The National Mathematics and Science College was initially conceived in 2012 by Dr Martin Stephen – an expert on gifted and talented education and a former high master of St Paul’s – and Geoffrey Robinson, the MP for Coventry North West.
It was a response to the fact that, whilst there were specialist schools for those who were passionate about the performing arts, there was nowhere equivalent in the UK where young mathematicians and scientists could go to develop their specialism in the same way.
Just four years later, NatMatSci, as it is known, first opened its doors to a small cohort of highly gifted mathematicians and scientists. And it has never looked back. A total of 110 students already attend and we expect to be up to 150 by next year. The college is situated on the edge of the Warwick University campus in the Midlands, about 20 minutes’ drive from Birmingham Airport and about an hour and a half from Heathrow.
“There was nowhere in the UK where passionate mathematicians and scientists could go to develop their specialism.”
The college’s passion for STEM knows no bounds. Dr Penny Robotham, the vice principal, says: “We are all geeks here, and proud of it”. Students at the college share a genuine fascination with all things STEM, something which can be seen by walking around the college.
In the corridors you will find whiteboards with interesting and challenging problems on them. Grouped around these at breaks and lunch you will find students in animated discussion, working on solutions. Not because they are homework, but just because they enjoy the intellectual challenge.
Intellectual challenge is a recurring theme of life at NatMatSci, whether in lessons, societies, or competitions. Academic competitions and olympiads create opportunities for students to go beyond the confines of the curriculum. Based on their regular and significant successes it’s clear that the college is doing a lot of things right.
In the last four years the college has had five students representing the UK in one of the international science olympiads (placing them in the top four in the UK), with half of last summer’s chemistry olympiad team coming solely from the college.
“We are all geeks here, and proud of it.”
The students at the college have experienced much success in the last couple of years. These include being ranked in the top 20 schools in the world in the Euclid Mathematics Competition, being ranked in the top two specialist-STEM schools in the AAPT Physics Bowl, winning the Oxford and Cambridge Chemistry Race twice, and several students making the top 10 in both the British Biology Olympiad and the BrainBee competitions.
These are just a flavour of what the students here have achieved. Despite all this competition on both a national and international stage, there is no sense of unhealthy competition between the students. We celebrate every achievement as being part of our collective success and are incredibly proud of those who achieve individually.
“The college has been ranked as a top 10 co-educational boarding school in each of the last two years.”
Alongside our students winning competitions, they also continue to excel in their A-levels with over three quarters of grades last year being awarded either an A or A* grade. As a result, the college has been ranked as a top 10 co-educational boarding school in each of the last two years, as well as being recognised by Fortune as one of the top 250 World’s Leading Boarding Schools in 2023.
Almost one in five of our students have gained places at Oxford or Cambridge, and there have been remarkable successes for our aspiring medics who take part in our Preparation for Medicine programme.
The college is fortunate to have access to some world class facilities, both in terms of the teaching and learning spaces, but also in terms of boarding. With over 130 single en-suite bedrooms, occupied by students from 26 different countries, each with a small double bed and their own bathroom and shower, the students have some of the nicest boarding rooms in the UK. These are complemented by a range of social spaces and kitchens and there is plenty of room for students to spend time together.
“Our students have the scientific and mathematical understanding to have a profound impact on the world.”
Food at any school with boarders is always going to be an important factor, and at NatMatSci the students (and staff) are fortunate to have exceptional catering. Whether you want a freshly made breakfast omelette, street food, freshly battered fish and chips, fresh salads or a delicious dessert, there is something for everyone. At break times there’s even a barista coffee service to go with the cakes and snacks.
Life at NatMatSci though is about more than food, as important as that might be. Preparing students to be successful in their A-levels is just the beginning for us. To that end, the college has recently launched its world leading STEM Communication Programme which is designed to enable our students to begin to experience what life is like as a professional scientist.
“At breaks and lunch you will find students animatedly discussing maths problems in corridors.”
The field of STEM is only advanced through research. We wanted to develop a programme that authentically immersed our students in the scientific process so that they understood how discoveries and inventions are conceptualised, verified, and shared. This programme provides students with a framework through which they can develop their research skills and gain experience of presenting their mathematical and scientific understanding to a range of audiences.
Dr Andy Kemp, principal, says: “I believe our students have the scientific and mathematical understanding to have a profound impact on the world, but if they are to achieve this, they need to be able to explain what the maths or science means in context. Our STEM Communication programme is designed to give them these skills and experiences so that can truly change the world for the better”.
The mission of all of us at the college is “to empower exceptional young people to push the boundaries of mathematics and science so that they can change the world”, and you can see from the above we are well on the way to achieving this.