Perse Upper v Stephen Perse Upper(20 Posts)
not yet Erebus- am looking at 2015 entry so starting early. Have done Open Days (and not just selective fee paying schools) but think it beneficial to get as much input as possible- looking forward to visiting on a regular day as well.
I had to smile a bit at Liz's comments, maybe somewhat missing the point that one family's experience can't be extrapolated across the entire school.. It's already been said that, for instance, as far as my friends have told me (bearing in mind they've had a 7 + year experience of the P with 2 DSs; DD elsewhere) that they had to pay extra to get their DSs extra-curricular music lessons (as strongly advised by the Prep for all incoming DC at the time), which the school then piggy-backs off when it showcases its music. I live quite locally and have certainly seen 'the talent' at music evenings but I also know my own DC's school used to parade its students achievements around even though much of that wasn't taught in school at all!
And the irony of the fact that you have a DD at the school when one of the reasons my friends give for feeling they aren't getting what they paid for when they signed their boys up, aged 6 pre-prep), is ultimately having a boys-only environment...! They were also expecting smaller class sizes, 20 as opposed to 26; Oh, that and being pressured to buy-in out-of-school English tutoring for one of the boys, so these parents are not in fact quite so 'confident that they'll get the best out of the students'- and they have 7 more years' experience of the place!
What it boils down to is you can never be sure that your DC and a school will be 'a fit', especially when you narrow your options down to 'selective' fee-paying. The 'answer' to the OP would appear to be that some parents feel the PU isn't quite what it says on the tin, but maybe they're going all-out to satisfy the in-coming girls (hence Liz's delight with the school) as they're the ones drafted in the try and rescue the 'slide'!
But once again, you can only go in, look around, ask questions but bear in mind that at the end of the day, the school will only tell you what it wants to hear and you'll never know whether, in talking to parents, you're getting the truth (i.e. 'It's great!' or 'Hmm, I'm not as sure as I was'), the wisher ('I have to believe this is great because I'm throwing so much money at it') or the disenchanted ('It's not what I thought I was paying for').
It looks like an attractive school with lots of facilities should your DC be that way inclined; that has certainly in the recent past had a strong reputation for academic excellence; that will educate your DC among the selected children of other MC families.
And all that applies to most fee-paying schools, doesn't it? (State parents have less to lose with outright honesty!).
Have you made any decisions, yet lalala?
Am being very pedantic here but you have to be 18 to take some ABRSM diplomas and while young ones may be playing diploma pieces, I've yet to meet any who would cope with viva and programme notes. Or am I wrong?
@Moominmammacat: there are a few very serious young musicians; you can find one impressive one on youtube (search for George Harliono).
@MagnusMater "There seems to be a range of ability from very bright to genius/child prodigy level" with respect that is complete tosh. There are plenty of dullards and undoubtedly some very bright (bored) kids. Only a few percent of PU students end up with an Oxbridge first; that's hardly St Pauls or Winchester standard. The bright kids are more the attraction than the (variable, sometimes excellent) teaching.
I don't blame you wanting to think the best of a school to which you pay until it hurts. I have the same desire to believe it is great really, and that I am not getting poor return on extending the mortgage for several sets of fees. However just like CNN, the archetypical superficial news broadcast had a slogan of "in depth news", Perse Upper keeps congratulating itself on how bright its kids are, glosses over the devaluation of academic results and hopes no one notices the huge gap behind Perse Girls. If they were a bit more open about the weaknesses at least I could be optimistic they were working on them.
MagnusMater ... "think diploma level at age 10/11 already" is that really true?
I am astonished by some of these responses. My DD is at Perse Upper (Year 11) and I don't recognise many of these negative comments at all. DD joined in Year 9 and has absolutely loved her time there - she is set on staying on into 6th form too. The teaching at the school is outstanding in our experience - with one exception, we have found the teachers to be incredibly enthusiastic, inspiring and deeply knowledgeable - my DD has been switched on to subjects at PU she was very lukewarm about in her previous school. I am confident that academically they will get the best out of the students. The music department is excellent - the quality of music making at the school has impressed me - I had previously just thought the school was about academic excellence and little else. Girls' sport is not at the standard (in results terms) of some other schools but this is largely due to numbers - results are steadily improving as more girls join the school.
The SPF and PU are different environments - they both get excellent results for their students (we're very lucky in this area to have the choice!) but it's 'horses for courses' - they will suit students according to their different characteristics and needs. Neither PU or SPF are perfect schools - both have occasional failings and issues but both are very fine schools. Visit the schools, chat to parents and students who attend both and see what your DC feels best about.
Interesting view from magnus. I think the one thing my friends with DC there would disagree with is the extra-curricular music: upon entry to the Prep they were told to organise extra-c music lessons for the DC; and as for independent- again, of course there's going to be differences between DC according to attitude, application etc but my friends are quite worried as to how their DSs will get on at Hills as they feel they've been too spoon-fed to study independently- yes, they say of their DS1 he'll do his homework, but it isn't a long-instilled love-of-learning, it's a fear of the consequences of being forensically questioned about why not! They know he won't get that at Hills. They're wondering whether they'll have to stump up for the P 6th form to increase the DS's chances of getting into uni, but they fear they're just delaying the point where he has to be an independent learner. Who knows?
But, of course these are just personal opinions, drawn from the one set of parents I know who pay out to send DC there!
Leys is co-ed for sure. Not so selective at entry but I think probably does a better job of getting the best out of everyone; less one size fits all.
The downside is that they are more expensive: too expensive for our income and a larger family.
Is the leys an option or is that boys only?
"An extremely academic/highly gifted child, with robust personality, would thrive even more."
Disagree. Of course the Head tells open day prospective parents they are a haven for confident academic children but the reality is way off. They are a sausage factory for one or two sigma children and don't cater or care for three or four sigma ones. Some extremely academic children are constantly frustrated by the large sets and lack of streaming until way too late. We have friends with kids in the state sector and they manage to stream properly for science in year 7. Perse Upper cannot even manage it in year 10. If your kids are extremely academic they would be better off in a good Village College who are more geared up to dealing with diversity.
Have namechanged to give my feedback. We have DCs at the Perse. Like every school, there are pros and cons and it's all about finding the right school for your particular child. One parent/s /child/s experience will not necessarily be the same as another's.
In our experience, it's rather like a co-ed grammar school and would certainly best suit bright, emotionally robust children. We don't get the impression that it's standards are 'sliding' and this doesn't seem to be the case, given the very good academic results that are still coming out.
There are loads, absolutely, loads of extracurricular clubs, especially music and sports but lots and lots of variety to cater for all different kinds of interest. Suggestions for clubs from children are often taken up by the school and accommodated.
The only children we know of who do individual music outside, rather than inside school, are largely those who also do it within the school but are now at such a high standard that they need even greater expert tuition outside as well (think diploma level at age 10/11 already). We know a few children who don't do individual music lessons at school because they prefer not to miss a lesson during the school day or they're doing music without wanting to take exams in their instrument.
Our DCs do so many extracurricular activities that they've started to cut down on them now, because of increasing homework demands but you could easily fill every single lunchtime and after school period with a club, plus some early mornings, before school starts.
There seems to be a range of ability from very bright to genius/child prodigy level and those who thrive most, appear to be children with a leaning towards Maths and Science (and music) rather than the Arts/Literature etc. I would say that the 'stereotypical' student is a whizz kid mathematician, a bit geeky, possibly also very musical, maybe talented also at a sport (or not at all sporty). Still in transition from single sex to co-ed., I think the school is OK for girls who can hold their own in a largely male dominated environment and love the science/maths part of the curriculum.
I agree that you need to be the sort of child who can be independent, self-organised and fairly robust, to thrive at the school but I also know of several children not like this that have been supported by the school and are progressing towards these helpful life skills.
I think the school is expanding too much, too quickly and the numbers of pupils per year group and per class (about 26 per class and 5 to 7 classes per year group, depending on what part of the school you're in), means that it's much harder for individual children to be helped, if in need. However, the school tries to overcome this by having a tutor system of 12 children to one tutor, who know them well, although the tutor changes every 2 to 3 yrs.
Our DCs are about average/lower average for their cohorts - so not at all the genius/brightest level - just basically competent/bright enough. This means that for them, some things are harder than if they could cruise along, naturally brilliant at everything and outstanding also, in a particular area.
We think our DCs unlikely to get 13 A*s at iGCSE level, as many of their peers will - some do the exams a year or two early as well - but we'd hope our DCs would get around 9 or 10 A grades at iGCSE, with the odd B or A* amongst those. They're not yet at that stage so we won't know the outcome for a while and can only guess/predict. But this would mean our DCs were neither the elite achievers nor those who are struggling hugely.
Important to us is that our DCs are happy there and whenever we've discussed the possibility of leaving, mainly because of the expanding size of the school (and the school fees), they protest, as they largely enjoy everything and whilst they don't achieve with ease, they can 'hold their own'.
So a bright enough, fairly robust child can thrive there. An extremely academic/highly gifted child, with robust personality, would thrive even more. However, the school also seems to cater for children with specific issues, if this goes alongside intellectual ability - and to a degree, can cope with the milder end of 'emotional/behavioural problems'. So you'll always have the occasional child with certain problems - but this would happen in any school.
Overall, we would be happier if the school were half the size it is and with a better balance of female/male or instead, go back to all male. We've mostly had good experiences with staff, with the occasional issue with one - but again, any school will have some less than satisfactory teachers. We feel that the push for independence for the students is - most of the time - a positive thing and a good life skill.
We like the mix of families there - so that it's not it's definitely not 'posh/monied/snobby' dominated but has lots of ordinary hard-working families from a wider variety of backgrounds/cultures.
We have no direct experience of the Stephen Perse but have heard that it entirely depends on your child and the 'fit' with the school. I think that this school is also planning to go completely co-ed shortly. the smaller class sizes is appealing to many but this may change when the school expands.
OP, if I were you, I'd visit both these schools - and others, more than once on non-Open Days and also hang around in the car parks and get chatting to current parents but don't be swayed by the opinion of one or two. Also, remember that all schools are always in transition, as are these two and that your child's experience might be different from that of a child a few years ahead or behind.
Lots of music? Really? A serious question as my mates who have 2 DCs there have had to pay for outside music tuition (ie unrelated to the school at all) since they were 8 years old (many a moon...- the Prep insisted they do this) so the school can parade the DSs on the stage at Summer Music Evenings or whatever, and take the credit! They also bemoan the fact their DSs take part in no extra curricular whatsoever!
But I can't offer anything else constructive about it, though I nodded at some of draylen's post, following on from what my mates have told me!
My child thinks it's a bit like the army - very brisk - no time for reflection. Not many do art A level although those who do seem to get very good results. Quite science biased.
I have a child a the Perse Upper. In year 7 there are about 80 boys and 40 girls. Also, a large proportion of the girls came from the Prep school. It aims very high and has some amazing successes (just look at the website news section). It is not a nurturing school, it claims it has great pastoral care but although they talk to the child nothing seems to change if there is a problem. There is also a child in the school with quite serious anger management problems. Lots of sport and if you don't live locally beware of matches all over the place and getting back late on dark evenings - also lots of Saturday matches. Lots of music. Lots of clubs but no particular encouragement - you really have to be a self starter. Fees about 15,000 now.
I know a bit about the Perse ('Purse' as we call it!) Upper. I shan't reveal why!
It's still a good school but it maybe needs to change its sales pitch a bit. It still trades on the Name it used to have, ie it used to be considered very academic and hard to get into, with loads of DSs from Cambs academics' families and a stiff entrance exam but the fees have actually priced quite a few out.
The decision to admit girls was an exercise in grade improvement and 'numbers' maintenance, and certainly they kept the girls and boys separate to a large extent, initially, somewhat diluting the 'co-ed' effect (and the girls only went into some classes, leaving others 'boys only'...). I know some parents were actually quite cross that they admitted the girls in the first place as they'd selected a single sex environment for their sons. This is less of a problem now as the girls are more integrated. Though I'd advise you carefully check the actual gender mix of a class, esp if your DD is a bit immature- I recall the horror that was St Paul's when they first admitted girls into the 6th form- they ran the gauntlet of having a score out of 10 shouted at them from windows as they walked across the quads, initially! NOT suggesting the Perse boys would do that but for a shy, geeky, self-conscious teenage girl, that would have been hell.
Abolishing the need to sit the entry exam for boys/DC from the Prep has definitely had some effect on the academic results- it was bound to, really! Though I know that even when they took it, their pass rate was very high as they'd suggest to parents before the exam that maybe their son wasn't Upper material which you'd find in any feeder Prep, I suppose (ie a mistake was made at 7) so they'd move him. I know of one dad who was told repeatedly at parents eve that his son would probably not do very well in either his science or maths GCSEs/IGCSEs (?) thus was advised to get him privately tutored, on top of the £13,000 pa he was paying. The dad said the subtext was obviously 'Don't blame us when he fails to get A's', which is fair enough, I suppose! Another parent was told his DS might well fail at the local 6th form college as opposed to their own 6th form as 'the boys are very used to being closely guided here'- but of course, that could well have been nothing but a sales pitch for the Upper's 6th form- but not a great advert for teaching self-guided learning, is it!
I still think it would be well worth looking around- and seeing as the school does appear to be in a bit of a state of flux, stuff people will tell you about 5 years ago maybe isn't relevant now! And have you considered The Leys?
It is easy to say "75% A*/A in A level is fine" but you are thinking of the A levels you sat 25 years ago.
A* in A levels may be worth an old A/B but a straight A grade today is an old grade C/D and really nothing to be proud of. Or at least no more to be proud of than a C grade in our day which people did work hard for.
Sure, lots of state schools without selective entry do worse but too many parents get false reassurance from the national grade inflation. Bear that in mind when you compare Perse Upper with where you went.
There is also the problem at the Perse Upper that those from the Prep school don't have to take the exam, which may be bringing the grades down a bit. Not sure about the girls' school. I have different experience from Silas Greenback - no handholding eg one child got a demerit for being late for class because there was no time to change at the end of PE, on a school geography trip the teacher told the class she would be angry if any of them were sick on the coach etc - not very helpful! But a great selection of languages, very up to the minute IT class etc etc
I have children at Perse Upper - can't comment on Stephen Perse - but I would just say I don't find it pushy and do think there is quite a bit of hand holding in the lower school. Certainly mine settled more easily than some of their peers from primary going to state secondaries.
I think the support has been great and feel tutors have really made an effort to get to know my dc. I have been called by school nurse if there have been worries about them too.
I think it probably suits a certain type of girl - it is definitely still a boys school that has taken girls, without many changes. I would have loved it. The girls my ds seem to know do not seem very old for their years either - the girl peer pressure might be less than an all girls school.
Think there was a slight drop in A level grades this year - only 75% A*/A so not exactly crashing down!
Stephen Perse has gone a bit bonkers I think in trying to be wacky eg writing songs about cells for Biology homework. Also trying to everything pretty much on computers/ipads and hardly using books. Intense at top end. No outside space. But very good academic results and you don't have to be very bright to get in. Perse Upper much harder to get in as both boys and girls and as far as I can see (child in yr 7) very academic and pushy. Very little handholding. Challenging in a good way if you have an academic child.
Have posted in local chat but very little traffic so trying here as well- I know this has been covered over the years, but am looking for opinions/views from any recent/current parents. Is Perse Girls as intense as is sometimes portrayed? My DD is bright, but young for her age and think a smaller school might benefit her. Is Perse Upper 'sliding'? Again- am talking about the upper- not prep. Many thanks
Join the discussion
Please login first.