Cathy Thornicroft

Head of School

A Message
From the Head

In looking back on the 2015/2016 school year, St. Margaret’s School has much to be proud of as we continue to be a leader in girls’ education. Our day enrolment has increased significantly (32 new families) allowing us to double grade cohorts in the Middle Years. Our Creating Special Places initiative saw the transformation of our Middle Years Courtyard with additional enhancements around the campus in terms of new classroom furniture, landscaping, and enhancement of our residence facilities.

With the introduction of the Ministry’s redesigned curriculum, SMS is well positioned to implement the changes to help prepare our girls for the future. Our commitment to STEM education stems from our belief in experiential and inquiry-based learning, and the opportunities for women that abound in innovative fields. This commitment will culminate in our upcoming STEM Leadership Conference—Heads and Hearts to Action—to be hosted at SMS in April 2017.

As I write this, our staff is looking forward to hosting a team of educators and leaders from across Canada to complete our CAIS Accreditation. The two cornerstones of accreditation are "celebrating strengths" and "determining next steps" to ensure our school’s journey continues forward successfully. The accreditation team is with us for four days to evaluate our school based on the 12 CAIS National Standards of Excellence, and their suggestions and recommendations will be embedded into our 10-year Strategic Plan—which is nearly half-way through its implementation—to ensure we are continuing to meet our goals in advancing girls’ learning, leadership, and empowerment.

I believe SMS welcomes a culture of continuous renewal and improvement in evidence-based teaching practice. How we nurture our girls today influences the scope of their dreams, the belief that anything is possible, and the resolve to pursue their goals with integrity. This imperative, and the knowledge that "little girls with dreams become women of vision," is the foundation of our approach and referenced in all our messaging, including this year’s successful video campaign. Going forward, I am confident in the initiatives we are working on this year to enhance learning opportunities for girls. With your support of the Annual Fund, we can build the school’s Endowment Fund and begin preparations for Campus Renewal. Everyone’s contributions, big or small, truly make a difference!

Our school’s success story is a never-ending one, including many people from the past, the present, and welcoming many more in the future. Our ability to leverage the talents of our staff, the commitment of our community, and the passion of our girls reaffirms my belief that all girls would 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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Jeremy Mannall-Fretwell

Chair, Board of Governors

A Message
From the Chair

The Board is grateful for the opportunity to introduce the Annual Report of St. Margaret’s School. This document, first presented last year, is a key tool in providing accountability to the SMS community. The Board of Governors takes its responsibility for policy and financial oversight of the St. Margaret’s School Society very seriously. This annual report is part of that responsibility as it provides insight into the financial and administrative workings of the school and demonstrates to the SMS community that their school is successful and sustainable, in terms of both enrolment and the fiscal bottom line.

The school moves steadily forward towards the vision articulated in our Strategic Plan. This year, we will reach another significant milestone in the completion of the CAIS accreditation process. A key part of this process has been a revisiting of the mission, vision, and values articulated in the Strategic Plan, to test them for continued validity and alignment. Leading the way in this “testing” has been the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. They have provided invaluable feedback, both in terms of alignment, but also in confirming through action that the Steering Committee itself (part of the strategic plan implementation model) is functioning as envisioned in the strategic plan.

It is with great pleasure that I offer the congratulations of the Board of Governors to Head of School Cathy Thornicroft and her administrative team for another solid year of results. Their efforts continue to propel the school forward, and to keep St. Margaret’s strong and vibrant. As we start down the path of campus renewal and look forward to a new chapter in the history of St. Margaret’s, we do so with confidence in a stable financial position, strong growth in day student enrolment, and consistent results in our boarding program.

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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).

Our mission

Empowering her to set her own course & shape her own dreams

Our vision


Our motto


Little girls with dreams become women of vision

In 2016, our largest single marketing initiative was the development of three new promotional videos. The main video—starring confident SMS girls and their big dreams—took the internet by storm following its release in June 2016, garnering a whopping 57,000 views in its first month alone. As this report is written, online impressions of the video have crept up over 100,000 on Facebook and that number continues to climb. Empowering education for girls: the movement is catching...

Who we serve

Foundation Years:

JK to grade 4

The students in the Foundation Years, ages 3-9, represent diversity in terms of their growth and development, and therefore their learning needs. At this early stage of development we are building the foundation for the basic skills in literacy and numeracy but we also are setting the stage for the personal, social and emotional growth of our students. With our small class sizes in a 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, explore their interests to foster curiosity, and collaborate with others while at the same time learning to be independent thinkers who solve problems.

STEM learning at SMS starts with our youngest learners in the Early Childhood Education Centre in an innovative approach. Students in the foundation years are learning the skills and literacies that will set them up for their entire education.

As a unique aspect of the Foundation Years, students participate bi-weekly in a special learning engagement called Explorations. During this time, they gather in cross-grade groupings to explore, inquire, and investigate a variety of topics. While the students enjoy learning new content, the goal of Explorations is to develop the STEM skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, collaborating with others, and communicating their learning in a variety of ways. In 2015-2016, the Big Idea explored was the ocean, and all activities revolved around this theme, from building prototypes for underwater exploration to tackling environmental concerns.

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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 other Middle Years 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 grades 5 & 6 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 our all of our students.   The interaction with our International students gives SMS 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 5, 7, and 8 and 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 life-long 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.

Now in its third year, the Program of Distinction (PoDs) offers SMS students an opportunity to complete a capstone project for credit through independent study with mentorship. Among the Class of 2016, eight students were recognized for successfully completing PoDs in Leadership, Fine Arts, Athletics, Ecological Stewardship, and Fine Arts.

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Grade 7 to 12

For girls who thrive on independence and challenge, our Boarding School program for Grades 7–12 welcomes students from BC and around the world. Our safe and picturesque West Coast campus includes four contemporary boarding houses that house up to 136 students. Living where you learn is a unique experience, fosters friendships bridging borders and backgrounds, and offers numerous advantages to students for growth and skill-development.

More than merely a bed to sleep in, our residence model is designed to create a warm and welcoming home-away-from-home. Live-in House Moms also teach or work in other areas of the school, which provides a 360-degree perspective to understanding and supporting each girl’s learning goals.

Our boarding program has its own curriculum that provides structured mentorship and ensures students are meeting objectives in four areas: social connection, active pursuits, creative pursuits, and service opportunities. This curriculum was designed to foster a sense of belonging, responsibility and accountability, intercultural awareness, goal setting for personal growth, and engagement.

By Grade 12, students enjoy greater freedoms and privileges that match their growing maturity, build self-efficacy, and ultimately help girls transition to their next stage of life after graduation.

A key milestone for the 2015-2016 school year was the renovation of an existing building on campus in order to create accommodations for the Director of Residence to live on campus and provide more holistic support for the program.

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Enrolment Report

Admissions efforts during 2015-2016 continued to focus on balancing boarding students with a growing population of day girls.  We are pleased to see our local advertising and brand campaigns, partnerships, and community outreach events have increased our enrolment across all grades.  We continue to work on our retention, researching how new students find us, and taking the feedback to make improvements where possible.

The School is working on a customer profile that will help us to articulate the values that families are seeking for their daughters’ education.

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





Financial Aid


Total Students
Foundation Years /110
(JK - Grade 4)
Middle Years /77
(Grade 5 - 8)
Senior Years /158
(Grade 9 - 12)
Boarding /128
(Grade 7 - 12)
Avg. Class Size /16
Student : Teacher
Ratio /8:1
Countries of Origin

The Class of 2016

One hundred percent of SMS graduates receive offers of admission from post-secondary institutions of their choice (of those who apply). This year, of our 34 grads, four students chose to take a Gap Year for travel or work. Of the 29 scholarships offered to our graduates in 2016, the largest single award was a merit scholarship at Florida International University, valued at $15,565 renewable annually.

With the school’s focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), we are proud that 37% of our grads are going into pure and applied sciences. Including degree programs with significant Math components increases this STEM ratio 57%. The remaining 43% will be studying Arts and Humanities, disciplines which ground and connect the STEM fields. 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.

Largest single scholarship: $15,565 renewable annually
approx. $62K over four years


(# of acceptances)

  • Academy of Art University


  • Bath University


  • California College of the Arts


  • Camosun College


  • Coquitlam College


  • De Montfort University


  • De Pauw University


  • Drexel University


  • Emily Carr University of Art & Design


  • Florida International University


  • Fordham University


  • International Christian University


  • Langara College


  • McGill University


  • Nottingham University


  • Ontario College of Art


  • Pennsylvania State University


  • Purdue University


  • Rutgers University


  • Ryerson Polytechnic University


  • School of Visual Arts


  • Sheridan College


  • Simon Fraser University


  • University College of London


  • University for the Creative Arts


  • University of British Columbia


  • University of British Columbia Okanagan


  • University of Calgary


  • University of California - Davis


  • University of Guelph


  • University of Iowa


  • University of Leeds


  • University of Michigan


  • University of Pittsburgh


  • University of the Arts London


  • University of Toronto


  • University of Toronto Mississauga


  • University of Victoria


  • University of Washington


  • University of Waterloo


  • University of Western Ontario


  • University of Wisconsin-Madison


  • York University


Fields of Study (# of students)

  • Arts / Humanities /
    Social Sciences
  • Visual Arts
  • Food and Nutrition /
  • Accounting /Finance
  • Business
  • Civil Engineering
  • Economics
  • Health Sciences / Nurses
  • Cinema Studies
  • English
  • Fashion Photography
  • Graphic Design
  • International Studies
  • Media
  • Pharmacy
  • Sciences

Spotlight on Our Scholars

What Makes Us Special

Experiential Learning by the Numbers
student numbers graphic Wild outweek graphic


We believe all girls can thrive in the unique environment offered at SMS. It is our commitment to life-long learning, to the advancement of causes related to girls’ development and wellbeing, and our motto of service that have led us to reach out to our community and include them in learning opportunities like our workshops and guest lectures. To support shared goals of empowering girls through STEM learning, working towards gender parity in traditionally-male dominated fields, and opening opportunities for young women in innovative careers, SMS seeks out partnerships with like-minded organizations. The resulting community events support collegial collaboration, cross-pollination of ideas, and thought-leadership in STEM and girl’s education, while also providing a fabulous forum for members of the public to discover our school. Here are some key examples from the past year:

Official Home for Girls Learning Code

Community partnerships are essential to enhancing our STEM learning resources for our own students and providing outreach for girls in our community. A prime example is our partnership with Girls Learning Code, the local youth chapter of the national non-profit focused on empowering girls and women through digital literacy. As the Victoria home for GLC, last year 251 girls participated in 4 workshops hosted at SMS to learn coding skills for website design, games design, and other applications. A strength of GLC’s model is the use of working professionals as volunteer mentors who help deliver training events which provides girls contact with positive role models but also allows the workshops to be offered free of charge or by donation for accessibility. With support from Science Venture and Actua Canada, GLC and SMS also launched a new week-long summer camp, Coder: Girl, which was equally popular with its 39 participants as it was with the local press.

Community Learning Series

Our annual community learning series seeks to inform and engage our staff, parents, and community in discussion of current trends in education and issues affecting girls. These guest lectures and hands-on workshops are most often delivered to each of our three audiences—students, parents/community members, and staff—in order to tailor the message to each audience’s needs and interest, and to promote positive change by equipping all members of the community with the same information. Topics from the past year included: Allison Rees on 21st century parenting, Stephanie Curran on approachable mindfulness practice, Chris Rowan on healthier technology habits for the whole family, Brie Mathers on body image, and a special screening of the award winning documentary, Most Likely to Succeed. In total, over 350 parents and new community members attended our sessions last year.

Other STEM Outreach:
Ocean Networks Canada and LEGO® Robotics

Last year, SMS partnered with Ocean Networks Canada and Girl Guides of Canada to host its first Ocean Aware Challenge. SMS hosted 122 local girls and their mentors at SMS to learn about the seven principles of ocean literacy through a variety of hands-on and art-making activities. In 2015, SMS was also named the new affiliate partner for LEGO® Robotics for the province of British Columbia. FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) introduces young people, ages 9 to 14 (grades 4-8), to the fun and excitement of science and technology while building self-confidence, knowledge, and valuable career and life skills. SMS hosted 32 teams at the regional tournament in February, including two teams of girls from SMS.


Fees (1)10,015,92310,213,091
School Store153,261151,789
Government Grant531,692511,670
Other Income (2)473,244485,129
Total Non Fee Related1,326,4121,233,614
TOTAL REVENUES (ALL FUNDS)11,342,33511,446,705
(1) Fees include a net effect of bursaries and discounts, external programs, and one time capital fees.
(2) Other Income includes childcare and other gov't grants, tuition refund plan, interest, and misc income.
Salaries and Benefits7,468,9937,829,000
Materials and Services2,837,5042,849,065
Amortization and other Non Operation Expenses694,519651,623

Financial Report

2015-2016 marked a great year for St Margaret’s School. We are well established in our strategic direction and completed the second year of a three-year plan. We recognized that the three year window was not enough, and have now set a goal to complete a ten year plan by the end of 2016-2017 to allow us to line up the various elements that are integral to our future. This ten year model includes facilities requirements, IT initiatives, enrolment expectations, and cash flow modeling.

Our actual results once again exceeded our plan, and in fact for two years of planned deficits, we were able to produce positive results. Consequently we have improved our contingency and endowment funds to the extent possible.

An important success over the past year was to obtain a five year collective agreement with our staff. We are appreciative of the collegial and cooperative relationship that made this possible. We are committed to making St Margaret’s not only a school of choice, but an employer of choice. By implementing improvements within our means, we support a more positive experience for staff, parents, and most of all the girls. Our ability to have stability in our area of greatest costs for the next five years has made it possible for us to shape the environment to its utmost potential.

As we go forward, in order to provide opportunities for well deserving girls to experience an SMS education, we recognize the need to grow our ability to provide financial aid. We were pleased to award our first Passport to Lifelong Learning scholarships, and hope to identify improvements and new initiatives in the coming years.

Although the endowment growth will take several years to materialize, it is essential to build the School’s future in order to attract and retain families in our community who value our unique all girls learning environment. When financial results allow, we will continue to fund our endowment and contingency efforts.

Along with the regular required maintenance over the past year, our facilities efforts included enhancements such as the Middle Years’ courtyard project, increased parking, and providing an onsite accommodation for our Director of Residence. Over the next year, our focus will turn to the long range campus renewal.

We thank all of our families for your continued engagement and support in our wonderful purpose at St Margaret’s School. We are confident as we continue to build on the strength of our growing student body, and our solid financial plan, that all stakeholders will remain fulfilled.

Elaine Bell, Director of Finance


Contingency Funds









Percentage of new students for 2016 • 2017 who are day families

Increase in new day students from 2015• 2016, looking ahead to 2016 • 2017

Percentage improvement of net new day families from 2015 • 2016 • 2016 • 2017

Invested in capital purchases & project


Major Project Spotlight

The Middle Years courtyard was renovated last year thanks to a generous donation by the Lanni family.

The redesigned space creates a welcoming environment for social connection and outdoor teaching for the adjacent classrooms.

“From the moment we first set foot on campus, we believed that St. Margaret's was a special place.

Participating in the SMS Annual Fund campaign enables us to help the school develop high quality spaces where education can extend beyond the classroom to create truly memorable learning experiences for our daughters. How could we not want to support that?”

~ The Lanni Family

Thank You to Our Donors

The 2015-2016 Annual Fund campaign raised approximately $85,000.  As in past years, donors had choices of where to designate their funds, the majority opted to contribute to Creating Special Places (funds tied to building and capital projects) and Scholarships and Bursaries (funds tied to our Endowment Fund).  We have a long range plan to increase our Endowment Fund to secure our future growth.  We continue to seek your support for this initiative.  The school maintains operations on a day to day basis with maximum efficiency.  It is the donations and generosity from our community that allow us to fund our capital improvements and strategic initiatives.  We are grateful to all of those past supporters and our current champions, whose collective efforts allow SMS to thrive now and in years to come.

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