There’s an extra reason to be excited about the turn of a new school year at Marymount International School: the opening of their Fab Lab. Headmistress Sarah Gallagher explains what to expect

Marymount International School was the first all girls boarding school to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma in the UK, some 35 years ago. They were also an early adopter of the IB Middle Years Programme for 11-16-year-olds and have been teaching the MYP for 18 years. Now, Marymount is the first school as well as the first all girls school in the UK to introduce a fully equipped Fab Lab, which will enable the tuition of computer programming, coding, robotics and design – areas that straddle the disciplines of mathematics, physics, technology and art and design.

Here Headmistress Sarah Gallagher explains what this means for her students, but before that we take a look at other ways Marymount International offers opportunities for its students…

Marymount London has girls and staff from over 45 counties – what kind of atmosphere does this generate?

This generates a rich atmosphere of openness and multiplicity. One of the school’s goals is ‘to create unity through diversity’. Implicit in this is the experiential recognition that there are various approaches and multiple answers to everything. Our mathematics teachers have evolved an ability to teach students who come from very different traditions and have been taught using a variety of methods. This opens doors and widens the horizon for both students and teachers. In our IB Diploma history lessons, too, students learn to challenge national bias and stereotyping when they are taught about WW2 in a group of peers often made up of British, German, American, Japanese and Russian nationals.

In this very international world we live in, does it give them an added advantage when they go out to work?

According to recent studies undertaken by HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency), students with an IB are twice as likely to be accepted at the top 20 UK universities and more likely to obtain a first class honours and upper second class honours degrees than A-Level students. Furthermore, the median salary of IB leavers was £1,500 higher than that of A-Level holders in 2011.

Equally our research shows that top companies prefer candidates with linguistic skills and an international outlook. This is not just because the IB curriculum requires a broader range and depth in six subjects, or indeed that students explore all of their learning philosophically via ToK (Theory of Knowledge), but because they have developed a deeply intuitive, international understanding.

The Fab Lab comes to Marymount International School

Marymount International School London has long been known for its excellent facilities

Marymount London has been offering the IB Diploma for 35 years now. What do you make of its popularity today, and again how important is the chance to study the programme?

All the elements of the Programme – Primary, Middle Years and Diploma – focus on developing students who are thinkers, inquirers, risk takers, balanced, caring, reflective, open-minded, principled and knowledgeable.

We are aware that the primary purpose of schools, as they have evolved since the Industrial Revolution, has altered dramatically. The need to carry a body of knowledge and a limited skillset of the 3 Rs is no longer enough. Information and knowledge is now available to an excessive, previously unimaginable level. What matters is the processing of information. Students need to be equipped with the necessary tools to do this. Information needs to be processed with principle, integrity, and an eye to citizenship and care for others. This is vital, not just for the economic viability of our global citizenry but for civil society as a whole

Do you aim to offer as many opportunities to your students as you possibly can?

We do. In our programme we have ten languages on offer at IB Diploma level. For a school of 250 students, the range of subjects is exceptionally wide. But it’s really within the extra-curricular programme that you single out the excellent schools and our range is broad, both locally and internationally. We compete in sport and drama all over the UK and Europe, and across the globe too. Every year we send about 24 girls to The Hague for the Model United Nations (MUN), where 3,000 students from all over Europe attend. Our younger students also attend other, smaller MUN gatherings

The Fab Lab comes to Marymount International School

It’s important to Marymount International School London to offer the best opportunities to their students

Which leads us to the Fab Lab – what inspired you to set this up at Marymount London?

I usually try to visit schools within our Network as well as keep in touch with developments in other leading schools. On a recent professional trip to New York I visited The Avenues School, as well as our sister school, Marymount New York, and both schools have a Fab Lab. The Avenues is very cutting edge, and seeing the opportunity provided by their Fab Lab, it was clear to me that this is something all schools should have. A Fab Lab is exactly the sort of inter-disciplinary creative digital space that a 21st century student needs. .

What will this enable you to offer?

The girls have seen the space; the 3D printers, scanners and laser cutters, but what they have not been able to experience is the potential for that space. They will be introduced to a new curriculum and embark on an exciting journey exploring the possibilities the Fab Lab will offer across all subject areas. They will be encouraged to stretch their thinking and be creative in ways they hadn’t thought possible before.

Why is it important to Marymount London to offer STEM subjects?

Girls in general are very much disposed to do work that is meaningful and makes a difference to the world. You see the figures and girls are under used in areas like engineering and I would like to encourage them all to have the opportunity to enter this field. After all, the IB curriculum from Primary to Diploma is very much about a broad education for students which opens up such possibilities

Marymount International School, George Road, Kingston-upon-Thames KT2 7PE; 020 8949 0571;