Cathy Thornicroft

Head of School

Cathy Thornicroft

A Message
From the Head

In looking back on the 2016/17 school year, St. Margaret’s School has much to be proud of as we continue to be a leader in girls’ education. Day enrolment grew especially in the Foundation and Middle Years, and we were pleased to welcome these new families into the SMS community.

SMS had an action-packed school year as we successfully completed both the CAIS and BC Provincial Accreditation process receiving numerous accolades regarding our strengths in STEM education, inquiry-based learning, and student leadership. SMS met the standards of excellence in each evaluation and received additional commendations around our Strategic Plan, our strength of programming across all grades and between disciplines, the power of our community engagement, and our development of student voice.

The Heads and Hearts to Action Conference, held in the spring, also celebrated girl power as over 400 girls participated in a variety of design thinking activities. These girls also had the opportunity to network and listen to many accomplished women talk about the possibilities in the STEM fields while sharing their passions and learning journeys. This particular event, combined with our increasing partnerships with local and national organizations, confirms our place as a leader in STEM education on Vancouver Island.

Our campus continues to be the envy of all who come to visit and this year we saw the introduction of Twigg’s Trail—a one kilometre running trail that wanders through our woods with a spectacular lookout overseeing the Blenkinsop Valley, its farmland, and Mount Doug towards the north. This was made possible by an anonymous donor who wanted to honour a beloved teacher who recently passed away from cancer. Ms. Twigg was committed to the outdoors, the health and well-being of girls, and STEM education. In addition, she spearheaded our long-standing Terry Fox Run at SMS. Other parts of our campus received the incredible care of our groundskeepers with special attention to enhancing our beautiful landscape including the addition of flowering beds, potted plants, and hanging baskets throughout the various courtyards and entranceways. The introduction of our bees’ apiary adjacent to our outdoor environmental centre also demonstrated our commitment to environmental stewardship.

This past year, the school also held many events that recognized the breadth of SMS supporters within the community including hosting our first Volunteer Recognition Reception in the Middle Years’ courtyard. As we embark on campus renewal, there will be many other opportunities for families to help SMS continue to empower girls now and in the future—annual giving, the endowment fund, creating special places projects, our capital campaign—all of which will enhance both the learning facilities and the opportunities for our girls to excel, grow, and become the leaders of tomorrow. Everyone’s contributions, big or small, truly make a difference and we are extremely grateful for the myriad of ways individuals give to the school.

Once again, a special thank you to the Board of Governors who provide that quiet leadership allowing the school to continue to explore ways of advancing girls’ learning, leadership, and empowerment. Our commitment to creating a culture of continuous renewal and improvement, grounded in evidence-based teaching practices, drives the way we teach and engage students in the learning process. We continuously nurture our girls to believe that anything is possible, and are resolved to eliminate that confidence gap that sometimes prevents girls from pursuing their dreams. This girl-centred imperative, and the knowledge that "little girls with dreams become women of vision," is the foundation of our approach. The talents of our staff, the commitment of our community, and the passion of our girls, reaffirms my belief that all our girls benefit from and thrive in this environment.

Thank you for joining us on this journey of creating tomorrow’s leaders today.

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Carmen Campbell-Hewitt

Chair, Board of Governors

Carmen Campbell-Hewitt

A Message
From the Chair

On behalf of the Board of Governors I am delighted to introduce the 2016/2017 Annual Report­; it’s an honour to share this message with our community.

It was a benchmark year for St. Margaret’s School as we underwent accreditation reviews by both the Canadian Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the BC Ministry of Education. The outcomes of both reviews reflect what we already know to be true—SMS provides an atmosphere for learning and collaboration that is second-to-none and continues to uphold a foundation of excellence.

The operations and strategic priorities of SMS are strongly supported by the Board of Governors. Like an air traffic controller, the Board provides strategic direction from above to ensure the continued viability of SMS. Three new highly qualified governors were elected to the Board at the 2016 AGM, adding to our diverse complement of parents, alumnae, community and business leaders who dedicate their time and expertise to serve the school.

The year in review recommendations from the CAIS report helped the Board strengthen its practices and processes, creating an even greater vision and direction from the control tower. In the up-coming year the Board will continue to support the initiatives of the school as well as endeavor to align the constitution of the St. Margaret’s Society with the new BC Societies Act—behind the scenes work that helps make SMS sound, stable and poised for growth.

As Board Chair, I would like to congratulate Ms. Thornicroft and her team on a job well done and thank them for their daily efforts on behalf of our girls.

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Who We Are

St. Margaret’s School is an independent, not-for-profit, all-girl school, registered under the Societies Act of BC, and accredited by the BC Inspector of Independent Schools and CAIS. Established in 1908, SMS provides empowering education for girls in Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 (Boarding: Grades 7-12).

Who we serve

Foundation Years:

JK to grade 4

The students in the Foundation Years (FY), ages 3-9, are diverse in terms of their growth and maturity and learning needs. At this early stage of development, we build the foundation for skills in literacy and numeracy, and support the personal, social and emotional growth of our students. In the context of a school-based family community, we provide a safe, supportive, and nurturing environment where girls are challenged and encouraged to take risks to develop resiliency. We push the girls to explore their interests to foster curiosity, and collaborate with others to build relationships, while at the same time learning to become independent thinkers.

STEM learning starts with our youngest learners in our Junior Kindergarten program. Our Outdoor While Learning (OWL) curriculum is fostered throughout the FY. The students participate in a variety of STEM learning engagements as well a bi-weekly period we call Explorations. During this time, they gather in cross-grade groupings to explore, inquire, investigate and problem-solve.

In 2016-2017, we brought a beehive onto campus. Through the world of bees, the FY students discovered how we are interconnected with not only bees and the natural world but also each other. As scientists and environmentalists, they explored the deeper concept of sustainability and the importance of caring for our environment. We learned this formally as we inquired and researched during our Explorations time as well as informally while we played and discovered beyond the classroom during Outweek and OWL. There is a noticeable buzz in the Foundation Years. It’s the buzz of engagement, learning and community.

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Middle Years:

Grade 5 to 8

The Middle Years at SMS is a cohesive program that builds upon the foundations of elementary level learning and develops incrementally towards the greater independence and flexibility of choice to prepare for a high school environment. Teachers and staff work together daily to plan out cross-curricular, leadership, and service opportunities for our girls, whose needs in timetabling, course offerings, teacher contact, and social/emotional development are uniquely different from their younger and older peers.

All aspects of the Middle Years program draw on techniques that leverage the unique ways in which girls learn and engage pre-adolescent and early adolescent girls in developing skills that encourage connections between subjects for deeper learning. This comes across in how curriculum is taught, but also determines how the teaching team approaches their work together, placing emphasis on collaboration to achieve best outcomes. Connections between subjects are enhanced in a variety of ways, including leadership, technological literacy, and presenting learning through a lens of inquiry, critical thinking, and reflection.

A unique aspect of our program is the inclusion of grade 5 in the Middle Years. This offers many benefits to the learner, providing a longer day for instruction, increased interaction with specialized faculty, a diverse range of curricular opportunities, and regular access to technology as a learning tool. For students in our International English Language Program (boarding starts in Grade 7), immersing English language learners into classes with their English-speaking peers reinforces English language skills. This is a great benefit for all of our students. The interaction between our international students gives domestic students a global perspective and awareness of multiple learning styles.

MY Students also benefit from co-curricular opportunities unique to these grade levels, including an annual Girls Empowerment Conference falling on International Day of the Girl that focuses on themes relevant to this age group, including body image and positive role models.

Looking ahead, we’re excited that the MY program has grown significantly over the past year, creating two cohorts in Grades 6, 7, and 8, expanding opportunities for all girls in the program.

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Senior Years:

Grade 9 to 12

The Senior Years at SMS are an academically rigorous, university preparatory program for girls in Grades 9 to 12. As girls approach graduation, the focus during these critical years is to foster independence in work habits, developing an increasingly sophisticated set of skills to navigate their learning, strengthening connections between subject areas through inquiry-based learning, developing opinions that are supported by research and evidence, participating in active mentorship of younger peers, and using their voice to make a difference.

Preparation for university is in fact a rather short-term goal for our students. Through our approach and programs we seek to inspire students to contribute as active and engaged citizens in their community, and to instill a desire for lifelong learning and continual personal improvement. Teens yearn to share their voice and SMS provides a safe learning environment where each student is encouraged to incrementally build their capacity as leaders. The diversity of our student body is embraced to better understand and connect with the global community.

A continued focus for our SY students is to strengthen connections between our boarding and school-day programs in order to further foster the overall well-being of our students and enhance relationships within our multicultural student body. In terms of academic goals, we focus on analyzing course offerings to enhance and broaden the scope of learning while addressing changes in the new curriculum which will be fully implemented in September 2018.

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Grade 7 to 12

For girls who thrive on independence and challenge, our Boarding School program for grade 7 to 12 welcomes students from British Columbia and around the world. Our safe and picturesque West Coast campus includes four contemporary boarding houses that have a capacity of up to 130 students. Living where you learn is a unique experience that fosters friendships and offers numerous advantages to students for growth and skill-development.

Our Boarding model is designed to create a warm and welcoming home-away-from-home. Our Boarding curriculum provides structured mentorship and ensures students are meeting objectives in four areas: social connection, active and creative pursuits, and service opportunities. This curriculum was designed to foster responsibility and accountability, intercultural awareness and inclusivity, goal setting for personal growth and engagement. In Grade 12, students work toward privileges that match their growing maturity, build self-efficacy, and ultimately help them transition to their next stage of life after graduation.

The 2016-17 year was focused on creating connections and building relationships with parents and members of our community. Student led activities and programs provided opportunities for day students, teachers, staff and members of the PAC to participate in boarding life. The introduction of smartphones and the use of specific applications increased communication with our international parents. Additional student leadership opportunities were created to include boarding representation on school committees as well as the new position of Head of Residence that works closely with the Head and Deputy Head Girl. We continued to build connections and network with other CAIS and ISABC schools such as St. George’s School and Queen Margaret’s School through student led events.

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Enrolment Report

Admissions efforts during 2016-2017 continued to focus on increasing our day population and thereby continuing to balance the boarding/day student ratio. We are pleased that our local advertising and brand campaigns, partnerships, and community outreach events have continued to increase our enrolment across all grades.

Nations represented in our school include Canada, China, Mexico, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, United States, Argentina and the Philippines.

Total Students
Foundation Years /117
(JK - Grade 4)
Middle Years /110
(Grade 5 - 8)
Senior Years /145
(Grade 9 - 12)
Boarding /116
(Grade 7 - 12)
Avg. Class Size /16
Student : Teacher
Ratio /8:1
Countries of Origin

The Class of 2017

One hundred percent of SMS graduates receive offers of admission from post-secondary institutions of their choice. This year, of our 44 grads, two students chose to take a gap year for travel or work. Our guidance department provides resources and one-on-one advising to help students explore career paths, post-secondary programs, scholarship opportunities, and their own strengths and interests. In total our grads received 126 offers of admission and $312k in scholarships and awards.


(# of acceptances)

  • Bishop’s University


  • Carleton University


  • Fairleigh Dickinson University


  • King’s College London


  • LaSalle College


  • Les Roches International School of Hotel Management


  • McGill University


  • McMaster University


  • Nottingham University


  • Pennsylvania State University


  • Principia College Illinois


  • Queen’s University


  • Ryerson Polytechnic University


  • San Diego State University


  • San Francisco State University


  • San Jose State University


  • Simon Fraser University


  • Trent University


  • Trinity Western University


  • University College London


  • University of Alberta


  • University of Auckland


  • University of Bristol


  • University of British Columbia


  • University of California


  • University of East Anglia


  • University of Exeter


  • University of Guelph


  • University of Hawaii


  • University of Nottingham


  • University of Surrey


  • University of Toronto


  • University of Victoria


  • University of Waterloo


  • University of Western Ontario


  • York University


Fields of Study (# of students)

  • Business & Management
  • Biology / Chemistry / Sciences
  • Social Science
  • Psychology
  • Computer Science / IT
  • Economics
  • Liberal Arts / Arts & Sciences
  • Fine Arts / Music / Visual Arts
  • University Language Prep
  • Architecture
  • English
  • Global Perspectives
  • Hospitality Management
  • Human Resources
  • Humanities
  • Media
  • Pharmacy

Community Connections


St. Margaret’s holds itself to the highest standards. Excelling at the highest level requires no less, and the students and parents who entrust the school with the task of preparing girls for excellence deserve the best. For St. Margaret’s, striving for excellence included engaging in an extensive accreditation process through both the BC Ministry of Education and the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS).

The Ministry of Education evaluation ensures all schools meet the standards to operate safely in adherence to government legislation and regulations. This audit also ensures alignment with the Ministry’s redesigned curriculum and assessment practices. The CAIS requirements encompass 12 comprehensive standards under which there are 128 “effective practices.” These standards cover every aspect of school existence and operations—from vision to academic programs to physical plant to board governance.

Here are a few of the key outcomes:


  • The implementation of the STEM philosophy throughout the school, from JK to Grade 12.
  • The ECE program for being an exemplary program that embodies the mission and vision of the school.
  • The way all students are encouraged to take risks in small and large ways, undergirded by a supportive environment that allows for everyone to take risks that are personalized.
  • The quality and breadth of experiential learning opportunities from the Kindergarten through Grade 12 educational program.


  • Continue the development of a strong Board that seeks out governors with myriad skills and experiences, community connections, and strong advocacy skills for the mission of the school.
  • Strengthen and expand our definition of diversity to include “diversity of experiences, viewpoints, backgrounds, and life experiences, as well being open to differences among people, cultures, and perspectives.”
  • Nurture a culture of philanthropy that welcomes community engagement, contribution, and support of the mission of the school. It is key to a second century of innovation.

Next Steps

Since receiving the evaluation report, St. Margaret’s has been working diligently to promptly address many of the recommendations.

Steps that have been taken include working to streamline the admissions process through new procedures and increased personnel. Holding information sessions and events and engaging student ambassadors.

Professional development to help with generating meaningful classroom conversations and developing a model of professional growth that extends to all staff. As well as working to enhance engagement with the school community to ensure regular feedback and suggestions for improvement are being heard.


Fees (1)10,213,09110,920,664
School Store151,789172,727
Government Grant511,670589,850
Other Income (2)485,129521,211
Total Non Fee Related1,233,6141,429,598
TOTAL REVENUES (ALL FUNDS)11,446,70512,350,262
(1) Fees include a net effect of bursaries and discounts, external programs, and 1 time capital fees.
(2) Other Income includes childcare and other gov't grants, tuition refund plan,interest, and misc income.
Salaries and Benefits7,829,0008,214,009
Materials and Services2,848,0652,955,736
Amortization and other Non Operation Expenses651,623628,649

Financial Report

Continued success in the management of our operations while making improvements within our means gave the school positive financial results. A long range ten-year overall plan was implemented and used throughout the year to provide support for decision making, setting future goals, and the ability to model and forecast in multiple year settings.

For the third year in a row, we increased our reserves for endowment, capital, and operating purposes. Our goal to increase interest and enrolment in our day programs was achieved and contributed to a stable programming environment for many levels of our school.

In the coming years we will work closely with admissions and advancement to foster opportunity for us to satisfy our emerging needs of increased scholarships/bursaries, facilities maintenance, and capital growth.

Capital spending included maintenance projects scheduled on our capital preventative plan, as well as single initiatives including classroom furniture upgrades in middle years, completion of the middle years courtyard, washroom upgrade in Alexis Hall, purchase of a replacement bus, upgrades to the school owned house, and bulk IPad purchases in preparation for classroom use to name a few. Work began over the past year to prepare for our campus renewal initiative. This included securing a project manager and the creation of an overall project plan.

We thank everyone for continuing to choose St Margaret’s for the education and growth of your girls. We look forward to providing the consistent, solid financial oversight to support our wonderful shared purpose.

Elaine Bell, Director of Finance and Corporate Services


Contingency Funds

Servite in Caritate

A Tribute to Michelle Twigg

Thirty seven years ago, Terry Fox inspired a nation with his Marathon of Hope. On a quest to end cancer, he attempted to run across Canada with his prosthetic leg. Now, in his memory, people in more than 40 countries take part in the annual Terry Fox run, which has raised over $700 million worldwide.

Michelle Twigg, a mother, and former educator at St. Margaret’s School, grew up inspired by stories of Terry’s courage and perseverance. Michelle connected with Terry’s message in a way that was exceptional. She was a dedicated ‘Terry Fox-er,’ and passionate promoter of his message and values. When Michelle was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, the attributes with which Michelle shared with Terry, were intensified.

Unfortunately, Michelle died from breast cancer last November, at the age of 38.

Thanks to an anonymous donation, we created a 1 km chip trail through our campus woods. Along the trail will include inspirational signage to encourage the girls to never give up and will recognize the beloved connection between our former teacher, nature, and our generous benefactors. The soon to be christened, “Twigg Trail” will be well used and much loved by our school community. We thank the donors and know that Michelle would have received this honour with humility and grace as the trail represents many of the things that were important to her: Children. Physical Fitness. Education. Challenging yourself to always do more.

Thank You to Our Donors

The 2016-2017 Annual Fund showed marked improvement from the prior year’s campaign with the total coming in at approximately $146,000 (2015/2016 was $85,000). A key reason for this year’s success was our St Margaret’s golf tournament. The SMS community came together for golf fun and kick started our campus renewal with a $30,000 contribution. There were many ways to provide support to SMS including volunteer time, our annual book and craft fairs, Christmas gift baskets, and contributions to our annual giving with choices of Creating Special Places (funds tied to building and capital projects), Scholarships and Bursaries, and Endowment.

It is the donations and generosity from our community that help fund strategic growth and capital improvements. We are very appreciative of our past supporters and current champions. These efforts will continue to drive the second century at St Margaret’s School.

To all those who donated during the 2016 • 2017 campaign.

Your gifts, big or small, make a world of difference for girls:

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