Sean Lang, retired Army Officer and second-career Maths teacher is Head of STEM at Moreton Hall.
Moreton Hall is an independent, non-selective, girls’ boarding school in rural Shropshire, average year groups of 50. STEM is big news at Moreton Hall. The recently opened, purpose-built Science Block boasts six laboratories including a fledgling Medical Science facility. GCSE results for triple science (which well over 50% of girls opt for) have averaged 95% A*/A for the last three years and well over 50% of girls take at least one STEM A-level. Mathematics, the engine room of any school, consistently achieves 100% A*-C at GCSE with 25% gaining an A* and an extra A (the top grade) in Additional Mathematics. Over 10% of girls take Further Mathematics A Levels with the majority of those achieving two A*s. Lang considers it a success story, but not yet a complete story: “As a Head of STEM, I know there are always areas for improvement and I know there is plenty still to do. The leadership challenge is to identify our strengths and seize the opportunities to build upon them while systematically correcting any minor flaws in the way we do business. There are four strands to this approach: people, the learning environment, facilities, and enrichment.
There can be no doubt that, in the absence of boys, girls are confidently experimenting with science
“The Army taught me that people (in this case teachers, support staff and students) are the most important element of any endeavour. We boast a rich mix of extraordinary teachers built around a core of experienced life-long educators together with some late arrivals to the profession: an engineer, an RAF navigator, and a research chemist. Our girls are truly wonderful – not a hint of entitlement at Moreton Hall. Most of our parents are making huge sacrifices for what we offer and teachers and students share the responsibility to deliver their best in return. We have extremely high expectations of our students and, as people tend to do, they invariably raise their game to meet our expectations. The key human factor at Moreton is single-sex education and that leads me onto the second strand: the learning environment. There can be no doubt that, in the absence of boys, girls are confidently experimenting with science (literally and metaphorically). The Moreton environment is a positive one to learn in; there are precious few rules and the relationships between students and staff are characterised by mutual respect and a shared approach to learning.
“Turning from soft factors to hard ones, the Principal and the Governors have invested heavily in our STEM facilities. The new Science Block is state of the art and its forerunner was completely refurbished to form a new Maths Block (a hand-me-down but fantastic nonetheless). Resources such as these need an overarching organisational structure and the integration of all STEM subjects into one department has offered significant benefits. The new Science A-levels include increased mathematical content and we have specialist Maths teachers on-hand to support this need. We have several multi-disciplinary teachers and their commitments across the department are far more easily managed. And, perhaps most importantly, we can routinely and efficiently deliver exceptional cross-curricular teaching.
“The fourth, and final, strand is perhaps the most exciting. The enrichment programme at Moreton is exceptional and it includes a keen focus on STEM. A fortnightly series of evening lectures on subjects as diverse as Forensic Dentistry, Spinal Surgery and Christianity & Science routinely draw audiences in the 50s. Weekly after-school activities including the Jenner, Mendeleev and Brunel Societies (Medics, Chemists and Engineers respectively) are all extremely popular. And at an individual level, our most able girls are carefully targeted and stretched to the limit of their potential. This term alone has seen participation in, or enrolement on, Maths Olympiads, Headstart, Inspire and Smallpeice courses, competitions in Biology, Physics and Engineering. It’s a busy life for a STEM student.
“Ultimately though, I believe that any pride in our success must be tempered by the fact that we still have a long way to go. Our results are excellent but they can get better. We get some girls into Oxbridge but we can get more. STEM is big at Moreton Hall but it’s going to be massive.”