 19230

Havergal College (est. 1894)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • Day school (900 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. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
$33,850 to $61,900

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• Our Kids Review
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Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls 33850

Trafalgar School For Girls (est. 1887)  

  • Montreal, Quebec
  • 7 to 11 Girls
  • Day school (120 students)
  • Day school (120 students)
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. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$18,000


MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Girls 18000

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