Mayville High School, Southsea, Portsmouth
A seafront city school with specialist SEN support and newly-launched standalone remote learning offer
Mayville High School is an independent co-ed day school just minutes from the seafront in Southsea, Portsmouth, with 500 pupils aged 2 – 16. The site is split between the main building, a combination of Victorian and Edwardian houses converted in the 1940s and 50s, and a Nursery, Pre-Prep and Junior school campus housed in a combination of Victorian buildings and purpose-built modern extensions. There’s also separate Victorian buildings including an office further along the otherwise residential road.
Founded in 1897 by Miss Lottie West, Mayville’s near 125-year history has seen several moves and a few near-catastrophic moments: it was one of only a few schools in Portsmouth to survive two World Wars, including an extremely close call in a devastating WW2 Blitz on the city, and it endured a devastating flood in 2000.
Girls-only until 1994, Mayville has an unusual ‘co-education, separately’ approach – a handy 50/50 split of boys and girls are taught core subjects in ‘parallel’ classes of 12 when they reach the Senior School. Rather than academic streaming, regular Cognitive Abilities Testing (CAT) is also used as part of a closely tutored approach to teaching, enabling kids of different abilities to sit and learn together.
As with so many residential buildings that have been converted into schools, the conversion from residential buildings means the cohort are carefully timetabled to make full use of the space, which doesn’t appear to faze the kids or impact the quality of the teaching.
In the main building, Seniors thunder up and down narrow staircases to reach classrooms of varying sizes spread over several floors. There’s a purpose-built hall equipped with performance lighting, sound equipment and retractable theatre-style seating, and several well-stocked libraries. Stepping inside the Junior one, two boys sitting cross-legged are so engaged in an intense game of chess they barely register us.
Design Technology is taken seriously here, with plenty of decent kit like a laser cutter, kiln and machine mould used for practical and creative projects including woodwork, metalwork, textiles and manufacturing electronics. Impressively, Seniors design and create a working light, among other projects. Talking with the passionate DT teacher, it’s easy to see why there’s a big take-up for extra-curricular clubs.
Outdoor space comprises of a single large playground used by the Juniors and Seniors in Years 7 – 9. Older kids can choose to sit outdoors in the school’s eco-garden and there’s separate outdoor seating elsewhere on campus to take a break in too.
Ten minutes’ walk away there’s Southsea seafront for cross-country running and general exploring, which Mayville makes good use of. But fear not if you’re imagining your teens under-exercised and over-familiar with lunchtime devices – there are 23 acres of playing fields five minutes’ drive away by school minibus in Eastney, with football and rugby pitches, all-weather netball and tennis courts, a full-size cricket pitch and rounders pitches.
Sitting in its own space in the Junior campus, Mayville’s well-established Harden Davies Dyslexia Unit is a major calling card for the school, with specialist support for dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and mild speech and language disorders attracting movers from other schools and drawing in pupils from around the county.
One Junior proudly showed me her new coloured glasses that had been recommended to her by learning support unit. Another said her older sister had thrived at Mayville having failed to keep pace at her previous school where her dyslexia had been missed, with the inclusive teaching approach and regular testing enabling SEND pupils to sit alongside peers that don’t have additional needs.
The dedicated 1:1 support was reflected in the school’s latest ISI report, highlighting test data that shows SEND pupils at Mayville made excellent progress from their individual stating points compared to national outcomes. In 2020 average Value-Added Scores were 7.25 (based on CAT expected and actual grades). In their report, CReSTeD (the Council for the Registration of Schools Teaching Dyslexic Pupils) inspectors rated the level of support from the learning support team and from mainstream teachers as outstanding.
Academic results also highlight strong outcomes – in 2020, 83% of Mayville pupils with dyslexia achieved five or more GCSEs and grade 4 or above, including English and maths, compared to 30.4% of pupils nationally [2018/19 gov.uk statistics].
Like many independents, Mayville responded quickly to the 2020 lockdown with a strong remote learning offer. Seeing potential beyond the school walls, in January 2021 it launched a standalone virtual school. ‘Mayville Online.’
Separate from the remote learning offer for existing pupils, the new virtual school has a full curriculum offer and is open to pupils in Hampshire and elsewhere in the UK who will be taught in small remote classes with the same allocated tutors. There’s also an international offer, operating on a different timeline, which is already proving popular with Chinese schools.
Pupils access and complete assignments using Google Classroom with online tutors specifically for remote learners. Live lessons that are recorded so they can be revisited or accessed if missed. Time is set aside for pastoral support and supported by the school’s successful Dyslexia & Learning Extension Unit.
As well the Eastney sports ground, Mayville uses specialist facilities around the city for Badminton, athletics and hockey, regularly competing in academy, county and school tournaments and fixtures. While it’s not in the elite for team sports, Mayville does punch above its weight in ISA National Swimming and Athletics competitions: a number of swimmers belong to the Portsmouth Northsea Swimming Club, competing at regional and county levels. The school also has national champion in synchro swimming.
A number of Mayville’s footballers are part of Academies with professional clubs and there are cricketers competing at county level. In 2019, pupil demand prompted the creation of some strong girls’ football teams, too – the Under 10s side brought home Silverware in their very first season competing in the Portsmouth Schools competition.
Music rooms are sound-proofed and well equipped, with a reasonable 50% of pupils learning an instrument, typically string, wind and drums, piano and guitar. There’s a good take-up for the extra-curricular Mayville Band, choir, Rock Choir, song writing and pop music clubs and private music lessons. Lifting spirits when restrictions allow, kids also go out and sing in community settings like local theatres and care homes.
ART + DRAMA
Performing arts like dance and drama are big calling cards for Mayville and very popular. A number of ex-pupils have gone on to Ballet and Dance Schools and performed in the West End, while others have forged successful acting careers, appearing in TV shows and commercials.
Along with the usual extra-curricular offer and regular school productions at The Kings Theatre, unusually, Mayville offers Technical Theatre as a GCSE option and vocational RSL Performing Arts dance qualifications. Mayville is also part of the Coram Shakespeare Schools Foundation, with confidence-building programmes designed to support academic attainment and the chance to perform the Bard on a professional stage as part of the world’s largest youth drama festival.
Straddling art and design technology, extra-curricular art, craft and sewing clubs are also well subscribed at Mayville, with a good few going on to take a Textiles GCSE.
Appointed as Headteacher in 2014, Rebecca Parkyn is a former pupil at Mayville and remains firmly committed to the guiding principles set out by her predecessors.
An Oxford graduate, Parkyn began her teaching career at St. Benedict’s School in Ealing and held various roles with Bedales School in Petersfield before moving to King Edwards School in Southampton as Head of Faculty. Confident and business-minded in her approach, she is a big advocate of a wide curriculum including modern and classical languages, both of which are taught at Mayville.
Numbers have remained high in the Senior school but 2020 saw a lower intake of nursery-age kids. Tots have the run of a good-sized zoned space, with the usual array of toys, tuff-tuff tables and outdoor play area.
The new must-have nursery activity of baby yoga is enthusiastically taken up here and not surprisingly given the school’s position, the little ones step out for regular beach walks. Reception is just along the corridor – not far for nursery graduates to go. Distracting the teacher from refereeing a fierce competition involving counting pegs, she tells me about specialist classes on the daily curriculum including French, football and dance.
Not many schools are spread along residential roads or close to a city beach – but Mayville’s location is by no means its quirkiest attribute, which has to be the class split by gender in core subjects. It’s a pretty unusual compromise between the widely advocated positive social effects of co-education and perceived academic gains of a single-sex education – a good one for the debate club, but personally I think it makes sense!
As well as a distinctive academic approach Mayville has a ‘whole child’ ethos that focuses on enrichment within the curriculum. In September 2020, it launched a new Junior School ‘Shine’ programme, with timetabled slots to give pupils the chance to take part in digital filmmaking, Japanese, Beach School, Mayville at Marwell Zoo and more.
Wrap around care starts later here than in many schools I visit. Morning sessions (at an extra cost) are 8am – 8.30am, after school sessions run until 6pm for Years R – 6 and up to 5pm for Seniors in Years 7 – 11. Extra-curricular clubs run during lunchtimes and after school, covering a range of interests from the usual arts, crafts, debate club and Duke of Edinburgh to more niche comic book characters, LEGO and Latin interest.
FEES + SCHOLARSHIPS
Good value. Pre-school sessions cost from £17.25 for a three-hour morning or afternoon session to £50 for an extended day (8am – 6pm). In the Junior School, reception up to Year 2 is £2,500 per term; Year 3 and Year 4 is £2,750 and Year 5 and Year 6 is £2,950. Senior School fees for Year 7 – Year 9 are £3,800 per term; Year 10 and 11 are £3,850.
There’s a sibling discount of 10% for a second child in full time education in the school, rising to a 50% fee reduction for a third or fourth child. Mayville offers two academic scholarships worth up to 50% of fees in the Junior School (Year 3 – 6). Academic scholarships for the duration of the Senior School are based on entry assessment for Year 7 and excellence in Creative Arts and Sport.
WORD ON THE GROUND
One ex-pupil’s parent tells me that, in a city setting, Mayville’s size, small class sizes and “village mentality” proved a good fit for his child. Chatting to current juniors, they insist every kid has a chance to shine and no-one is put under pressure, enthusing about after-school dance club as their absolute favourite activity. Seniors rate the small class sizes, supportive teachers, extra-curricular Duke of Edinburgh activities and STEM Club. Mayville’s small class sizes and tailored curriculum is ideal for performers or sporty-types with outside interests, allowing flexibility around rehearsal, performing or training commitments.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Budding performers, kids with SEN (especially dyslexia) and pupils that risk getting lost in schools with a larger cohort and larger class sizes. For parents considering home-schooling permanently, the new Mayville Online virtual offer is certainly worth a look. You’ll either love or hate the co-ed separately approach.
Not for: The residential location with no dedicated parking, lack of green space and slightly later 8am drop-off in the morning for wraparound care won’t be for everyone.
Dare to disagree?! Be my guest! Take a virtual tour now via the school website. Mayville’s next whole school open events are on Sat 26 March 2022 and Sat 21 May 2022. For more about Mayville Online, visit www.mayvillehighschool.com/online.
Mayville High School, 35 – 37 St. Simon’s Road, Southsea, Hampshire, PO5 2PE. Tel: 023 9273 4847. www.mayvillehighschool.com.