A school which offers a sense of balance yet still achieves exceptional results, helping pupils identify and nurture their passions, is a balancing act on which Mayfield prides itself.
Mayfeld School, an independent secondary school for boarding and day girls in East Sussex, offers engaging opportunities to help pupils challenge stereotypical views of what they can and should achieve. Finding a school that is not an academic hothouse, has a sense of balance yet still achieves exceptional results in public exams is a rare find.
Headmistress Miss Antonia Beary says: “Our girls are sensible, rational, rounded and grounded. We help them understand where their strengths are and celebrate those, while also understanding what they’re not good at and giving them the tools to improve.”
Mathematics and Science are among the most popular and successful subjects (last year 90% of girls achieved A*/A in Physics, Chemistry and Biology at GCSE, and results are similarly consistently high at A level). Equally successful are subjects as diverse as Geography and Music. Mayfield excels in areas traditionally considered to be “creative”: the school produces world renowned ceramicists, has a dynamic Drama department and an enviable sporting tradition. “The key to success is to encourage and nurture creativity in everything we do, inside and outside the classroom,” explains Miss Beary. “This leads to girls choosing an eclectic range of option choices: Chemistry and Ceramics, or Physics and History of Art are not unusual A level/Pre-U combinations.
Most go on to Russell Group, Oxbridge or, increasingly, American and overseas universities, to study all manner of subjects from Architecture to Zoology, with a regular stream of engineers, medics and vets, lawyers and economists.”
Identifying the passions of each individual is the school’s aim, nurturing talent by giving girls confidence to be different and do different things. Learning to fail successfully and build on one’s mistakes, being able to laugh at yourself, and finding support from your peer group are all elements of this crucial development of self-knowledge and life skills. During their time at Mayfield,
pupils make life-long friendships that last well after they leave.
The vast setting of the school allows for a wide programme of extra-curricular activities. Horse riding is taken seriously here, with many girls competing at national level. There are three activity periods each day, one after lunch and two between the end of lessons and the end of school. This gives all girls the opportunity to pursue a range of interests and enthusiasms, including sport, the arts and academic enrichment. There is a community service programme led by the girls which includes helping at local primary schools. This year pupils have been meeting older members of the village and hearing about their life stories, listening and recording their experiences to create an oral history.
Alongside the Catholic ethos of the school is one of tolerance and understanding, of helping the girls find what they’re good at and to learn about themselves on the way. “Women have always responded to the needs of the age,” explains Miss Beary, “and that’s how we can make a positive difference.”