I met the Headmaster, Jonathan Forster and Deputy Head Sarah Hughes; both of whom had a fresh, progressive attitude to the running of their school. They organised a fascinating tour by two Lower 5th formers; one of whom had come to Moreton Hall from the local state school, the other from a private school she had been unhappy at. Both girls were really pleased with Moreton Hall, saying that the main things they liked were the ability to be an individual, without pressure to conform to a, ‘school stereotype’.
Moreton Hall is really three separate schools in one; the prep, senior and international sections all seem to happily co-exist with one another. I didn’t get a chance to see Moreton First (the Prep School) but I did witness the slightly surreal sight of twenty or so happy four year olds tri-cycling around the playground sporting a fantastic collection of sun hats. Not all children from the prep go on to the Senior School; boys have to go elsewhere for obvious reasons and girls are encouraged to consider which school is the best for them. Each year about three girls go on to the senior school.
The International Study Centre (housed in the Mitchell Building) is run by Vicky Eastman and provides a really useful way for foreign students, (currently mostly from China and a few from Russia) to get their written and spoken English up to scratch before starting (or in some cases, even applying for) a senior school in the UK. It also provides additional subject specific tuition. The school has about 30 students and runs summer and full time courses. Over the summer, parents can accompany their children to stay in the centre and learn English (and/or go shopping).
Moreton Hall is a, ‘proper’ boarding school, with girls being encouraged not to disappear at the weekends. There is plenty for them to do at school and in the surrounding countryside and towns. Many day girls board for a few days a week (when, for example, there are sports matches, or plays) and the girls explained that there really is no difference between the day girls and boarders.
My impression was that the school is happy, relaxed and has the resources of a much bigger facility than one required for just over 300 children. The swimming pool, lacrosse field and gym were enormous. This is good news – there is plenty of room to absorb the plethora of new buildings required by the school’s current expansion. The girls were friendly and relaxed and not at all arrogant. Dorms were spacious and bright. The food was great.
The school’s inspection reports and academic results are impressive but beyond the minutia of league tables is the significance of ‘added value’. Many great schools take in the brightest and the best and simply keep them on track in order to deliver excellent results. Moreton Hall claims to take a cohort of wide academic ability and works with each child to ensure they get the most from their time at the school. This is neatly encapsulated in their aim to, ‘stretch the most able and support the least confident’. It would appear to be working; Moreton Hall has been ranked Number 1 for, ‘Value Added’ in the UK.
The hugely reassuring thing was that the staff seem to have both experience and commitment (all the teachers I spoke to had been at the school for 10-15 years). It was also nice to see that the Headmaster valued extra–curricular activities and interests in his teachers; employing a filmmaker and a writer in the English department. Teachers also seem to be interested in catering for more obscure subjects that the girls want to study – and will bring in additional support if necessary.
Obviously, good results require a lot of work and the school has classes on Saturday as well as providing plenty of extra tuition (from its own teachers) if a girl needs to top up for any reason. The school’s enrichment programme provides additional education in areas that fall outside the remit of the curriculum; including a medical society and chemistry society. I was delighted to hear that one of Simply Learning Tuition’s Senior Tutors, Alex Fielding, had lectured at the school as part of her work with Art History Abroad.
Moreton Hall takes pride in its past (established 1913) but has an extremely strong focus on developing its future. The ambition and entrepreneurial zeal of the Headmaster and senior staff was reflected in the girls I spoke to. At the age of 15, they had a razor sharp eye on their own futures, with ambitions for Oxbridge and other leading universities and a solid plan of how they were going to get there. There is absolutely no sense of resting on laurels or reputation. The girls are not kept in an ivory tower but rather are given an awareness that the world is fiercely competitive and that they need to work hard and with genuine enthusiasm to succeed (note the accelerated Oxbridge programme, dedicated Oxbridge tutor and unique medical school preparation facility). An Art teacher explained that when the girls are taken to London to visit potential Art and Design Colleges equal importance is given to how helpful each course is likely to be in getting a job.
In conclusion, Moreton Hall seems to have all the benefits of a small, friendly school combined with heavyweight facilities, mouth watering results, and eyes that are wide open to a world far beyond its playing fields.