Why do pupils and parents choose St Mary’s Calne? There are of course many factors that are taken into account. St Mary’s is a school that prides itself on its outstanding academics, music, drama, art, sport, the Houses, the Tutor system and our commitment to the individual girl. There is also an additional factor, an X-factor: the clubs, societies, Enrichment Week activities, the DofE, the trips, the speakers and much more besides, enshrined in our values, that makes St Mary’s distinct from other schools.  We have decided to give this X-factor a name – the Donaldson Programme.  

So why Donaldson? Well, St Mary’s has a tradition of naming things after people who have been instrumental to the school. A rather wonderful woman called Rachael Donaldson was Headmistress for a short time just over 100 years ago. On the slideshow you can see a delightful picture of her taking pride of place, in her sunglasses, among a group of school actors.

Looking back through the archives we found an excerpt from her Founders’ Day speech in 1915: 

The curriculum is designed with a definite object in view; not immediate utility but ultimate usefulness, not to attain mere results but to produce the highest type of individual. The immediate value of certain subjects may not be apparent, but that is not the point. The question is rather whether that particular branch of study is assisting in the formation of character; broadening the mind and developing the possibilities latent in the child…….And surely never was it so important as it is at this moment for our children to grasp great principles, law of cause and effect and the truth about civilisation. You may rest assured that we are never willingly to lose sight of the true end of education. We shall not be satisfied with imparting information, but endeavour to cultivate in every pupil in the School, in addition to sound churchmanship, breadth of outlook, the habit of independent thought and work and a sense of proportion.’

Women held a very different place in society and in education than they do now and this speech really exemplifies how forward thinking Rachael Donaldson was.

The Donaldson Programme is for LIV to UV (Years 7-11)and has six strands which you can see around the circle in the slideshow. For each girl, the Donaldson Programme will be different, but through the clubs, societies, events, after-school activities and Enrichment Weeks the girls will be developing their scholarship, character and sense of wellbeing. They will have a rich cultural experience, enhance their understanding of what it means to be a global citizen and expose themselves to the myriad of skills and options they need to consider for their future. At Sixth Form, the Donaldson Programme does not end but morphs into the Sixth Form Award. All the skills and experience the girls have gained through the Donaldson Programme will stand them in good stead to complete this higher level of challenge.

So the Donaldson Programme  – what does this actually mean? Let us imagine a student, Mary Calne, who is in MIV (Year 8). She goes to all her lessons, team practices and plays the flute. This is all on her timetable. In addition, and this is the Donaldson Programme, she chooses to attend Zoo Soc. and Cookery Club on a weekly basis. During an Enrichment Week, she takes part in a visit to some Roman ruins and leads some activities in House during Waste Week to try to reduce the amount of rubbish produced. Through all of these activities, and the many more that she will do during Year 8, she will be developing her scholarship, wellbeing, character, understanding of global citizenship and community, and giving herself the opportunities to practise many of the skills needed in the workplace.

Mary Calne moves through the school and each year what she does on the Donaldson Programme will change. In LV (Year 10), for instance, she may have abandoned Cookery and taken up Debating, started her Silver DofE, taken a lead in the Year 10 Apple Enterprise business and be a contributing editor to the school magazine (more on this below).

So Donaldson – isn’t that just giving a name to what we do already? Well yes – we are celebrating what we do, and more importantly why we do it, but there are some new additions which tie in with the philosophy of the Donaldson Programme.

Firstly, Enrichment Weeks. From now on these are going to be called Donaldson Weeks and throughout this year we will be developing certain aspects, such as volunteering. In the Spring Term, the Donaldson Week will tie in with a school-wide Waste Week, with a number of activities running for everyone to try and reduce our global footprint as a school. Themed Chapels on Tuesday mornings, this term it is the 1920s, are aiming to give the girls a broader understanding of how different subjects interlink in the outside world. There will be more debate and focus days and more opportunities for entrepreneurship such as the Year 10 Apple Enterprise (Apple Day is on 10th October), where the girls are taking control of the apple business: picking the apples in the school orchard, designing the marketing and advertising, as well as selling the juice. They will then bid to the Parents’ Guild of St Mary’s (PGSM) on how they would like the money to be spent in school.

Another new initiative we are launching this year is a digital magazine that will be written, edited and published by the girls. They will be choosing the name, writing the content, editing and publishing it using professional software. Later on this term, we will be getting an editor from a professional magazine to teach a masterclass to those that have chosen to be involved.

The Donaldson Programme: Scholarship, wellbeing, character, culture, global citizenship, community and futures – everything that is enshrined in our values and a worthy addition to the St Mary’s Calne lexicon.

Alexandra Haydon, Senior Teacher