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Pembridge Hall School

(55 Posts)
Aichko2018 Mon 14-Jan-19 18:06:41

Hello Everyone,
If your daughter is going to Pembridge Hall, please share her experience as a pupil and your experience as a parent.
Many thanks!

ZebraZigZag Sat 19-Jan-19 19:30:00

We looked at it and I spoke extensively to friends with DC there. There has been waves of problems in the school recently. Last summer a huge number of teachers left the school and around 20 of the year 2 girls left for Bute House. It used to be known as 'the' girls school, on par with Wetherby's reputation but the latest head (a few years in post) is not approachable and it is all very competitive, constant worry about which set you are in etc (Bute contrary to opinion is not like this hence the big movement there, once you are in it is all mixed ability, no setting or ranking and fairly relaxed until 11+).
I would look around. It may have sorted lots of its problems and it always had a great reputation so hopefully the issues were just a blip.

Aichko2018 Sat 19-Jan-19 19:57:56

ZebraZigZag thank you for your input. Very interesting to know that Pembridge girls leave for Bute. We're considering it vs LEH. Bute was on the list but missed. Bute chose you and not the contrary.

ZebraZigZag Sat 19-Jan-19 20:06:07

Yes absolutely on Bute - really is a golden ticket!

I would pick LEH over Pembridge. Cutting out 11+ is a huge bonus. We looked at LEH too (currently going through 7+ as DD is at a pre-prep so has to move) and love it. We would struggle to pick between it and Bute if DD gets both (probably being v optimistic and she'll be at our third choice but fingers crossed). LEH seemed sparky, fun, relaxed as there isn't the push for 11+, facilities all on site and amazing. If you live that way, it is also nice to not have to go right into W London.
LEH and Pembridge parents will be quite different vibe too. Pembridge is very moneyed due to location (not always a bad thing, just can be) and so there can be pressure to tutor and certain type of girls there, huge presents to teachers at Christmas etc. LEH is a little more down to earth.

Aichko2018 Sat 19-Jan-19 20:36:33

I see what you mean, Bute was our first choice. Keep your optimist!!!! We're in Hampstead area and thinking of moving as my eldest school is in barnes. I like LEH but my husband think is too far and the idea was to reduce my son commute to school (40-50mn today). Putney high could also be an option but was 3rd on the list. As not from the area I really relay on the info found on the net and feeling when visiting the school. I don't want to move my daughter and create another issue.

Aichko2018 Sat 19-Jan-19 20:37:54


Mewslife Sat 19-Jan-19 20:49:28

Pembridge has rapidly become the school NOT to go to. As a pp said they have left in droves. Those that didn’t leave in the first wave are now waiting for places to come up at Bute (and really should be looking elsewhere because the queue to move far exceeds the number of places that may become available).

The clever ones jumped early.

ZebraZigZag Sat 19-Jan-19 20:55:38

If you give more detail on your DDs age OP and whether this is a move from another prep school or 4+, I may be able to give you some ideas. I have looked intensely and myself am a prep school teacher (not working FT currently but have worked in a few of the London preps so know them well).

Aichko2018 Sat 19-Jan-19 21:14:31

My DD is in year 2 now and had done 3 7+ if i knew the competition was so high would have done more and prepared her differently.

Aichko2018 Sat 19-Jan-19 21:17:24

Thank you Mewslife, oh my gosh we paid the registration fee already !!!!

ZebraZigZag Sun 20-Jan-19 11:55:20

Aichko this is very true. 7+ is tough. Bute had about 4-5 girls for every place at their exam. I don't know about LEH. People think less are sitting 7+ but I think there is still huge competition. The 7+ schools tend to offer something else or a bit more of an academic ethos, or the option to skip 11+, so parents are attracted and do prep heavily. There is a huge difference between how much different schools push in Year 2 so you have to be very careful to help your DD cover all the topics. And at the end of the day there are only 6 so need to be prepped so gently and carefully not to damage confidence or over-pressurise.

Zoida Tue 22-Jan-19 17:06:11

Very interesting, thanks. I had just opened a post regarding Pembridge as a friend had warned me against taking the place that had been offered to my DD. Apparently the owner (Alpha Plus Group) has had huge financial losses (£12m) last year and they will have to cut costs in all the schools incl. Pembridge. Not surprised that parents are running away whilst they still can. Were you aware of these financial difficulties?

Mominatrix Tue 22-Jan-19 18:32:35

Zoida - Alpha Plus publishes its' reports and this is it's most recent annual report. Gross revenues are up, but it does report operating losses due to expansions and a change in accounting rules.

It does not appear that Alpha Plus is hemorrhaging out money in the way you are reporting.

Zoida Tue 22-Jan-19 21:21:40

Monimatrix- Double-checked with my friend, the accounts confirm the huge £12.6m (!) losses and there were just £5m "expansion" costs. Are you seriously telling us that this is normal?

Revenue increased as you mentioned by 9% but costs increased even more by a whopping 12% (!), cost cutting measures are therefore inevitable. Probably that's why many teachers left as reported by Zebrazigzag and things are getting worse. Apparently the NY school is empty.

Private equity companies are really brutal when there are losses. Why should we send our DD to a school run by a loss making private equity company that will be cutting every corner?

Mominatrix Wed 23-Jan-19 05:52:53

Zoida - I have no fish to fry in this debate as I don't have a child in any of their schools and I am fundamentally against for-profit schools. I just am sceptical of someone coming anonymously on an internet forum and spreading gossip without the institution having a right of rebuttal.

Zoida Wed 23-Jan-19 09:04:22

Spreading gossip without a right of rebuttal? If you are referring to my comments, the losses are in the accounts that have been prepared and published by the company. You even provided us with the link! We have every right to talk about that information. Are you denying that they lost £12.6m or the out of control costs?

If it is about Zebrazigzag's comment, I heard that same information about teachers leaving Pembridge from another source. If you believe that it is inaccurate please do let us know. The information provided by other parents in this webpage including yourself is very useful and it is then up to us to decide where to send our kids.

Mominatrix Wed 23-Jan-19 09:37:33

As I said, I could not care less about Alpha Plus or its schools. I personally am very against companies being set up with the mission of making a profit from educating children. However, terms like “out of control costs” are emotionally charged accusations made to stoke unease in current and potential customers. It is add that you who claim to not have a child in the schools, find it necessary to post on 2 different threads on this same matter.

Zoida Wed 23-Jan-19 11:26:50

Please read my posts. As I mentioned in my message, my DD has been offered a place at Pembridge Hall and I will post in as many threads as I believe necessary. This is the right time for me to gather information about the school before it is too late and I do certainly care about the school losing £12.6m, costs going up 12% or a lot teachers are leaving the school.

Regarding the costs, you mentioned first the revenue increase and provided us a link to the accounts. If you do not believe that a 12% cost increase is "out of control" choose an adjective yourself but the figure will not change.

Please understand that this is a very important decision concerning my DD and that I am understandably worried and trying to gather as much information as I can.

Cheermumintherain Wed 23-Jan-19 12:04:47

Zoida just saw your post and thought I should caveat a few of your comments. That a company is loss making at P/L level does not mean much, especially if it is owned by PE as they generally carry debt and they are very good at optimising the tax size of things. Cost going up 12%, well yes, they are expanding and costs will go up initially. You should look at the cashflows though, and whether they can fund their strategy and having had a very quick look it seems fine. You were concerned that the NY is empty. I understand they opened last year or so (I may be wrong)? This is a big school group with a lot of good brands, a lot has to happen before they go down in my opinion. Having said that, your should focus more on the operational side of things as far as your child is concerned - why they lost so many teachers (fair question), why so many girls left for Bute, and last but not least, what do they think the impact will be from Brexit, as they will certainly loose some bankers and other Europeans at some point (impact on fees, I wonder?). Also, they will not know after a couple of years if their expansion strategy is working, but in my view this is more an Alpha Group point and less a school specific point. Have you discussed your concerns with the school?
Just so you are sure, I have not connection with the school, past present or future, I am used to looking at company accounts at work though and thought I should balance some of the points here.

budgetneeded Wed 23-Jan-19 18:33:23

I'd be more concerned by the need for an all day all school head lice check (on the calendar of events for Oct 2018) first thing i noticed on the school web site....
If you can afford the fees surely you are educated enough to check and afford treatment.

Zoida Wed 23-Jan-19 19:21:51

Cheermumintherain, really, no need to justify whether you are related to the school or not. All opinions are welcome and useful even if you were related it would not be a problem. The more the merrier :-) plus I believe that this is an interesting discussion.

I will raise your arguments to my friend to see what he thinks but it would be great if you could help me a little bit with a couple of issues that are unclear to me so that I do not make a fool of myself:

- You say "That a company is loss making at P/L level does not mean much, especially if it is owned by PE as they generally carry debt and they are very good at optimising the tax size of things". Could you please elaborate on why making that level of losses (£12.6m for a company with a revenue of £100m) is not a problem because "they carry debt and are good at maximising taxes"?

- Also my understanding is actually that they made £3.5m of tax losses due to a rule change. If that is being good at taxes, then I am very good too :-) but don't tell my husband. How do you explain that?

- You say that the 12% cost increase is due to the expansion but costs went up 15% even if I deduct the expansion costs that they list. Why shouldn't they look more carefully into costs going forward? That's a big issue for me in terms of choosing the school.

- You also say that one has to look "whether they can fund their strategy and having had a very quick look it seems fine" Could you please elaborate on why this is the case and why their funding seems fine? My friend actually said that funding could be a big problem in the short term.

- You say that "This is a big school group with a lot of good brands, a lot has to happen before they go down in my opinion." Are you arguing that Alpha Plus is too big to fail?

- You also say that "they will not know after a couple of years if their expansion strategy is working, but in my view this is more an Alpha Group point and less a school specific point". If the group is making losses why should it not affect the individual schools? They form part of the same company.

- Also you say that it may take a couple of years but the expansion started in 2014, shouldn't we already be seeing some results? The results are actually deteriorating rather than improving. I would not like my DD to go through a couple of years of austerity as by the time that they know whether the expansion is working my DD will already be in the next school.

Agree on Brexit, very unfortunate timing for the expansion. My friend told me that they had dropped the references to waiting lists and predictability of pupil numbers after the referendum. My personal experience is that the entry process is not very selective (otherwise they would not have offered us a place :-)).

Thank you in advance and sorry for being a pain. Let's see if we can get some clarity into those losses. Xx

Mewslife Wed 23-Jan-19 19:59:23

Are you arguing that Alpha Plus is too big to fail?

I think they would just throw money at the problem and so not fail...

But something is clearly happening or people wouldn’t be leaving.

Zoida Wed 23-Jan-19 21:44:55

Mewslife- I am certainly not arguing that they are too big to fail but that's what cheermumintherain seemed to be suggesting ("This is a big school group with a lot of good brands, a lot has to happen before they go down in my opinion").

Agree that there is something happening... The question is who would be throwing money at the problem and for how long, the parent company is a British Virgin Islands fund...

expat96 Thu 24-Jan-19 14:41:41

Zoida you're not going to find too many people on this board with the time or inclination to teach you how to read financials with an emphasis on the characteristics of an organization in a growth phase and the accounting tricks private equity companies play. Cheermum's already done more than I would have expected and has pointed out that they're doing all right on a cashflow basis.

I'll add, however, that a piece of data, by itself, does not equal information. It takes context to extract meaningful information from data. In this case, relevant context would be Alpha Plus's internal management targets and whether they were being met. Without that context, no one knows whether the accounting loss is a problem.

If your DD really does have an offer at PH, I'll help you out. It's clear you're looking for an excuse to decline the offer. By all means, do so.

Zoida Thu 24-Jan-19 16:37:29

expat96, at least I was lucky enough to find someone with the time to reply to say that someone else will not be replying ;) The reactions to this subject are quite extraordinary!

How do you know whether Cheermumintherain will reply to my questions or not? I am sure that she will as soon as she finds the time, the questions are simple. I am also waiting for my friend to come back to me on the points that she raised. I will also raise your views about the company playing accounting tricks, very interesting. It is a very useful discussion.

Are you related to the school? If that is the case, I can understand why you would rather not have these issues being discussed but please understand that they are relevant to us as parents. Your reaction is actually really worrying.

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