“What does it mean to be Catholic school?” is a question I am often asked as Headmistress of St Mary’s School. My answer is wide-ranging, but I believe one of the most important tenets is the ethos of happiness and kindness that underpin everything we do.
All visitors who walk through the doors of St Mary’s comment on the unique and special atmosphere that immediately welcomes them. We deliver academic excellence, but also the opportunity to learn and develop in a setting that is characterised by care. Our broad curriculum delivers more than just subjects; it is the depth and breadth of experiences that are planned for the pupils throughout their time with us that deliver such a distinctive education.
As teachers, we are entrusted by parents to educate their children. Our role is to help and support our pupils develop intellectually, morally and socially. Here at St Mary’s, the notion of being Catholic is based on the Gospel values of love, kindness, friendship, generosity, forgiveness and respect. I believe that all parents would like to encourage their child to live by these values, irrespective of their faith or beliefs.
I am proud that our school community is inclusive and diverse. We embrace and celebrate families from all faiths, and none. We teach the principles and foundations of the world’s major religions during R.E. and the children are encouraged to discuss their beliefs openly. We regularly welcome parent visitors to talk with the children and share their different cultures, festivals and religious ceremonies. We build in time during the day for personal reflection as well as in-depth discussions of ideas and experiences. Exploring all faiths enables us to promote greater understanding amongst our future citizens, so that they may enjoy a more tolerant and respectful society. In turn, this provides the foundations for the children’s personal and spiritual growth throughout their lives.
A further benefit of a Catholic education is that our pupils are actively encouraged to engage with the wider community and to enjoy the immeasurable benefit of making a positive contribution to society as a whole. At St Mary’s, we put this into action by placing a significant focus on charity work, both in and out of the school gates, and caring for the world around us.
So, to answer the question, “What does it mean to be a Catholic school?” St Mary’s is a place where a child is educated in a school built on the values of love, kindness and togetherness. A place where a child has time to reflect on their busy lives. A place that teaches the children about stewardship and the all-important attribute of helping others. A special place where the wider community can come together to share and learn from each other. Our ambition is to create an environment that supports our pupils to go on to play an active, worthwhile role in the world in which they live.
Harriet Connor-Earl, Headmistress at St Mary’s School Hampstead