The day I first walked through the doors of Horsley’s elegant building and, standing on cool marble, looked up into the roof space to see a life sized sculpture of a deep sea diver made of flotsam and floating as if in mid ocean, I lost my heart to St Paul’s.
So it is for us all: something about the school catches our imagination, makes us see the familiar afresh, leaves us stirred and changed.
Founded in 1904 as one of the first purpose built schools for girls, St Paul’s is a piquant mixture of tradition and innovation. The emphasis on liberal learning established by the first High Mistress Frances Gray and Director of Music Gustav Holst, finds expression today in an academically challenging curriculum, which emphasises intellectual freedom and discovery.
Paulinas enjoy the difficult subjects: Latin and physics are popular, as are Chinese and mathematics. A broad co-curricular programme includes sport, exceptional music and drama as well as over 100 clubs, from Junior Drama Company to Dissection Society, often led by girls.
An education at St Paul’s is a quest for ‘that special illumination and largeness of mind’ which comes from a pure pleasure in learning. Paulinas pursue ideas for their own sake and not simply in order to pass examinations.
As a school which fosters independence and individuality, St Paul’s is managed with a light touch and relationships are respectful yet relaxed. There are few rules, no uniform and no house system. The girls are encouraged early to take charge of their lives, to be able to embrace the unexpected and to become resilient, self-reliant young women.
At the same time small tutor groups promote a kind and supportive community, where it’s acknowledged that school is about working together and learning from mistakes as well as successes.
Paulinas are encouraged to be themselves: they are not expected to be perfect.
An education at St Paul’s was described by one former pupil as ‘the most exceptional and life changing gift I could ever have received’. Mindful of this, and of the powerful lifelong connections with one another they enjoy, Paulinas seek to serve their local and wider communities through imaginative social enterprise and charitable engagement. Opportunities for travel abound and on leaving, the girls see themselves stepping out onto a worldwide stage.
Above all, St Paul’s is a place of boldness, warmth, creativity and fun, where the search for precision and beauty matter and where humour and laughter are never far away.