Pretoria, South Africa Report of what it's like to live there - 10/03/23
Personal Experiences from Pretoria, South Africa
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
My three children go to this school.
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
My children currently attend this school and we have attended since 2021. They are currently in grades 1, 3, and 5.
3. What years did you live here?
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
Yes. We chose this school because we wanted to try a girls-only school. We had read how this environment bolsters girls’ confidence, especially in math and science. We were also impressed by the school’s campus, community atmosphere, sports offered, music and performing arts center, and strong academics.
Admissions & Welcome:
1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?
Yes. Applying was easy and our girls were each given “buddies” to help them acclimate for their first two weeks of school.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Excellent. Room parents for each class reached out to me weeks before school started and invited me for coffee. A buddy was assigned to each of my daughters and each hosted a play date so my girls would know at least one person on their first day.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Very good. A weekly newsletter with all dates and key events, class WhatsApp groups, and an app with lots of information. School is very responsive to any questions.
2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?
Uniforms, tablet starting in grade 5, musical instruments are optional—my kids do viola, flute, and drums—and an annual camp starting in grade 3.
Academics & Resources:
1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?
Yes and there is an occupational therapist on campus, a speech therapist, and three other specialists. The school routinely has parents’ nights about applying to international universities.
2. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?
Yes, there is after-school care until 6:00PM and it costs about $60.00/month. Girls can be dropped off at the school from 6:45AM with no charge.
3. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
Yes, large library. Kids can go there after school and for after-care in addition to library once per week. Yes, they check out books to take home. Books are updated and diverse. The school has several prominent alumni who are authors who come for special events and sign books.
4. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
Tablet from grade 5. Integrated into every subject from then. Prior to grade 5, they have technology as a weekly subject and work on tablets and laptops. They have STEAM week each year, they have V/R systems that the girls use to explore the Amazon, for example, and the girls start coding from kindergarten.
5. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
Yes, there is a state-of-the-art lab and they ensure that all of the school’s staff, including janitors, are technology-literate. Girls have homework on seesaw, abbacus.
6. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
Gym, two pools, tennis courts, basketball courts, squash courts, track, field hockey fields, gymnastics studio. They have a huge campus. Two amazing playgrounds.
7. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
In K-3 it is 20 girls to a teacher with an aide. From grade 4, it is about 12 to a teacher.
8. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?
Not sure, my kids are younger.
9. Are students generally challenged appropriately by the curriculum? Please describe any particular strengths or weaknesses in this area. Do you have any thoughts how the curriculum is applied and implemented at this school?
Math is a major strength, my kids tested a grade level above their American school. Reading proficiency is not required until first grade where as in the States there is more reading in kindergarten.
10. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
11. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
Music, dance, African beading, orchestra, choir, individual instrument lessons, marimba band, drama
12. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
13. What services are provided for speakers of English as a second language at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
About 10 percent of the school is diplomats and international students.
14. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?
So many! Horseback riding, gymnastics, chess, debate, confirmation, gaming, coding, drama, golf, all the sports. My children have done track, tennis, swimming, basketball, volleyball, squash, netball, field hockey, orchestra, golf, debate, African beading, gymnastics
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Yes, we feel that we have made lifelong friends.
2. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.
Not that we have experienced. The school does a lot of anti-bullying teaching.
3. What is the climate for students who identify as ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious minorities at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Have your children had any experiences in this area?
The school is about 85 percent Black South African. The Head Girl is Black, the first chair for violin is Black, the top academic achiever is Black. Amazing girls. My kids have Black friends, Indian friends, white friends. Really good community atmosphere. As their mom, I also have friends of all backgrounds. This is an Anglican school but about 5 percent is Muslim students.
4. What can you say about diversity among the faculty and staff at the school and their experience in supporting minority students?
Staff is all races, my girls have had Black teachers and white teachers. All have been excellent.
1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?
A+ would absolutely choose it again. We will all be crying when we have to leave.
2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.
Class plays, camping trips, sporting events, science labs with the boys school, spring fiesta each year, caring teachers and friends.
3. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
Many diplomats we know in Pretoria send their children to the American school rather than look into the local schools. My children’s lives have been immeasurably enriched for going to a local school and got to have the same friends for our entire tour. I would encourage anyone to look into the excellent local schools here. If not St. Mary’s then Crawford, Courtney House, WHPS, and Tygervalley.