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Queen Margaret’s 449
Cloisters 1170

What it’s like to live in Cloisters (Lower Sixth)

Life in Cloisters is never dull and certainly never cloistered! Our enviable position in the heart of the School, in its distinctive self-contained quad building, means there is always a great deal of bustle and laughter. Cloisters has recently been fully refurbished to create modern loft style living and the airy, spacious twin rooms represent the final year of sharing in Queen Margaret’s. Girls quickly customise their space to reflect either the tremendous friendships that have grown up over the years, or the newer bonds that form between new girls who join us at Sixth Form. The shared facilities are the envy of the boarding houses, comprising a spacious, well-equipped and attractive kitchen and café space, a roomy Common Room perfect for cosy film nights as well as informal House meetings, a specially designated classroom study area and two intimate common landings. Lower Sixth girls work hard but also play hard, and their involvement in all aspects of School life is second to none; they soon learn how to manage their time effectively in order to balance the demands of A Levels and commitments to Enrichment interests such as MUN, The Prince’s Trust, Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award, choir, performances in School productions, musicals and dance shows,  not to mention a vast array of sporting opportunities. In short, there’s a real buzz about the building that reflects what an exciting time this is in a young woman’s life.

We asked our Cloisters Housemistress about her favourite part of life in the Lower Sixth. Here’s what she had to say…

What I like best about my role as LVI Housemistress is the variety that living in a big family inevitably brings. Cloisters has an atmosphere and identity all of its own; we laugh a lot in Cloisters and the building’s layout lends itself to social interaction and team spirit. My favourite times are in the evenings when girls pop into the Duty Room for various reasons ranging from needing a plaster or to book a taxi, to talk about prep or universities…or simply to grab a biscuit and have a good moan about the day! The weekends are fun in Cloisters as well, we come together for a variety of popular events – anything from themed film and pizza nights, afternoon tea parties, cheese and wine tasting evenings, and ‘Cellars’ –whilst on Sundays chapel services, in-house brunches and evening House meetings, are all highlights. The girls are largely free to organise their own time and that makes for a special atmosphere in Cloisters. Many go off to sports fixtures, or shop and eat out in York or the local Designer Outlet, and some will simply hang out in Cloisters kitchen with a Thai curry takeaway. Of course many will be working away quietly in their rooms but there’s always something going on and it’s great to be a part of that!

What should parents know about Cloisters?

Most importantly, perhaps, parents should know that Cloisters staff recognise that the Lower Sixth is a critical transitional year in their daughter’s lives, both academically, as they progress from GCSEs to A Levels, but also socially. Cloisters’ staff aim to provide support and guidance through the increased demands and pressures of School life; we keep a watchful eye at all times, but we also respect the growing need for privacy and independence. Finding the right balance and providing it at the right time is key; knowing when to leave alone and when to intervene and guide are important aspects of what we do, and the staff in Cloisters pride themselves on getting that balance right. We aim to gently remind girls of good manners and old-fashioned but essential values such as reliability, punctuality and kindness; living in such close proximity to others requires a great deal of sensitivity, tolerance and compromise at times and respect for difference is a key part of the message we reinforce in Cloisters. We also recognise that no matter how experienced a student might be in terms of boarding life, there will always be times when homesickness or loneliness will strike, and we aim to be there for our students at times like these, and make Cloisters as close to a home-from-home as can be.

What makes Cloisters unique from others on campus?

What makes Cloisters unique is the unusual mix of old and new, an exciting blend of girls who have boarded at Queen Margaret’s for many years, and the arrival of up to a third of new girls from all parts of the world, some of whom have never lived away from home before. Cloisters has a truly exciting feel and we try to celebrate this and make the most of wider cultural opportunities. Reaching the Sixth Form also allows for greater privileges and freedoms, increased trust and openness, and this signals a shift in the atmosphere of the boarding house which will never be quite the same again for the girls either before or after. Unlike other School houses, Cloisters also elects a House Representative who meets with the year group on a regular basis in order to discuss how we can make life better for all; topics for discussion might include quiet times for study, or how to improve the fabric and décor of the building, or simply a vote for a change of morning break biscuit supplies! Whatever the issue, the girls have a voice and are listened on all matters. This is what makes Cloisters a remarkable place to live, work and play, to listen and be heard, and to laugh.