Science report for 11 of Hertfordshire’s independent schools

Science focus at these Herts schools (photo: Mark Watson, Thinkstock)

Science focus at these Herts schools (photo: Mark Watson, Thinkstock) - Credit: Getty Images/moodboard RF

Eleven schools around Herts discuss their what science programmes they can offer

Abbots Hill

Abbots Hill - Credit: Abbots Hill

Abbot’s Hill School

Bunkers Lane, Hemel Hempstead HP3 8RP

Established: 1912

Pupil no: 500

Ages: Six months-16

Boarding/day: Day

Habs' Boys chemistry lesson

Habs' Boys chemistry lesson - Credit: Archant

Girls/boys: Girls: four-16; girls/boys: nursery and pre-school from six months

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It’s easy to forget in a girls’ school that in a mixed-gender arena, boys often dominate science subjects. At Abbot’s Hill we ensure we engage all our girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. We encourage opportunities for all pupils, such as the science and young engineers clubs.

We ensure that our pupils are engaged in the sciences throughout their time at Abbot’s Hill and build their confidence through exploring, experimenting and researching.

Recent research has led to the Women Into Science and Engineering ‘People Like Me’ approach, which aims to keep girls engaged in STEM. This helps girls to discover their preferred way of working, by choosing adjectives such as ‘organised’, ‘imaginative’ or ‘curious’. By introducing a range of female role models to our pupils through talks and events, they see these attributes in action in different science-based careers.

We enable girls to see that science is in fact for people like them, and that continuing with at least one STEM subject post-16 will help to create more career prospects for them in the future.

Lochinver School

Lochinver School - Credit: Philip Reeson


Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School

Butterfly Lane, Elstree WD6 3AF

Established: 1695

Pupil no: 1,400

Ages: Five-18

Boarding/day: Day

Lockers Park

Lockers Park - Credit: Lockers Park

Girls/boys: Boys

Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School is an independent day school offering a positive, challenging learning environment. From Year 7, science is studied as three separate but inter-related subjects: physics, biology and chemistry. The courses are centered on practical work facilitated by state-of-the-art laboratories.

The school participates in a number of science competitions including the highly regarded Olympiad and sends many pupils on Headstart and Smallpiece engineering courses. There are also co-curricular clubs and activities to keep the students engaged including the junior and senior science clubs that colaborate to publish the school science journal, Scope. In sixth form, enhancement courses are offered for boys who wish to extend their interest in the subject. At all ages the boys are challenged to work beyond the syllabus and to engage with the many ethical issues raised by modern developments. Due to this approach our STEM subjects have yielded impressive results.

This year an outstanding 133/147 (91 per cent) of GCSE students recieved an A* grade in physics. A Level results saw 76 per cent of chemistry and physics students and 83 per cent of biology students achieve between the A-A* grade.

Mount House Science Club

Mount House Science Club - Credit: Mount House


Lochinver House Preparatory School

Heath Road, Potters Bar EN6 1LW

Established: 1947

Pupil no: 342

Ages: Four-13

Boarding/day: Day

Princess Helena

Princess Helena - Credit: GRAHAM FLACK

Girls/boys: Boys

‘Science is about exploring, and the only way to uncover the secrets of the universe is to go and look!’ – Professor Brian Cox.

Lochinver’s fully equipped science laboratories enable boys to explore science in a specialist environment. They visit with their class teacher from as early as Year 2. In addition to learning science in the classroom in Years 3 and 4, laboratory lessons are also delivered by our subject specialist teachers, increasing the boys’ exposure to sophisticated practical work. From Year 5, all lessons are taught in the laboratories by our science staff.

Lochinver stimulates curiosity, interest in and enjoyment of science with well over half of all science lessons involving experimental tasks, which appeals to the very hands-on way boys learn best. They are encouraged to be independent through the use of practicals, which in turn deduce principles and develop experimental and investigative abilities. In this way the boys appreciate how science is essentially a set of rules which help us to understand the universe around us.

St Columba's

St Columba's - Credit: St Columba's


Lockers Park

Lockers Park Lane, Hemel Hempstead HP1 1TL

Established: 1874

Pupil no: 170

Ages: Four-13

Boarding/day: Boarding, flexi-boarding and day

St Edmunds

St Edmunds - Credit: St Edmunds

Girls/boys: Co-ed: pre-prep (four-seven); boys: prep (seven-13)

Our aim is to offer the inspiration and knowledge that can ignite a curiosity and interest in science that will last a lifetime. The school prepares boys for the country’s top independent and public senior schools as well as some of the area’s excellent grammar schools. Pupils can expect to enjoy first-rate practical science experiences at the school. Note-taking is kept to a minimum to allow more time for hands-on experiments and the animated discussion of results. Laboratory-based learning is reinforced by visits to institutions and professionals who help pupils develop their understanding and knowledge. Moreover, full use is made of the school’s extensive grounds to enhance pupils’ learning. Recent experiments have seen pupils making parachutes to investigate air resistance and designing rockets as part of the school’s highly competitive House Science Competition.

At Lockers Park we know that practical learning and developing logical approaches to problems help foster independent, analytical thinkers, as well as cultivating essential transferrable skills such as communication, teamwork and resilience – all vital for future progression.

St Francis

St Francis - Credit: St Francis


Mount House School

Camlet Way, Hadley Wood EN4 0NJ

Established: 2017 (previously St Martha’s, est. 1947)

Pupil no: 160

Ages: 11-18

Boarding/day: Day

St George's

St George's - Credit: St George's

Girls/boys: Co-ed from September 2018

Robotics, computer science and control systems are among subjects which will be added to an exciting new science curriculum at Mount House School from September. For the first time, students joining the school in Year 7 will be able to take advantage of a wide range of science and technical subjects, widely sought by the employers of today – and those of tomorrow. Building on the success of its exceptional mathematics department, which achieved record results in the 2017 GCSE and A Level examinations, Mount House hopes to become a hub for local students with a passion for the sciences, technology and maths. These subjects are already popular with girls at the school, who will be joined by boys for the first time in September.

The school’s stylish, well-equipped laboratories were completely refurbished two years ago and now, under new management, Mount House is actively seeking to build partnerships with local universities and technology firms, which will allow pupils to experience the real-world application of lessons they learn in school.

Westbrook Hay

Westbrook Hay - Credit: Westbrook Hay


Princess Helena College

School Lane, Preston (nr Hitchin) SG4 7RT

Founded: 1820

Pupil no: 200

Ages: 11-18

Boarding/day: Both (full, weekly and flexi-boarding)

Boys/girls: Girls

At Princess Helena College we believe in a practical approach to science. When girls arrive we aim to enthuse and inspire them by demonstrating that science is as much a set of skills, as it is knowledge and understanding. To emphasise and develop the basic skills, and to reinforce the links between them, biology, chemistry and physics are taught together in Years 8 and 9. At GCSE and A Level, the girls are taught by subject specialists within either a triple or double science course. Computer science is taught from Year 7, with girls learning the principles of programming, software and hardware, within a structured programme. We believe it is essential in today’s society for all our girls to be able to engage fully in a world driven by technology – evaluating and responding to the ever-increasing opportunities presented by scientific development.


St Columba’s College

King Harry Lane, St Albans AL3 4AW

Established: 1939

Pupil no: 845

Ages: Four-18

Boarding/day: Day

Girls/boys: Boys

In our prep school, science is approached in a practical way. Every student will carry out some form of experiment during their science lessons and the boys are encouraged to be independent thinkers. Practical work ranges from dissecting a pig’s heart and eye while studying the human body, to making ice-cream when learning about reactions. Homework also takes on the form of practical-based tasks, where boys can be asked to design their own experiments.

In our senior school, the biological, chemical and physical worlds of science are brought to life through a variety of teaching styles and techniques. Practical activities enable students to investigate scientific phenomena whilst developing practical skills, scientific methodology, evaluation, organisation and teamwork. Lessons incorporate the use of models to illustrate key processes and also promote imagination and fun when given as a homework. Exam questions are practised throughout to develop exam technique and exposure, leading to enhanced confidence and the desire to progress further.


St Edmund’s College & Preparatory School

Old Hall Green, Ware SG11 1DS

Established: 1568

Pupil no: 861

Ages: Three-18

Boarding/day: Both

Girls/Boys: Both

Scientific study brings the world and its workings to life. Here at St Edmund’s we are proud to teach science in a dedicated science block with newly refurbished biology, chemistry and physics laboratories boasting the latest in scientific educational equipment. The sciences are taught as discreet subjects by subject-specialist staff through a combination of explanation, demonstration and practical activity. Our aim is to develop students’ curiosity and knowledge in the world around them through relevant and inspiring practical work. This work can be extended via extracurricular science groups where students further develop their critical approach and scientific study skills within their various individual interests. Through scientific study, we are able to help students develop a critical approach to their work that lays solid foundations for their work in other subjects and future courses.

Our thriving engineering and medical societies further support students wishing to pursue a scientific-based future. These societies bring day-to-day scientific debate and discussion to our students, giving them the broadest views of the scientific world and the best practical experiences possible.


St Francis’ College

Broadway, Letchworth SG6 3PJ

Established: 1933

Pupil no: 400

Ages: Three-18

Boarding/day: Both

Girls/boys: Girls

Approximately 20 per cent of the workforce is employed in science roles and we need to prepare our girls for future employment. As well as this, learning science equips students with transferable skills and knowledge. Science education should do all this, while inspiring students to want to learn more.

At St Francis’ College we aim to make science enjoyable and stimulating. We want science to be fun. Our class sizes are small, enabling each girl to involve herself fully and allowing teachers to tailor the teaching to each individual pupil. Even the most reserved pupil will have her voice heard. Our highly experienced teachers and laboratory technicians incorporate practical investigations whenever possible, often using equipment that is not offered by many other schools. Our girls become very competent technically and are not daunted by equipment. Our biology, chemistry and physics laboratories are extremely well equipped and we take pupils on visits to scientific institutions. Academically, our students’ achievements at GCSE and A Level have been for many years well above the national average. In addition to our academic success, we promote, and are highly successful in, national and international competitions.


St George’s School

Sun Lane, Harpenden AL5 4TD

Established: 1907

Pupil no: 1,350

Ages: 11-18

Boarding/day: Both

Girls/boys: Both

Science is incorporated into our lives daily and the teaching of this subject is at the heart of learning. At St George’s, Years 7 and 8 are taught in mixed ability groups. From Year 9 they are set and taught by subject specific teachers. For GCSE, high ability pupils are offered separate sciences; the rest take a trilogy. Those with special education needs, who are unable to access the curriculum, make progress by following the AQA Unit Award Scheme.

Opportunities to develop further include the CREST Award, Faraday Challenge, the MFL and Science International Space Challenge, and Olympiads for sixth form students in all three sciences. There is also the chemistry challenge where biologists visit Rothamsted Institute, and a trip to Cern for the physicists. We have a small team of sixth formers who volunteer and work in our prep rooms supporting our technicians and gaining valuable experience. Pupils can also do a Higher Project Qualification with encouragement and support from the science team. Science is popular, seen by the large numbers taking it at A Level.


Westbrook Hay Prep School

London Rd, Hemel Hempstead HP1 2RF

Established: 1892

Pupil no: 340

Ages: Three-13

Boarding/day: Day

Girls/boys: Both

Children have an innate curiosity to understand the world around them, and at Westbrook Hay Prep School we nurture this curiosity and motivate children to convert their enthusiasm into real understanding.

STEM is the buzz word encompassing science, technology, engineering and mathematics, where the traditional textbook science learning is replaced by exciting hands-on, inquiry-based, constructive learning. During their lessons, the children carry out lots of practical experiments in all three sciences: biology, chemistry and physics, and they have plenty of opportunities to do project work.

From Year 5 the children are taught in a fully-equipped laboratory where they conduct experiments in small groups and have extensive access to technology, allowing for personalised learning.

Our excellent senior school entrance exam results, and our success in achieving scholarships to local senior schools, show that engagement and enthusiasm is converted here at Westbrook Hay into sound understanding.