Moreton Hall is a brilliant advertisement for all-girls education from 13-18, with a topnotch co-ed prep which takes boys and girls from the ages of 3-13. We were extremely impressed by our pupil guides – mature, feet on the ground, aware of how lucky they are and making the most of all the opportunities available to them. It's refreshingly outward-looking, with great results achieved with the minimum of fuss – and the facilities are up there with the best.
Deep in rural Shropshire, but with decent links to the lovely market town of Shrewsbury and buzzier Birmingham (the airport is just an hour away by car). There’s a glorious sense of space, with acres and acres of pitches and parkland spreading out in front of the school; classrooms and boarding houses dotted around the wonderfully secluded 100-acre campus. Facilities are first rate, with much recent refurbishment. Despite the very real sense of fresh air and safety, girls certainly aren’t a million miles from the bright(ish) lights – and buses ship them into Shrewsbury on weekends.
George Budd is well into his second year in charge here; he was previously deputy head at Godolphin. There’s a plaque outside his office which commemorates the school’s founder, Bronwen Lloyd Williams, and the virtues of ‘scholarship, gaiety and humanity’ which she embodied. Mr Budd has adopted these three qualities as the core of the school’s new strategic plan - ‘a clear vision of what the school is.’ He hasn’t hung around, and has already progressed two-thirds of the objectives of his ten-year plan. Two boarding houses have been refurbished; the library has been spruced with new university-style work carrels - and 'desks you can write on with marker pens.’ A recent parent survey was overwhelmingly positive - the results were, says Mr Budd, ‘utterly lovely and heart-warming.’
Mrs Budd was formerly the director of sport at Lady Eleanor Holles
school. She is very involved with the life of the school, working in the prep, the health centre and the boarding houses.
Moreton’s popularity means it’s able to be increasingly selective – but it’s looking for potential and ‘all-round ability’, not necessarily academic whizz-kids. September 2021 will see the school’s biggest ever intake in years seven and 12. Most families start the conversation with the school a year or two before entry; pupils are invited to a taster day to get a feel for the place, then there’s a round of assessments in the January before entry, with papers in English, maths, an online test and an interview with the head.
Everyone at Moreton Hall prep moves seamlessly up to the senior school, filling half of the 30 places available at 11+. Sixth-form entry is highly oversubscribed – it’s not unheard of for girls to leave co-ed schools to come here for their A-levels.
Academics and university destinations
When Moreton Hall talks about ‘scholarship’, they don’t just mean exam success, although there’s plenty of that - the school is in the top 5% in the country for value-added. Teachers really go the extra mile, running extra subject clinics and catch-up sessions to help pupils surge ahead. ‘They give you all their time,’ our guides told us. ‘You create a real bond with your teachers.’
Mr Budd is determined that every Moreton girl fulfils her potential – whether in the classroom, on the sports pitches or in Moreton Enterprises (more on that later). Up to half the year group sign up for STEM subjects at A-level; politics and PE A-levels have been added to the curriculum, and there are options in textiles, business, Mandarin and psychology, too. Tons of extra enrichment in the form of medicine and engineering societies, lecture series and a ‘Brain Day’ – a mind-broadening mash-up of neurology and psychology. ‘We’re all about making it happen for people,’ says Mr Budd, citing the new Magna Carta society, which combines discussions of human rights with political debate.
Pupils bring in their own devices to use in lessons and study programming and coding in a super-swish ICT suite – textbooks are all accessed online.
Saturday school is fairly chilled; girls can knuckle down to revision, ask teachers any burning questions and, in the sixth form, learn important life skills such as CV writing, driving theory, finance management and cooking. Stacks of students go on to Russell Group universities; others take fashion courses, bag places at RADA or – like one we spoke to – shoot for the RAF. How’s that for girl power?
Lacrosse gets top sporting billing: the U14 team were national champions; the head coach is an ex-international; heaps of girls go on to represent England or Wales; and pretty much every other team on the circuit fears a Moreton clash. Tennis is huge as well, and there’s a thriving cricket and junior rugby team. Sport at Moreton is immensely inclusive; it will field as many teams as it takes for everyone to get a go at representing the school, and there’s plenty of choice – canoeing, riding and golf included.
The performing arts are quirky and fun here - the ‘gaiety’ they mention in the school’s strapline - like pulling together a mad, colourful circus extravaganza in a mere nine days, for the sheer joy of it, or the spectacular production of Chicago in the new Holroyd Community Theatre. Tours take musicians to Venice, Boston, Barcelona and Paris; thesps head to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and casting directors, actors and agents regularly swing by for drama workshops and talks. CCF was introduced a couple of years ago – it’s optional, but already proving a hit; girls can sign up to Leiths Academy courses (useful if you’re thinking of doing a ski season, our guides pointed out) or throw themselves into public-speaking and debating competitions.
And if you haven’t heard of Moreton Enterprises, where have you been? Pupils get real-life, hands-on work experience running a clutch of school businesses with an annual turnover of £50,000, including the tuck shop – which on Friday mornings turns into an American coffee bar with Netflix favourites broadcast on the big screen. And instead of cringey dances attended by minibus-loads of teenagers, these girls use their entrepreneurial spirit to rent the seriously trendy Buttermarket in Shrewsbury for socials (and invite more than 700 teens).
There’s a new school farm, where girls are responsible for cleaning out the chickens and looking after the sheep, geese and goats. They’re even selling their own beer, Cornflower Farm IPA, with the help of a local brewery. For Mr Budd, it’s about ‘humanity and community, kindness and supporting others, and taking pride in other people’s achievements.' Moreton Enterprises is a fabulous feature of the school – and no doubt the making of many a future star.
Boarding is flexi or full, but flexi means exactly that – girls can chop and change as often as they like (some go home midweek to ride or catch up with their families), and day pupils are always welcome to sleep over if commitments run on late (a godsend for parents, too). Boarding houses are arranged horizontally by year group; younger ones sleep in the old stables, while older students get smart ensuite study bedrooms.
About 80 per cent board at some stage; even more in the sixth form. Weekends are more relaxed than they used to be – there’s the odd ‘target’ weekend when everyone stays in, but girls are let off Saturday lessons for matches or rehearsals, and there’s a whole host of activities laid on to keep everybody busy.
To encourage inter-year bonding, girls join ‘divisions’ – Moreton’s fiercely competitive house system that sees everyone competing in everything from singing to drama skits. It’s all fantastic fun, and adds another layer to the rock-solid pastoral system. Pupils meet one on one with their tutor at least twice a week; there are lots of wellbeing-focused assemblies and worry boxes in the health centre for girls to anonymously reach out about any concerns.
Masses of local Shropshire families here, plus a healthy international contingent, drawn by the International Study Centre, which helps them get their English up to scratch before embarking on a study course in the UK. There are also well-attended summer courses.
Moreton has always been an outward-looking school, engaged with its local community. Pupils from other local schools were invited to a recent careers roadshow, and the school’s Face2Face performance academy is open to all. They’re now planning to replicate this community involvement with a new sports programme for local school pupils - 70 children signed up for the first one.
We came away with an overarchingly positive impression of a thoroughly sound, hugely enterprising and innovative school, led by a dynamic, forward-looking head, and filled with nice girls with absolutely no sense of privilege or entitlement. Moreton Hall is a wonderful launchpad for girls to find their wings and fly.