Our Catholic Heritage

Our Catholic Heritage

St Michael’s was founded by a group of Catholic nuns (The Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus,
SPJ’s) who lived at that time in North Finchley – the oldest building (The Grange) was given
as a charitable donation to them and they began a school for young children. The school
changed over the years and is today an 11-18 grammar school; but its Catholic nature has
remained throughout.


The SPJ’s were set up in Aachen in Germany in 1844 by Clara Fey. Clara’s motivation was to
devote her life to looking after and educating the homeless children of her native town. She
was joined in this mission by her friends and in time by hundreds of women who were
motivated to improve the lives of young people. The SPJ’s sent a mission to Southam in
Warwickshire (this was where the UK’s mother house was based) and from Southam a
mission to North Finchley, which then set up our school.
We remain true to our original foundation in that we give a preference in our admissions to
those who are Pupil Premium (PP), we also pay particular regard to our PP students in class
– ensuring they progress as well as all other students.

Like many other congregations of religious (i.e. nuns or monks) numbers have decreased in
recent years – the SPJ’s found they could no longer support St Michael’s and they arranged
for the school to be transferred to the trusteeship of the Loreto Sisters (often called the
IBVM = Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary); this happened in 2019. The Loreto sisters were
founded by Mary Ward, a Yorkshire woman who’s courageous and inspirational work to
educate girls 400 years ago resonates down to the present day.
More information about Mary Ward and the Mary Ward values can be found HERE
As well as preserving the memory and ethos of the SPJ’s, St Michael’s has become a Loreto
school. Our students and staff have grown in their understanding of the story of Mary Ward
and the incredible things that she and those who follow in her example have achieved. As a
girl’s school (with a small number of boys in the Sixth Form) we share Mary Ward’s
determination to work towards creating a society where there is true equality of
opportunity between girls and boys and achieving the mission that Mary Ward wanted
when she walked to Rome 400 years ago. We can draw parallels between the story of Mary
Ward, the woman who wanted no more than Justice for women 400 years ago, and our
more recent former student Karen Harrison, who, in 1979 was the first female train driver in
the UK: Karen overcame prejudice and discrimination and became a union leader to fight
for the rights not just of women but all railway workers. Karen’s image has been
immortalised in the recent advert to encourage women to apply to become train drivers
(see caption). The school sees its role in enabling young people to succeed in their studies
so that they can take up positions of influence in society and so change it so that it more
faithfully reflects the teachings of Jesus.

Karen Harrison – former
St Michael’s student.
This image taken
between platform 1 and
2 at Euston Station,
London 2023. Karen
applied to be a train
driver, on her
application she simply
wrote “K Harrison” and
dressed as a man to the
interview. She was
Britain’s first female
train driver.

We have embraced the seven Loreto values as an articulation of the core Christian values
already exemplified by our school. As well as encouraging our students to fight for Justice,
as Mary Ward did) we encourage them to embrace the Freedom that education can deliver.
Our relations between all within our community are characterised by Sincerity and Truth;
we are a harmonious school. As a school full of gifted individuals, we encourage staff and
students to strive for Excellence, and maintain a healthy work-life balance so that our lives
can be characterised by Joy. As a London school, we serve a range of diverse ethnic groups
from around the world – Internationality is a key part of our life.




Love one another, as I have loved you