Why Notre Dame
At Notre Dame we aim to offer a holistic and personalised education, in a secure and stimulating environment where pupils are encouraged and challenged to fulfil their potential: academically, socially, creatively and in sports, music and drama, while gaining an appreciation of the global world in which they live. Our students are encouraged to learn to respect each other as valued individuals and to develop their own confidence, independence and self-esteem. Our pupils have a responsible and independent attitude towards work and their roles in society and contribute willingly to the wider community.
Our students have extremely positive attitudes to work, and our quality assurance measures indicate that teaching and learning is of a high quality across the school. There is careful attention to individual progress by subject teachers, middle and senior leaders and the headteachers. In order for students to learn they need to be happy and engaged. Notre Dame’s pastoral system, which was graded ‘excellent’ by the ISI inspectorate, ensures that our pupils are confident and happy students, who are therefore ready and able to learn effectively and achieve highly. Our pastoral care ethos is deeply embedded in the way we work in lessons, on duty at break or lunch, on the sports field and in extracurricular and social activities. Students are nurtured and accompanied in their learning and their social development. School council, peer mentors and big sisters give formal opportunities for students to support each other, along with the encouragement of positive relationships fostered in form groups, PSHE and assemblies. Students at Notre Dame are encouraged to consider spiritual and moral issues with tolerance and respect. Students gain an understanding of global social and environmental issues through the curriculum, through the work of the Chaplaincy team, in assemblies and in PSHE.
Learning should be engaging and fun as well as challenging and stretching. That’s why at Notre Dame we have invested in our dedicated, caring, highly-qualified and experienced staff. Staff training and appraisal is designed to encourage the highest quality teaching. Active and engaging lessons motivate the students to work hard and make the learning memorable. Small class sizes and the drop-in help sessions means lots of teacher input and guidance is available. Public examination results are consistently high. To progress and achieve, students need challenge and they need teachers who have the highest aspirations for them. All students at Notre Dame are provided with the challenge and support needed to ensure academic progress, with detailed individual tracking of attainment designed to enable personalised measurement of progress.
Notre Dame is a vibrant and eventful place, with a huge range of opportunities for our pupils, in drama, music, sports, trips and expeditions, master-classes and lectures, while at the same time focussing on rigorous academic challenge.
- Mission Statement
- Our Values
- Why Join the Notre Dame Community?
- Why an Academic All-Girls Education?
- Why Choose a Faith Based Education?
- Why do boys benefit from staying at Notre Dame until the end of Key Stage 1?
In the spirit of Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac, our foundress:
‘We are all educators…….
Accompanying young people in their efforts to build
their lives for today and tomorrow.’
These words embody our Mission.
Notre Dame is a Roman Catholic Independent School with a strong ecumenical tradition, respecting the faiths and cultures of all members of our community.
Our mission is built on a 400 year tradition, strengthened by the presence of the Sisters of the Company of Mary Our Lady.
We believe that fulfilment comes through the recognition and nurturing of individual potential in all areas of endeavour.
We aim to fulfil our Mission Statement by:
- emphasising personal, moral and spiritual development, based on Gospel values, enabling each member to become a valued participant in the life of the community
- striving for personal academic excellence, offering learning experiences which will challenge each person
- providing wide-ranging opportunities, seeking to identify and develop talents in artistic, cultural and sporting pursuits
- fostering a strong relationship between family and school.
- In this way we seek to prepare young women for their role as responsible citizens of the wider world following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
As a foundation of the Company of Mary Our Lady (COMOL) the School has a distinctive ethos acquired from over 400 years of experience.
The School aims to develop a secure and stimulating environment in which pupils are encouraged and challenged to fulfil their potential, both academically and physically and gain an appreciation of the world in which they live. Our students learn to develop a responsible and independent attitude towards work and their roles in society and inculcate a desire to contribute to the wider community. Our ethos is such that all pupils learn to live amicably together, gaining a keen awareness of others, their feelings and their needs, and to begin to build a reasoned set of attitudes, values and beliefs based on Christian principles. Each pupil is seen as a valued individual and we seek to embed confidence, independence and, above all, self-esteem. Effective partnerships between home and school are so important and therefore we liaise with parents, enlisting their co-operation and interest in order to promote a happy partnership working in trust. The school radiates a caring attitude. Relationships are excellent between pupils, staff and pupils, and staff and parents.
The excellent strength of pastoral care at Notre Dame has been recognised in the last Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) inspections:
Excellent pastoral care in the quiet and positive atmosphere of the school supports pupils very well, fully in the spirit of the school’s mission statement to educate young people, accompanying them in their efforts to build their lives in the present and for the future. Staff are wholeheartedly committed to the well-being of the pupils...
INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS INSPECTORATE REPORT, 2011.
The school benefits from chaplaincy provision which supports the Catholic identity of the school and the distinctive ethos of St Jeanne de Lestonnac while maintaining an open and ecumenical attitude to those of other faiths.
The Chaplain oversees the spiritual life of the school, coordinates fundraising and provides a listening ear for all who may need one. She works closely with the head of pastoral care, the Lestonnac committee, the Sisters of the Company of Mary Our Lady and the theology department, aiming to help foster a sense of community. The Chaplain is supported by a group of staff and a committed team of 6th formers.
The chapel is the focus for masses, services, and assemblies and the chaplaincy room provides a welcoming environment for the department’s activities.
The student Chaplaincy Team supports the work of the Chaplain in the school, organising fundraising for the chosen charities, helping with the liturgy and assemblies, as well as leading other activities.
Each year group has the opportunity for a Reflection Day and students are encouraged to participate in Diocesan activities and events. Girls have the chance to visit the elderly at Whiteley Village and the Cardinal Hume Centre in London for which a collection of goods is made annually. A ‘rich man/poor man meal' in Lent raises awareness of social inequality as well as providing meals for school children in Africa.
Notre Dame is a warm and vibrant community for all. Girls are welcomed from their first visit and helped to find friends and to settle within the group. Our aim is that all girls should feel secure, known and loved because it is our firm belief that children who have a sense of happy belonging do well. This is as true for the smallest children as it is for the oldest students.
We are a faith setting, and welcome all families regardless of their own traditions. As a catholic school we are distinctive in our welcome and inclusive of all, with respect, dignity and compassion at the heart of our dealings with one another. We do expect all pupils to join with us in our assemblies, Masses and feast days.
At Notre Dame we have a belief in holistic education as well as academic excellence. We believe that many elements of the educational experience help a child to grow and develop – from academic subjects through to all creative, physical and expressive areas of the curriculum. There is an emphasis on learning behaviours, to help children take responsibility for their own learning. These learning behaviours are a key measure of progress and success and are considered to be a clear indicator of how a child is progressing and achieving, and where attention and effort should be focussed to make improvement or to help raise attainment. Confidence to ‘have a go’ at something new or challenging, resilience and sustained effort are a very good indicator of success (at GCSE, A level and Degree level) and are very much part of our approach. Children are encouraged and supported to learn to work increasingly independently. The whole experience is balanced to support a happy, relaxed and enthusiastic learner.
We are also an ethical organisation with worldwide links to schools and projects run by our own Sisters of the Company of Mary Our Lady, so we work hard to help our children have a global awareness and to know that they can take a place in transforming the world of the future. As the girls leave school and go on to university or into the world of work they need to take with them the confidence and skills that they have learned in their younger years, to make a real difference to society; and we remind them of this aim consistently through assemblies and activities that complement their school work.
Relationships between all in this community are key. The teachers and parents need to work in partnership, and we are very fortunate to have a parent base who run a very successful Friends of Notre Dame. There is also a Notre Dame Parent Community running alongside this group that arranges parent events such as dog walking.
We are firmly committed to an all-girls’ education for those aged seven and over.
That is because the research shows that girls in all-girls' schools do better than those in mixed schools academically. In 2011 all girls' schools from the GSA gained 6.8% more A* and A grades in U6 than girls in co-ed independent schools. Research has indicated that girls’ self-esteem is based less on physical appearance and more on academic and personal development in an all-girls setting. Girls at all-girls schools are also more likely to engage is what are perceived as non-female careers. 70% more girls take Mathematics, 90% more take Physics or Chemistry and 80% more take a Foreign Language if they are at an all-girls' school. More girls from all-girls’ schools go on to higher education than girls from mixed schools. A report published in the USA in 2013 called Steeped in Learning: The Student Experience at All-Girls Schools shows that girls in all-girls settings have higher expectations and greater motivation, engage more actively in the classroom, feel more comfortable being themselves and expressing their ideas and do better academically. Data from the Girls Schools Association demonstrates the impact on results:
- In physics, 13.4% of all entries from girls come from GSA schools, (above the 5.2% baseline), but they are awarded 25.9% of the A*s and 20.5% of the A or A* grades.
- In chemistry, girls at GSA schools comprise 8.9% of entries, but they are awarded 19.8% of the A* s and 15.4% of A or A* grades.
- In further maths, girls at GSA schools comprise 15.9% of the entries, but they are awarded 24.7% of the A* grades and 20.1% of the A or A*s.
There can be an argument that an all-girls' school is an artificial environment. We agree, and firmly believe that it is a good thing. Think of a seedling. The plant has eventually to cope in the real world out in the garden, competing with other plants which may grow faster, create shade, use resources. Of course, you can put that seedling straight out in to the real world. Sometimes that seedling will do well, grow and flourish. But more often it will not. It is better to allow the seedling to become strong in the greenhouse, where the conditions are designed expressly to suit its needs, where there are no restrictions, where it can grow and become self-sufficient. In our safe and supportive environment, our girls develop academic abilities, social skills, self-esteem and self-possession, ability to engage with the world on their own terms, secure in themselves. They are supportively challenged so that they are ready to go out into the wider world. They are secure enough to engage, to take a risk in their learning, to ask questions, without being shouted down by louder students, or worrying about what they look like or how they appear. Here at Notre Dame we have, as a foundation, over 400 years’ experience of educating girls; we know that it works!
In a school that offers a Christian education the principles of welcome, nurture and compassion should be evident as you walk through the door. Catholic schools are distinctive in their care and in their love for each individual. This is part of the mission of a faith school, where all are welcome, and encompasses an ethos that stretches throughout the world, because faith organisations seek to bring stability and compassion into an uncertain world.
As such, a faith based education promotes family values, nurture, outreach and compassion for pupils, and also understands that the best academic and holistic education will equip the young adults of the future to transform the world. This means being truly dedicated to academic rigour, high standards of personal behaviour, outstanding pastoral care, high quality teaching and every other aspect of a fully rounded, creative and inclusive education. That is why for many families a faith based education is the best choice.
Regardless of your own faith or denomination (or none) Notre Dame School offers a warm reception to all and is committed to accompanying each child, and her family through the school years. At Notre Dame School, the Company of Mary Our Lady continues to live out a 400 year tradition of teaching girls, and instilling in them an awareness and care for the world, and also seeks to love each individual, with her own unique personality, as a precious child of God, whatever the family’s own faith traditions or situation. The programmes of study include religion and theology (as age appropriate) in order that all children develop a firm understanding of their place in the world and their responsibilities with regard to developing their potential for their own benefit and that of society in general. Charitable awareness is promoted, and Feast Days are celebrated by the whole school, giving the whole community a sense of shared joy and purpose. As a Catholic setting Notre Dame School has an expectation that all children will respect the Christian traditions, participate in assemblies, school masses and prayers, and to care for each other, but there is no requirement to be Catholic, or Christian, or to be part of any church.
Girls-only education offers fantastic benefits for girls aged 7 – 18, specifically because it avoids gender bias of several kinds which work against them in mixed junior or senior school classrooms:
- Choice of lessons, specialities and topics perceived as ‘boys choices’ such as mathematics, sciences, football etc. In co-ed settings girls will tend to opt away from these.
- Lessons pitched to less linguistic learners (as boys tend to be) and potential disruption from more physical learners (as boys are as they reach aged 9 – 10).
- Confidence being encouraged in louder and more physical children (often boys) and less attention given to the quiet diligent learner (usually girls), who may chose not to participate.
These are all reasons why many girls older will perform far better within the single sex arena once they are working independently.
However this is turned on its head for younger pupils (aged 2 -7) for whom developing confidence and learning strategies are vitally important. In these foundation years girls will need to develop resilient strategies for dealing with all social and learning situations to empower them to develop the best independent learning techniques in the next phase.
In these younger years, when they still have the support of classroom assistants and very experiential learning programmes, and are supported both socially and academically, all the girls and boys are entitled to a safe environment where they can explore activities and knowledge across the whole learning range. In co-ed settings girls are still likely to mix more naturally with other girls, but the stereotypical gender bias is not so strong, and thus they are likely to have opportunities at their disposal to work in construction, messy play and physical activities, because there is an interest among the class which may not be evident in a girls-only setting. Girls also typically prefer to work towards praise from the teacher, and can develop an antipathy to managing on their own. In a mixed class they will experience a more robust learning model from the boys – which can help to shape their confidence. An ironic twist is that there may be an offer of more traditional boys’ activities which are available to girls, such as martial arts and rugby – which in a girls-only setting, may have been perceived as not suitable for them.
In summary, my view which is supported by the early year’s framework, is that a good pre-prep school should offer all-round activities and exposure for all children, to give them the best possible basic skills for learning and for developing confidence. By mixing with boys at this stage girls will get the very best of both worlds.
Do read this quote from a current parent of a boy in Reception:
We have a son going into Year 1 and a daughter going into the final year of nursery at Notre Dame.
Our son was fortunate to enjoy a full two years in the wonderful nursery at Notre Dame. We were so impressed with the staff, facilities and the ethos of the school as a whole that we were delighted to find that we had the opportunity to keep him on until the end of Year 2. We took the decision without hesitation and the result is that he has had an absolutely fantastic start to school life in a very nurturing environment. The transition into full time school was easy due to him moving up with his friends in an environment he knew well, and being taught by familiar teachers. We have found Notre Dame to live up to its caring and nurturing reputation without compromising on strong academics. For us the small class size is key to there being a very personal touch, along with the excellent ratio of staff to pupils which has meant that all the children are very well known as individuals and have been extremely well supported and educated to a very high standard. Not to mention the whole host of activities spanning various sports and outdoor activities included in the curriculum to give a rich and rounding experience.
Our son has loved his time so far and is growing as a happy and confident child.
As we get to know and understand him better personally, socially and academically we feel we are all going to be in a great place to decide which school will suit him best when the time comes for him to move on. Year 3 (7+) is a natural time for children to move schools and there are excellent options in the area that take boys and purposely increase their numbers at this stage. We believe that when our son comes to the end of his time at Notre Dame he will be very well prepared for the next step in his education.
We can highly recommend Notre Dame to any parent looking to lay down strong foundations to give their child of either sex a wonderful happy start. It’s a gem of a school.