Our daughter’s experience at Havergal has been extremely rewarding. She started at the school in JK and is currently almost finished grade 2. My husband and I had researched same-sex independent schools for our children and Havergal felt like the best fit for our daughter and our family. We had high expectations for the school and weren’t really sure if these expectations were realistic. In a nutshell, the school has surpassed any and all expectations we had and has delivered a caliber of education that every parent wishes for their child. Our daughter is very happy and excited to go to school each day and beams when she talks about her day at pick up. The connections she has with her teachers, administrators and staff is something she immensely appreciates. She is greeted every morning by name and with warm, caring smiles. She has developed trusting relationships with her teachers and knows they are there to help her reach her full potential. She is happy and thriving, which is all we can ask for.
Communication between the school (teachers and administrators), the child, and the parents is paramount to the academic, social, and emotional success a child will have at school. Havergal believes in this philosophy as well and strongly encourages and practices open lines of communication with the families. Their ultimate goal is to develop strong, independent, young female leaders, who will make a positive impact in our community. In order to achieve this, transparency and good communication is necessary with the families. Havergal teachers provide continuous feedback on the progress of each child, including phone calls, emails, visuals (photos and video updates of learning), and many opportunities for in-person feedback. The leadership team exercises the same level of communication with families and with the girls themselves. Three times a week, the morning prayer sessions are a time for self reflection and reminders about appropriate behaviour and the development of strong character traits. This is done with a positive, inspirational vibe that resonates with each child. When problems arise, the leadership team takes the opportunity to discuss the issues in a broader sense and offer the students options of how to handle themselves in challenging situations. Girls are given the opportunity to explore and discuss their feelings and provide suggestions on conflict resolution tactics. The girls are always given a voice and this is empowering!
In the beginning of each school year, Havergal hosts a “People and Program” evening for parents to essentially meet your child’s teacher(s) and learn about the curriculum and learning goals for that year. These presentations were thorough and give a sense of purpose and direction to learning strategies: Listening to the teachers speak reaffirmed to us how lucky our daughter is to be taught by educators as passionate as the teachers at Havergal. For most, their training is extensive, with many of them acquiring post graduate degrees and additional training in mathematics. Our daughter has received a high level of instruction from her teachers, who ultimately try to ensure she reaches for her full potential. Concepts are taught in a variety of methods, through group and individual discussions, investigative research, hands-on activities, numerous real life connections, textbook and workbook activities, etc., all of which contribute to a child’s deeper level of understanding.
Havergal has produced very successful alumni for over a hundred years. This success comes from strong core values it instills in its students. Havergal values hard work and helps prepare each girl for life “beyond the Ivy Walls.” It has a strong academic program that promotes camaraderie and healthy competition among peers. Havergal wants each girl to succeed and provides learning support when needed. The academic program intensifies as the years progress, however a philosophy of a balanced life is simultaneously emphasized. The girls are taught to mange their time accordingly, not only to complete academic requirements, but to participate in a variety of extracurricular and sporting activities. This balance produces a “whole girl” with physical and emotional wellness. With this realization of a balanced life, the student will achieve academic success.
There are many opportunities for the girls to participate in extracurricular activities. Activities such as choir, Multisport, chess club, gardening, science clubs, art clubs, drama clubs, etc., give the girls many choices to foster an existing interest or gives them a chance to try something new in a fun, non-judgmental environment. These extracurricular activities give the girls a chance to socialize outside of class time and helps to form new friendships.
The girls at Havergal embrace and embody their school spirit at every opportunity. There are many school events that contribute to this enthusiasm and excitement shared by the students of Havergal, for example, house cheer and gator day. The school goes above and beyond to provide opportunities for girls in different grades to connect. They have a buddy system (Haver-pals ) which breaks down barriers between grades. Warm, friendly connections are made between the students, which creates special bonds and a feeling of belonging. Girls and their buddies are given time to get to know one another, do activities, read together, eat lunch together, etc. In addition, the girls are always reminded to be respectful to each other, be kind and caring and that small acts of kindness go a long way. The house system also contributes to the infectious school spirit which resonates at house events and sporting activities. It is a joy to watch our daughter eagerly participate in these events along side girls from the junior, middle, and upper school.
School life at Havergal runs like a well oiled machine. The school is celebrating 125 years, which has provided them with over a century of great leadership and experience from which to formulate protocols and guidelines that are known to be effective. Adaptability is key to a changing world. Although Havergal is a school with many traditions, it also prides itself on changing with the times for the betterment of the school and its community. Advancements in technology are reflected in the curriculum as is the continuous evaluation by the leadership team on helping each student reach their potential. A well renowned mathematics coordinator was brought on board recently to help advance the girls’ understanding of math concepts. In addition, a literacy coordinator also provides guidance and direction in literacy to both the teachers and students. The athletics department is amazing at providing many opportunities for the girls to participate in sporting activities both for fun and as competitive sports. There is a balance that is always emphasized between academics, extracurriculars and athletics, This is a healthy philosophy that contributes to overall wellness.
One of the most important mandates of the school is parent engagement. There are so many opportunities for parents to get involved with the school, primarily through volunteering, parent socials, family events, fundraisers, concerts, moms’ night out events, mother-daughter events and father-daughter events, Each grade is represented by grade representatives that help promote parent engagement. Coffee mornings and grade specific social events are organized and offered multiple times a year. Chinese ambassadors have been selected to connect our growing Chinese community and to help them assimilate if they are new to the country. The welcome committee helps new families to transition to Havergal. Families are paired with new families to help answer questions before the start of school and repeatedly throughout the school year to offer guidance. Havergal also helps connects alumni (old girls) with each other and celebrates their time at the school with different events for example, grandchildren’s party. Overall, the school community is strong and connected and new families are welcomed with open arms.
Havergal is conveniently located in the heart of Toronto, at Avenue and Lawrence. The surrounding neighbourhoods are predominantly family dwellings, with more of the small businesses located north of the school on Avenue road. Many of the families whose daughter’s attend Havergal live in the area and many have sisters at the same school or brothers at other independent boys schools near by such as UCC, Crescent, and Sterling Hall. The campus is enclosed by beautiful trees and immaculate landscaping of their numerous fields, ravine and nature trails, giving the school a very serene atmosphere of calm and beauty amongst the busy life beyond the school grounds. The girls are given full use of their beautiful campus and frequently take nature walks through the Lisa Hardy trail, discuss topics of interest in their outdoor amphitheater, partake in track and field events and a Terry Fox run across the grounds. In doing so, the girls develop a connection to nature and a respect for the environment. The girls in the Junior school (grades JK- grade 6) do not venture away from school grounds unless accompanied by a family member, care giver or teacher(s). The middle and upper school girls are given a little more leeway to leave the school grounds, but from our observation, most remain on campus until dismissal. Security and the safety of the girls is extremely important and is evident with the numerous security personnel, a crossing guard on duty on Rosewell Avenue, teachers and security guards present in the pick up and drop off areas of both junior and upper school, and the strict policies of signing students in and out of the school.