Perse Prep, Cambridge

(35 Posts)
cambridgeminx Fri 11-Feb-11 13:21:23

Am considering the Perse Prep for my DS, to start this Sept in Yr 3. If you currently have DCs there, would really appreciate any thoughts on the school, please. Although it seems a brilliant school - and one in which we thought our DS would thrive - have heard mixed reports about the recent changes there, and am concerned. You can PM me if you prefer anonymity.

Many thanks.

Anotheroldermother Sat 12-Feb-11 19:04:36

Bumping this thread back to the top!

My DS has also been offered a place in Yr3 for this September. I'm interested to know what you've heard about the recent changes there, as I'm not aware of any changes. DS has really enjoyed all the open mornings etc, however, he's also v. happy at his primary school, and I'm still quite ambivalent about sending him to the Perse Prep.

If anyone has any info on this school, I would also be very interested to hear it.

erebus Sat 12-Feb-11 19:59:28

I know someone very well who has a DS there, and one now in the Upper, and one starting the Prep next Sept. Maybe.

He has mixed feelings:

Basically, yes, the school seems to be a sight better than the state infant/juniors they were in, hence the move. You'd possibly expect that for £10k p.a.!

He says: The school has changed quite a bit since the first DC started. They thought they were buying into a single sex, highly academic environment. They now feel the first DC got in right at the tail end of that. Since then they have started admitting girls, which my friend feels is a tacit admission that a) times are tough and b) results are all (his opinion, not mine!). They had/have kept the girls and boys separate, or at least did, initially, but the second DC still there is in an increasingly integrated class. He expects to be fully integrated in the Upper, as does the youngest DC who will be in coed from Y3.

The second DC is of more 'average' academic ability. The parents were, at parents evenings, constantly being told they had to get him privately tutored as well to ensure his 'pass' at the Upper entrance exam. As you can imagine, they kind of wondered where their £10k was going! Anyway, the eldest DS took the Entrance exam and passed. Apparently, though, the entire year group passed. Again, my friend wonders whether this reflects a particularly clever year, very good prepping- or a need to keep fee-paying parents on board!

Now, apparently, they have dispensed with the Upper entrance exam- entry to the upper is automatic for Prep DCs. However, my friend says he and a few other parents were called in, one by one to be told that they were to understand that their DC would not have passed the Upper entrance exam. He wonders whether this is a preparation towards them not being able to 'complain' if and when their DCs don't do very well academically at O level. He is also irritated that, apparently, as yet, the Upper will continue to offer only International O levels, not GCSEs, despite admitting they are taking on less able DCs.

He says a couple of parents have looked at moving their DCs to more appropriate schools. He was looking at The Leys but it's apparently eye-wateringly expensive!

So make of all that what you will!

From my personal, biased perspective, I must admit I would have expected to see more- well, 'private school confidence' and poise in the DCs concerned but I haven't!

Lilymaid Sat 12-Feb-11 23:06:40

I've not had DC at the Prep under old or new regimes but had DC at the Upper and, unless it has changed a lot, an academically average child would find it very hard going indeed as the general academic standard was very high and most of the pupils were almost effortlessly clever.
Agree that the Leys fees are eye watering compared with the Perse but they are not remotely the same sort of schools - the Leys is a minor public school with many boarders and the Perse is a day independent in the academic premier league nationally.

reddaisy Sat 12-Feb-11 23:11:41

The Perse is generally considered to be the best in Cambridge.

BoffinMum Sat 12-Feb-11 23:26:25

I've got friends who are very happy with it but we avoided it for all sorts of reasons, including the pressure to tutor and be on some sort of academic hamster wheel, and made to feel like our children weren't good enough, all that stuff. My friends think I am very misguided but hey ho.

I went to a nice little co-ed prep in North Lincs myself that was the absolute opposite to this sort of mentality, and it churned scholars out like nobody's business, just by doing thorough teaching and lots of extra curricular stuff. I think that's what prep schools should be doing, not encouraging family existential crises.

BoffinMum Sat 12-Feb-11 23:29:48

PS A lot of us around here won't touch St Faith's because of the poor behaviour of certain pockets of pupils, and my DD flatly refused to take up a place at Perse Girls because of bullying of one of the other girls in the class on the day she went to visit. Sample of one, I know.

erebus Sun 13-Feb-11 13:53:53

Yes, my friend was initially very taken with the Perse prep, but he feels they're almost being misled. They seem to want to keep their 'most academic school in Cambridge' tag (which doesn't necessarily mean 'best'!) yet admit less able DCs. He was first a bit concerned when the oldest passed along with every one else, and now is concerned that the prep have readily told him his DS isn't exactly what the Upper is looking for, yet they'll still admit the boy. Along with many others. He feels the school is trying to have it both ways.

He foresees trouble ahead when it becomes ever more apparent that his second DC isn't 10 A* material! Which is sort of what he paid for when he signed up!

He wishes they'd done what he'd proposed originally which was to move out of Cambridge and into the catchment of one of those excellent 'Village Colleges' in the surrounded areas. He would agree entirely with the increasing 'family existential crisis' the whole issue is causing'!

BoffinMum Sun 13-Feb-11 14:59:48

Tell your friend to check out Hockerill, but a train away in Bishops Stortford. A few Cambridge kids commute there and it's very academic without the pressure.

I am not entirely impressed with the village colleges - many of them seem pretty complacent to me.

erebus Sun 13-Feb-11 20:26:39

I will be seeing my friend at half term- I feel he is currently well open to suggestions! Thanks.

jicky Sun 13-Feb-11 22:42:17

If friends live in Cambridge, don't hold out to much hope for Hockerill. Think there were hundreds of kids testing this year for 12 aptitude places. The bulk go on distance to school and siblings.

Lilymaid Sun 13-Feb-11 22:49:53

Our experiences at secondary level were that the Perse was a fantastic and very laid back school for our academic DS. He enjoyed it and appreciates the excellent teaching he had which has been of great help at university and work. Younger DS was less academic and went to our village college which did not do him enormous favours especially because of the constant shortage of science and maths teachers. A friend sent her less academic DS to King's School Ely (again eye watering fees) and both parents and child have been very happy with the school.
Sorry - a digression from talk of prep schools, but it's important to think ahead!

BoffinMum Sun 13-Feb-11 23:13:11

You can always get into Hockerill a bit later on, places can and do come up. Or weekly board, as distances don't count then.

BoffinMum Sun 13-Feb-11 23:14:18

There's also places like the Friends school in Saffron Walden, not sure what that's like these days but some of our friends have been very happy with it as well.

erebus Mon 14-Feb-11 08:16:40

Lily- I get the impression that your DS is all grown up and flown the nest! Glad his experience at The Perse (or 'Purse' as my friend calls it!) was good.

I think my friend's worry is that there will be an inevitable knock on effect at the Upper if they are a) going co-ed and b) evidently accepting less able pupils into the school. As he says, it doesn't have to all be a bad thing it's just that he feels the school is still resting on the laurels of the school it was, not the school it now is! For the record, his eldest is reasonably able, but by his dad's own admission, academically he's a B, with the odd A -able, not straight A* -able, iyswim.

BoffinMum Mon 14-Feb-11 09:02:04

I have always disputed the wisdom of seeking to assess potential in this way in such strictly defined terms at the age of 11. I can't think of many academics who would have scored straight A* at 16 or even 18, and there are many very capable Oxbridge students who don't either. That's because intelligence and education is a far richer, more complex thing than can be demonstrated by such league tables and examinations. And long may it remain so.

To me, there's also something vaguely immoral in schools vetting pupils as intensively as this, and then managing parental expectations. Eleven is far too early to be able to tell what is going to happen throughout adolescence in terms of development and fulfilment of potential (particularly in the case of the average boy). Instead this approach favours certain kinds of social groups who know how to navigate such systems. This all makes for an unchallenging, homogeneous school population, and life for the teachers is consequently very much easier, with school results being automatically better. However they are doing their pupils and the local community a disservice if they reject many of the late developers, the less affluent and the more unusual children, as the remaining pupils will experience a skewed population and an intensification of academic pressure that is not necessarily commensurate with true learning. They travel this way at their own peril (and I speak as someone with bright children who might be expected to use these schools).

The more I see of schooling in Cambridge, the more I wonder if I should be setting up an alternative ....

Ferncottage Mon 14-Feb-11 09:09:16

As alternatives, both King's and Dame Bradbury's in Saffron Walden are very good.

Lilymaid Mon 14-Feb-11 12:06:53

Erebus, Yes DS1 has flown the nest but has left most of his belongings! Perhaps, the school is being a little less selective at the moment, having expanded in a recession. Local state schools are generally pretty good, so there has to be a very good reason for forking out £12k per year to go independent.
Re vetting ... Hills Road is very selective so an "average" student would never get a place. And even within the state secondary schools, there has to be some vetting of who goes into which set (which for Y10 and 11 can mean the difference between the opportunity to take a subject at higher level GCSE or only at a level with B or C as the top grade and no real chance of being able to take that subject on to AS/A2).

cambridgeminx Mon 14-Feb-11 19:51:04

Thank you all very much for all this - certainly lots to digest and consider.

burwellmum Sun 29-Jan-12 22:44:13

A year on we are in the same position as you were last year. Did you send your son to Perse Prep in the end and if so how's it going? We were very impressed by the open morning etc but have nagging doubts which made us wonder how our bright but happy go lucky youngest child would be there.

LittenTree Mon 30-Jan-12 08:29:43

Hi- I was erebus last year!

My friend has decided not to send his youngest to the Upper. He is at the Prep (which the dad describes as 'pedestrian!) but my friend isn't very happy with what he's seeing with his elder, more clever DS in the Upper, though he will stay through to do his O levels, at this stage (then go to Hills Rd). I don't know what he's planning on doing, mind, with the youngest for secondary as I haven't seen him to ask in conversation for a few months!

yawningdad Tue 19-Feb-13 09:29:38

There are certainly other local prep schools which appear more genuinely academic and flexible, although Perse prep talks itself up. I have DC at one of the other prep schools as well as P Upper.

I think if his clever DS is clever enough and broadly science not arts then Hills Road Sixth Form after year 11 Perse looks a very good plan. Ours don't really have the option to stay in PU sixth form anyway, unless we win the lottery (oops, we don't buy lottery tickets). Too many DC.

As far as I can tell Perse Upper put a lot of effort at basic Oxbridge entrance level (endless practice papers etc) but although the kids well above this have a huge effect lifting the performance of their peers PU does not seem to try to identify them or make provision (or even want them really in terms of financial accessibility etc). It is also questionable whether they prepare them for the challenge when they get there. In time the approach may backfire since I am told the Colleges track results in finals back to schools and they will spot if on average Perse candidates do worse in finals cos the better kids leave after year 11 (in the case of CU Engineering I think they may have already spotted it). Anyway Hills Road gets more into Oxbridge that the Perse.

But where else could his youngest go? Perse girls does not take boys! The Leys gets far fewer into Oxbridge (5 v 30) although they have some super clever ones (I think the Captain of the UK Olympiad maths teams is there) and it seems to put more thought and effort into stretching the smart ones. Fewer smarties might mean less inclined to assume they are all the same. Or was he thinking of boarding at Oundle or Winchester or somewhere? Boarding is way over our budget.

eminemmerdale Tue 19-Feb-13 15:31:37

Just out of interestet Ydad, which ones do you think are more academic?

diabolo Tue 19-Feb-13 15:46:12
eminemmerdale Tue 19-Feb-13 15:49:53

I meant prep schools - Yd said There are certainly other local prep schools which appear more genuinely academic and flexible, although Perse prep talks itself up.

diabolo Tue 19-Feb-13 15:50:36

I must learn to read properly.

yawningdad Tue 19-Feb-13 15:55:25

Well for example St Johns College School and Kings College School. Both do seem to have a spread in ability (which is healthy) but more streaming and so are more geared up to do stuff with bright kids. eg Kings CS were county chess champions in 8 of the last 11 years, and the school calendar on their website lists the Intermediate Maths Challenge which as far as I can tell the Perse virtually never lets children take until year 9. The head of Perse prep said at the open day we went to "we don't need extension maths or English because we are selective intake". So he thinks when you remove the lower tail of a distribution the upper tail magically disappears too? Hmm. When you go around both K and J stress assessing the children and customizing the approach. The Perse is more "improve yourself somewhere else sonny in case you show our other kids up".

eminemmerdale Tue 19-Feb-13 16:03:28

Thanks. I was interested as dd passed the prep entrance exam this year. I didn't actually see the paper of course, but I did research the old papers and they seemed reasonably tricky compared to what she has been learning at state school. I think the Perse has such a huge reputation, they do need to keep the academic side high on the 'agenda' as it were.

Tansie Tue 19-Feb-13 16:15:01

Gosh! 25th! I'm actually rather surprised- I thought it was top 10. Didn't it used to be 'better' academically?

Tansie Tue 19-Feb-13 16:19:23

I also thought- again erroneously, that the Perse Prep (and Higher or upper or whatever the 13+ school calls itself?) prided itself on having a firm handle on boys education, but I see a DD passed the Prep tests.

Why did they go co-ed? I can't imagine it's to boost their exam results, is it? Weren't they stellar? Why would you change if what you were doing was tested and top-notch? But, tbf, maybe I've answered my own question with my surprise that The Perse is in 25th position in the academic league tables!

eminemmerdale Tue 19-Feb-13 17:06:46

The prep went co-ed in 2010 I think, maybe 2009. When my nephew went late 80's it was very much the boys school.

burwellmum Fri 29-Mar-13 16:47:22

Upper is near the end of a massive expansion and to stop the academic standards falling too far went mixed (or so the cynic in me believes). The academic standards will almost certainly start to drop - I think year 11 will be the first of the larger mixed years but the current year 8 is much bigger still.

Ronaldo Fri 29-Mar-13 18:04:08

Why did they go co-ed?

In common with many schools, viability.

yawningdad Tue 11-Feb-14 14:28:49

Anyone got any views on the new Perse Prep head? From a distance he looks better?

chakku Wed 09-Jul-14 17:10:55

Dear cambridgeminx,

Not sure if your daughter has started at Stephen Perse already. I would appreciate your comments as mine will be joining in Sept. I am going through very mixed feelings.

I would appreciate your thoughts and experiences of the S Perse.

Ta

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