REVIEW OF St. Margaret's School BY parent, Stephanie Neilson
- Date of Review
January 23, 2018
(N/A) Student Experience
All 3 of our daughters very much enjoy St. Margaret's School (SMS) and are very proud to be a part of the SMS community! They know they are safe and secure in their environment, both in the classroom and outside of the classroom and are able to be their own person while they learn, play and have fun with their friends. The all-girl environment encourages them to use their voice and promotes leadership in a way that builds their self-confidence and self-esteem. As a boarding school, the girls are provided with the opportunity to meet girls from all over the world and developing life-long friendships. This also creates a positive community of diversty where different cultures, ways of knowing and learning are shared and celebrated. SMS is a school that also pursues outdoor education and learning in and about the natural world around them. Each school year starts off with their annual "Outweek" in September when the girls are given the opportunity to spend a week in Strathcona Provincial Park hiking, swimming, kayaking/canoeing, ziplining, and taking part in the Adventure Program. This gives the girls time for team building and to build confidence as they do things many of them have never experienced before. Finally, SMS provides opportunities for the girls to learn and share in giving back to communities through various service opportunities. Opportunities to volunteer with local community service programs (e.g., WIN - Women In Need, food banks) and learn about issues such as food security and how it impacts people both at the local level and global level. There are also opporunities for the girls to go abroad and work with a local development programs (e.g., building a school in Africa) and learn about issues such as girls and education around the world. Overall, our daughters' experience with SMS has been extremely positive.
(N/A) School Leadership
Over the last 5 years we have noticed tremendous positive change within the leadership and administration at SMS. They are continually learning, adapting and listening to their own community (teachers, students, parents) to respond to problems and foster a positive school environment. The leadership, administration and teachers all make themselves available and approachable to both students and parents to listen, respond and offer assistance as required. The communication between the school and parents has also improved, although the school can be little slow to communicate upcoming needs, changes or requirements to parents sometimes... But without a doubt I recognize that both the leaders and administrators listen and make changes and adjustments when they can and when there are issues.
The teachers at SMS are fantastic! All 3 of girls love their teachers! The teachers are knowledgable, not just about their subject areas or grades, but also about girls at particular ages and the social and relational changes and developments that occur, and often provide insightful and intelligent responses to queries that may not be about adcademics but about social or relational issues. Every teacher we have worked with has provided meaningful and constructive feedback, and provided support in the classroom as required. They are also very helpful to parents that need to provide extra support to their daughter at home (e.g., providing parents with information, games, ideas etc. to provide support at home).
The adcademics at SMS are very good. SMS is the only all-girl school in Canada that focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and has put a tremendous amount of resources (human, physical and financial) towards implementing a strong STEM curriculum and providing activities that enable girls at all ages (from JK to Grade 12) to engage in STEM-related activities (computers/devices, robotics, science fair projects starting in Gr 5, etc.). So far, I feel very confident that SMS is providing our daughters with a balanced yet forward thinking academic program that encourages them to use their voice, promotes both independent and team learning in a positive learning enviroment.
SMS offers several different extra-curricular activities, both as a school and also through independent providers not part of the faculty. Starting in Gr. 3, the girls are offered to participate on the cross-country team, swim team and track and field team. The other sports offered throughout the school are basketball, volleyball, soccer, rowing, and badminton. Since SMS is a smaller sized school (approx. 350 students), the extra-curricular activities and opportunities for team sports are more limited than other independent schools in the area. They do, however, work to provide those activities that the girls are interested in or are requested by the students. There are also some well-established external providers that give the girls opportunities in dance and music. There is an on-campus Ballet School that provides various dance classes (ballet, jazz, muscial theatre) in a dance studio. There is also a music program that offers lessons on various instruments (piano, flute, trumpet, violin, cello etc.). There are also plenty of clubs that the girls are encouraged to engage in and lead: Green Club, Multicultural Club, Community Outreach Club, Robotics, and Cheerleading to name just a few. Some of these clubs spend time in the local community fundraising for various service programs (WIN - Women in Need), while others are more competitive in nature and compete with other students around the province (Robotics).
SMS has amazing school spirit! They have four houses which are associated with a particular colour (Canmore = green, Turgot = purple, Christian = yellow, Malcom = blue). When a girl starts at SMS, they are placed in a house. The houses give the girls opportunities to work together from K-12 during Sports Days. The SMS staff, faculty, students and parents are often referred to as the SMS "family". The girls, especially the senior girls, often refer to each other as "sisters". This is a close, tight knit community of people who share in their love for their school and who are proud to be a part of this community. On the whole, the girls all seem to interact with each other, and with staff, in a healthy and positive way. At the Senior level, there is sometimes a bit of a distance between the day students and the boarding students, but the school as a whole, initiated by the girls themselves, recognize this and have spent the past few years working towards bridging the divide and finding ways to integrate better (e.g., weekend sleepovers at school and at homes, doing evening and weekend activities together, having dinners at school together etc.).
(N/A) School Life
All 3 of our daughters enjoy going to school at St. Margaret's. They enjoy and appreciate the friends they have made and love their teachers. It's a smaller sized school (approx. 350 students from K -Gr. 12) which has given rise to a tight knit school community which makes our girls feel secure in their learning environment. Parents know each other, teachers know the girls and the leadership and administration know the families. This gives everyone a sense of belonging.
There are lots of opportunities for parents to get involved at SMS. There is a Parent Auxililary that supports the school through hosting dances, book fairs, craft fairs, and pizza lunches. These activites give parents an opportunity to work together with the school to build community as well as to give back to the school. For example, the Parents Auxiliary hosts a book fair each Fall and Spring, the proceeds of which goes towards buying books for the library in order to keep the books in the library relevant and up-to-date. Other ways parents can get involved in participating on various field trips, or helping out in the classroom during class time with writing workshops, or in other ways as needed by the teachers. There are also committees, such as the Steering Committee, that works to find ways to implement the strategies as outlined in the school's 10-year Strategic Plan. This committee is made up of students, parents, teachers and the Head of School and the Chair of the Board of Govenors. This committee provides everyone involved, especially the students, an opportunity to have a voice in how the school moves forward and to make its strategic plan come to life.
(N/A) School Location
The school is located in beautiful Victoria, BC, Canada. It is situated on 22 acres of green space amongst tall trees and looking out towards Mt. Doug. There is lots of space for the girls to play, run around and explore their envioronment. It is truely a breathtaking place for them to learn. They also get many opportunities to go off campus on hikes up Mt. Doug and walks to local duck ponds, as well as to venture to the city centre to take part in educational programs related to the Royal BC Museum including the many First Nations artifacts (Long Houses, totem poles etc.), local municipal offices, fire departments, the Art Gallery, and of course the beaches!
The application process was not stressful, and the Admissions staff are very friendly and helpful. They want this to be as smooth for you as possible.