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St. Clement's School:
The Our Kids Report > Key Insights
Grades Gr. 1 TO Gr. 12 — Toronto, ON (Map)


St. Clement's School KEY INSIGHTS

Each school is different. St. Clement's School's Feature Review excerpts disclose its unique character. Based on discussions with the school's alumni, parents, students, and administrators, they reveal the school’s distinctive culture, community, and identity.

What we know

  • There’s a commitment to academic success in partnership with emotional and social well-being.
  • Community, across generations and grades, provides a cornerstone for the culture of the school.
  • Leadership is adept, responsive, and progressive.
Read our Feature Review of St. Clement's School

Our editor speaks about the school (video)

Handpicked excerpts

St. Clement’s School (SCS) is reimagining what it means to learn in today’s world, while maintaining the core values of its founding more than 120 years ago. Continuity and community are prized features of SCS. “One of the things that really makes us who we are is the size of the school and the fact that, from Grade 1 to Grade 12, our students coexist and share the same spaces,” says Principal Martha Perry, noting that the girls are affectionately known as “Clementines.”

The sense of warmth and connectedness across SCS—between the girls, between the girls and staff, and among the staff—is evident almost immediately on entering the building. The school’s tagline, “There’s something special going on here,” rings true as you walk the halls.

According to Vice-Principal Heather Henricks, there is strategy behind these natural connections. “It can sound glib, but it’s true: we’re a tight-knit community,” she says. “Having a small student body in one building has always been a differentiator for us, but now we’re taking a more intentional approach to ensuring there are precise frameworks and common language across every grade. Whether it’s classroom instruction, co-curriculars, leadership opportunities, or experiential learning, students will experience consistency.”


Martha Perry is one of those rare instances where the head of the school is also a graduate. She arrived in Grade 7 and graduated from Grade 13 in 1985. (She was one of the last girls to attend that culminating grade, which was removed in 1988.) “I’m not sure that I aspired to come back here,” she says with a laugh. “It just happened organically, and I’m so glad it did.”

Looking back on her own student years at SCS, and the school’s earlier history, Perry sees a consistent commitment to academic excellence and holistic development for girls. The last few decades, however, have gone a step further. “To me, the difference now is that we’re nurturing girls’ voices even more,” she says. “Making sure students understand that their perspectives are important—particularly diverse voices and perspectives—is a much bigger focus.”

Perry has made issues of equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging a key priority during her tenure. Her genuine dedication to learning and growing in this area was apparent in our discussions, as was her colleagues’ admiration for her leadership in this area.


Located on a short residential street in midtown Toronto, just steps west of Yonge Street’s bustle, SCS is an independent day school for girls. With a student population of about 460, students from Grade 1 to 12 learn and play in a single three-storey building.

“St. Clement’s is more about place than space,” says Perry. “When you look at us from the outside, you may not see all the ‘fixings’—the fields and amenities some larger schools have. So we attract parents who are seeking a quality academic program and are comfortable with the idea of truly being a community school. We’re in the heart of the neighbourhood, and we use the neighbourhood parks and facilities. We’re not a gated community.”

SCS students and staff are used to making the most of the space they have. In 2006, the school doubled its physical size with the addition of a 350-seat theatre/lecture hall, a second gymnasium, classrooms, an arts wing, a science wing, and a library. The overall feel is comfortable and surprisingly spacious, with a lot of clean lines and natural light.

A 38,000-square-foot addition is set for completion in 2023, offering adaptable, modern spaces where SCS students can spread out. That the school has decided to expand facilities—not enrolment—says everything about the SCS philosophy on ensuring every student is known and valued.

“This build will be transformational in terms of our ability to provide the best possible spaces for our students to learn in,” says Perry.


St. Clement’s has long been known for academic rigour, but in recent years the school has transformed what that means in practice. Academic rigour looked very different in the 1990s and 2000s, and even just a decade ago, says Perry. “Before, it was about acquiring content knowledge and having five hours of homework every night, but now we’ve made a massive shift—which I love—towards ensuring that our girls learn how to learn. At St. Clement’s, learning is a process, not a product. This is a big change in philosophy, and many educators and schools have been slow to make it.”

While other less progressive schools still measure success mainly by the volume of facts students can recall on exams, SCS is adapting its academic approach to suit a changing world. Students have to apply their knowledge to real-life problems, examine subjects from diverse viewpoints, and tackle issues with no easy solutions. Deep learning, which is what SCS strives for in all its academic programs, goes well past the acquisition of surface skills and knowledge. Instead, students learn to think creatively and critically. It sounds simple, but only a minority of schools have gone as far as SCS to promote this approach.

Since the learning journey is more important than the destination at SCS, teachers take a flexible, personalized approach to education. Our conversations with teachers from different divisions and disciplines made it clear that they’re united in their goal of producing self-aware, creative, resilient students.

St. Clement’s offers more Advanced Placement (AP) courses than any other school in the country. The dedication to AP is based on the conviction that it meshes better with the Ontario curriculum than other curricula, such as the International Baccalaureate.

SCS requires much of its students, but within a context of comprehensive support. “The academic program is built around the notion of balancing challenges with resources,” says Vice-Principal Henricks, including fostering a culture of achievement rather than one of competition.


St. Clement’s identifies itself as a small school, though it’s not tiny by any stretch. It’s more about the small-school feel and the strong sense of community. Principal Martha greets the students each day, by name, as they arrive. “It’s not an insular school,” says a parent. “Small doesn’t mean that it’s closed in. There’s a real sense of exploring the world, seeing what’s beyond the boundary of the school. But also, when you come back to the school, there’s a real sense of home.”

Cross-grade connections are both spontaneous—the inevitable result of learning in one building—and intentional. Developing leadership skills is central to the school’s mission, and it’s tied to the faculty and staff’s commitment to the evidence-based advantages of all-girls education. “As we say,” says Perry, “you need to see it to be it. And every leader at St. Clement’s is a young woman, so girls are constantly seeing female leaders.” The SCS Leadership Program begins in Grade 1 and progresses—with formal leadership training and gradually increasing responsibilities in classroom activities and co-curricular and special events—to Grade 12, when every student holds a formal leadership role.


There’s a lot going on at SCS before and after the official school day. The co-curricular offerings are surprisingly broad given the size of the student body, with plenty of options for involvement in a full array of teams and clubs (including some you might not find elsewhere, such as the philosophy club and classics club). The musical offerings are equally expansive, from chamber choir to jazz band.

Participation—not perfection—is at the heart of the co-curricular culture, so students feel comfortable trying new things as well as drilling down to build on existing skills and interests. Co-curriculars are designed to be an extension and augmentation of student life, an arena to meet new friends and spark new interests.

Teachers build experiential learning into the curriculum in large and small ways, whether it’s a trip to Ottawa to delve into government and citizenship or a game of Monopoly in a business class. “We’re helping students understand that they don’t have to travel far to have exciting learning opportunities,” says Junior School teacher Courtney Pratt.


Wellness doesn’t have any clear boundaries at SCS. “It isn’t just counselling, and it isn’t just curriculum development,” says Director of Admissions Elena Holeton. “It really is absolutely everything.”

In 2009, then-principal Patricia Parisi developed LINCWell (Learning, Individualization, Nurturing, Creativity, and Wellness), a comprehensive program that encompasses classroom learning, co-curricular offerings, counselling, and more. “Principal Parisi had the prescience to think of LINCWell as a school-wide approach, not an additional layer,” says Perry.

The goal, says Holeton, is “to provide the students with a toolkit of strategies that will help them as they move forward in life,” including strategies for organization, academics, communication, and mental and physical health.

THE OUR KIDS REPORT: St. Clement's School

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