In the heart of Wellington, New Zealand, there exists a prestigious institution with a rich history and an unwavering commitment to girls’ education. Queen Margaret College (QMC), founded in 1919 by the visionary Scottish Presbyterian leaders, The Hon. John Aitken and The Very Rev. Dr. James Gibb, has remained steadfast in its mission to provide not only sound intellectual and moral education but also to build strong character on a broad religious foundation.
Jayne-Ann Young, the dedicated Principal of Queen Margaret College, encapsulates the essence of the institution when she declares, “Today, we are Wellington’s leading independent girls’ school, providing a world-class education for girls from Year 1-13. We believe in the importance of girls’ education; we inspire every girl to challenge the status quo and be a fearless architect of her own future.”
QMC’s commitment to excellence is not just a statement; it’s a living reality. The college constantly strives to develop the skills and dispositions necessary to remain leaders in girls’ education, challenging itself to evolve consistently, inspire innovation, and create endless possibilities for all who learn and work within its hallowed halls.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Queen Margaret College is its embrace of diversity. With open arms, it welcomes students from over 50 different nationalities. Principal Young emphasises, “Diversity is an integral part of our life here. We offer both boarding and homestay options, which enable us to invite a large cohort of international students into our college community. We also provide exceptional support, including the guidance of our Director of International Students, Soraya Rigney.”
Located in Aotearoa, Queen Margaret College understands the significance of prioritising the diverse communities within a multicultural nation. Principal Young adds, “We are very proud of our Māori and Pasifika performing arts group, Te Whānau o Kuīni Mākareta. Recently, we celebrated our inaugural Rā Haka house competition, during which our school houses showcased their rendition of the Kuīni Mākareta haka.”
Nurturing Holistic Education and Leadership
At QMC, the pursuit of holistic education and the cultivation of leadership are more than just lofty ideals; they are woven into the very fabric of the institution. As soon as students step through the college’s doors, they embark on a journey that emphasises the importance of becoming well-rounded individuals. This journey is anchored in the belief that academic excellence should go hand in hand with a rich tapestry of extracurricular experiences.
From day one, students are encouraged to take ownership of their thoughts and actions, a fundamental aspect of personal development. The college’s ethos is underpinned by numerous avenues for students to develop leadership, resilience, and compassion skills, helping them become not only proficient in their studies but also empathetic and responsible individuals.
A striking example of QMC’s commitment to leadership is the formation of the Kura Council and the tradition of electing class leaders, which begins as early as Year 3. The college offers a multitude of opportunities for students to step into leadership roles. Whether it’s sports coaching, prefect positions, student ambassador roles, QMC ensures that students have ample chances to develop their leadership potential.
Principal Young underlines this commitment, saying, “We have a strong emphasis on service learning. Students engage in service as an extension of their studies, furthering their understanding of how their learning connects to the real world.” In 2023 alone, QMC has witnessed inspiring initiatives such as clothing and food donations to Women’s Refuge, collecting sports equipment for local schools, wig donations, community libraries, and much more. These initiatives beautifully illustrate how QMC’s approach to education connects students with the real world, fostering empathy and a profound sense of responsibility.
The college’s dedication to holistic development extends to the realm of sports. QMC offers a diverse and robust selection of sporting options that cater to every student’s interests and abilities. These sports programmes not only offer a platform for skill development but also provide opportunities for socialising, enhancing personal discipline, and improving mental and physical health. Principal Young explains, “We offer two sporting pathways for students no matter their skill level or ability: participation and performance.” The performance pathway is designed for students who aspire to make the school’s premier teams, represent New Zealand at various levels, or engage with age group and development teams. It’s a philosophy underpinned by support, growth, and empowerment, which has yielded remarkable results, such as QMC’s recent triumph at the National Tennis tournament.
Beyond sports, QMC nurtures students’ confidence and connections through a vibrant performing arts programme. Options include Music, Speech and Drama, Choirs, instrumental groups, Te Whānau o Kuīni Mākareta (the Māori and Pasifika Performing Arts Group), and participation in Shakespeare Festivals. An annual House Performing Arts Day and bi-annual productions add to the rich cultural tapestry that defines the QMC experience.
A Pinnacle of Girls’ Education in Wellington
Nestled in the heart of cosmopolitan Wellington, QMC offers an educational environment that strikes the perfect balance. It’s small enough to ensure that every student is recognised as an individual, and yet it’s large enough to provide a comprehensive range of subjects, multiple language options, and a top-tier Sports and Arts Programme. The central location of the campus adds to the appeal, providing students with a unique opportunity for contemporary learning.
Principal Young proudly highlights, “We are the only all-girls education provider in Wellington that offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP).” The IBDP curriculum, with its emphasis on holistic learning, self-management, and participation in a global community, equips students with the skills to engage in a growth mindset. It encourages them to take risks and become adventurous learners. From Year 12, students have the freedom to curate their educational journey with a dual pathway choice between the national qualification NCEA and the globally recognised IBDP, a testament to QMC’s commitment to tailor education to the individual student.
Student wellbeing is at the core of QMC’s ethos, and it’s a commitment that the college excels in. The bespoke Wellbeing Programme is designed to adapt to the evolving needs of students as they progress through the stages of adolescence. Additionally, the college provides onsite support through two psychologists, offering comprehensive wellbeing care to its students.
However, what truly measures the impact of an educational institution is the success stories and achievements of its students and alumni. QMC has a rich history of producing remarkable individuals, and one recent example is Lilly Taulelei, the Head Prefect of 2022. Lilly’s journey at QMC was a testament to the college’s commitment to balancing academic excellence with extracurricular achievements. A star basketball player, she excelled in the demanding IBDP programme while serving as an exceptional Head Prefect.
Principal Young shares Lilly’s remarkable journey, saying, “Since departing our college, Lilly has continued to thrive as she received fifteen Division 1 and Ivy League offers to Universities in the United States, including over $6 million in scholarship offers. She has committed to the University of Massachusetts, where she will continue to pursue her educational and sporting dreams.”
A Vision for the Future of Education
QMC doesn’t just embrace change; it thrives on it. With a progressive tradition deeply ingrained in its core, the college is committed to staying at the forefront of education. Principal Young emphasises, “Progressive is our tradition. We are committed to the constant advancement of our staff and practices in line with developing technology and educational practices.”
QMC stands as a beacon of forward-thinking education, acknowledging the rapid technological advancements shaping our world and understanding that many of its students will embark on careers that don’t yet exist. To prepare them for this uncertain future, the college is dedicated to providing a holistic education that equips students with the skills to adapt and continue learning throughout their lifetimes.
At the heart of QMC’s approach is its “one size fits one” model; rather than forcing students into rigid moulds, the college tailors learning to the individual. This personalisation, combined with close relationships between students and staff, ensures that every student can thrive, regardless of their talents or needs. Principal Young elaborates, “We have a global perspective with an emphasis on adventurous learning, encouraging students to think critically and build passionate views inside of our holistic approach to education and focus on wellbeing and community.”
The Proactive Wellbeing Strategy implemented by QMC is a testament to its commitment to helping students respond to the challenges of life. Central to this strategy is the unique Wellbeing Programme called THRIVE, designed for students in Years 7-13. This programme incorporates activities, discussions, and reflection, all aimed at building upon the pillars of wellbeing. It’s not just about academic excellence but also about ensuring that students can thrive in all aspects of their lives.
One of the distinctive features of QMC is its co-educational Preschool, which provides young learners with an exceptional start to their educational journey. This prepares them seamlessly for their transition to Year 1, ensuring that they can progress into Junior School with confidence and readiness.
Additionally, the college’s boarding facility plays a pivotal role in offering a QMC education to a diverse range of students. With a substantial cohort of international students, QMC celebrates the rich diversity of knowledge and experiences they bring to the college, enhancing the educational experience for all.
In an era where the opportunities for girls in society are expanding rapidly, the significance of girls’ education cannot be overstated. QMC stands as a steadfast champion of this cause, dedicated to empowering young girls to excel academically and reach far beyond. Principal Young eloquently articulates their mission, stating, “We are proud of our academic program and the all-girls advantage we provide. We believe in tailoring education for girls. That means championing their learning needs, building resilience, and supporting leadership and academic success.”
Research unequivocally supports the effectiveness of all-girls education, especially in fields like STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine). A study of nearly 6,000 incoming female university students revealed that graduates of all-girl schools are more likely to exhibit higher levels of science self-confidence, consider themselves critical thinkers, score higher on measures of academic habits of mind, and demonstrate stronger study habits. This highlights the remarkable impact an all-girls educational environment can have on shaping young girls into confident, capable individuals ready to conquer the world.
QMC doesn’t rest on its laurels; it continuously adapts to the evolving landscape of education. The college has introduced forward-thinking initiatives like “ELEVATE Year 11,” which empowers students to gain a full NCEA Level 1 qualification while also preparing them for NCEA Level 2 or the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). This innovative approach ensures that students are well-equipped to meet the challenges of their final years of college with an eye on the future.
A standout initiative at QMC is “Set up for Success,” designed for Year 6 students. Principal Young elaborates, “Students will spend alternate weeks in the senior school, allowing them to become familiar with new classrooms, routines, and the expectations of being a Year 7 student. Importantly, students remain with their current and specialist teachers, who continue to deliver the Year 6 curriculum.” This approach is carefully crafted to instil enthusiasm and confidence in students as they embark on their Year 7 academic journey, making the transition smoother and less anxiety-inducing.
In a nutshell, Queen Margaret College’s unwavering commitment to girls’ education and its innovative approach to curriculum and student support make it a trailblazer in empowering young girls to excel academically and beyond. It is a beacon of hope and progress for girls, inspiring them to reach their full potential and break barriers in all aspects of life.