The Donaldson Programme & Award

On 10th May, Ms Laura Holloway spoke to the students about the history behind, and the importance of the Donaldson Programme and Donaldson Award.

‘The Donaldson Award is awarded at the end of the UVI (Year 13) yet its philosophy and ideas run throughout the school – you may have noticed the coloured strands and symbols on the Co-Curricular Booklet, and the Fourth Form Donaldson Weeks are also named thereafter. But what, or rather who, does Donaldson refer to? 

Rachael Donaldson was Headmistress of St Mary’s from 1911 – 1915. She had read English at St Hilda’s College in Oxford and taught Classics at two other girls’ schools in the UK before becoming Headmistress, aged 31. She was Head for only four years, and after leaving us went on to be the first principal of St Mary’s College which is still part of Durham University – a popular destination for our UVI. During her four years, she is said to have argued that the curriculum needed to ‘assist in the formation of character, broaden the mind and develop the possibilities latent in a young person’.  She wanted to cultivate in every pupil a broad outlook and the habit of independent thought and work. Very much in line with what we still value today, and so a fitting namesake for our Donaldson Award. You can read more about her here

Image of Rachael Donaldson with thanks to St Hilda’s College Oxford

What do the six award strands represent? Our values, your opportunities; what we stand for and what we do – the holistic philosophy of education at St Mary’s. The Award itself represents the culmination of pupils’ involvement in all areas of the school at the highest level, and I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the achievements of the UVI at the end of this term. 

Leadership: There are so many opportunities for leadership in school beyond the most visible in the Head Girl’s Team – in  Houses, Companies, Sports Leaders, School Parliament, within subjects and the peer supporters. Stepping up, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and motivating and serving others for the good of the whole community is something that we value highly. 

Scholarship: We wouldn’t be a very successful school if we didn’t value scholarship – but at St Mary’s there is a very special relationship between teachers and pupils in lessons, and generous time dedicated to pupils being in the classroom and taking great interest and enjoyment in their learning, as well as all of the competitions and opportunities beyond the classroom through societies and EPQs, and even beyond school. The traditional UVI Leavers’ poem dedicated to their teachers is a real testament to those unique relationships and the power of scholarship in our everyday lives. 

Global Awareness: As a diverse and multicultural community, we value and celebrate our differences and shared humanity, as well as looking out to the wider world and improving our awareness of the world beyond St Mary’s. We are all eagerly anticipating the return of overseas school trips, and continue to engage with international issues through competitions like Model United Nations, and the UVI-led Cultural Week last term. 

Skills for Life: As with all of the Donaldson strands, Skills for Life applies both to skills pupils can acquire and practise now at school, and also take with them when they leave as an adult to help becoming more successful and fulfilled in all areas of their lives. These range widely from personal organisation through cooking, crafting, sport, music and all the activities that are enjoyed, to learning about finance and budgeting and improving public speaking. 

Giving to the community: In the LVI (Year 12) everybody has a community volunteering slot away from the school site on their weekly timetable, and they both give and gain a lot from those experiences. Lower down the school pupils volunteer as part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, and of course our teams of peer mentors and house buddies also show leadership as well as a sense of community. It is important to reach out beyond our own school community, and I know how proud we are of all our fundraising and giving generously of our time for the benefit of others. 

Higher Education and Careers: Just yesterday we had our external US universities adviser in school to meet with those LVI students interested in applying to university in the US, and it was great to see LV drop in for a Q&A session with her in the Library at lunchtime too. Everything you do at St Mary’s helps to prepare you for life beyond school, and a very thorough and varied programme of Careers Conferences, Networking Events, speakers and workshops gives you lots of opportunities to find the right next steps for you before you leave. 

All together, that is our Donaldson Programme, from the huge range of experiences enjoyed during Fourth Form Donaldson Weeks, to all of our co-curricular activities, lessons and far beyond – Donaldson encapsulates what it means to be at St Mary’s. We encourage everyone to keep thinking about all the different ways in which they already take part in these six strands, as well as what further opportunities could be sought in the future.’ 

Ms Laura Holloway, Director of Sixth Form, Higher Education & Professional Guidance