Stephen Perse Foundation pre-prep/ Dame Bradbury's(5 Posts)
We're considering the Stephen Perse Foundation for our daughter who's 4. We haven't looked round yet but have heard good things from friends. We're looking for somewhere innovative and not too formal or religious, and where art/ music/ languages are given a lot of emphasis.
It would be great to find out what current parents think of the pre-prep. I'd also be interested to know how the Madingley and city centre schools compare, and how things are going at Dame Bradbury's in Saffron Walden since it was taken over by the SP Foundation. Any thoughts gratefully received!
You'll get a mixed bag of views on Dame B's I suspect - those who have been through the more 'painful' aspects of the 'merger' as it was officially called (your reference to a takeover is far more accurate) and won't be around for the longer term gains are probably going to be less positive than those who will still be around to reap the longer term benefits.
The final year where boys couldn't transfer to SPF leaves this term - the subsequent years will have had less Dame B's and more of the SPF style of school. It has undoubtedly been a period of huge change for the school - many of the old Dame B's teachers have left and the new head (SPF appointed) has been in place for over a year and it's all much more stable. Parents who have older kids have probably found the changes more trying than those at the more junior end of the school - partly human nature to dislike change, but also because SPF handled the first year or so extremely badly in many ways.
There has been investment in the school by the Foundation - new art facilities, dining room, library etc which is good. It still has the feel of a relatively small non-selective school about it even though it's now clearly part of SPF. The head has now found the balance between keeping that aspect and it feeling just like a 'feeder school' for SP Seniors now. There is also a clearly defined transition process to the Senior school (you can be done and dusted with admission and have an offer of a place by the time you finish Yr 5) which is a huge positive for some parents. If you're not 100% sold on SPF right the way through though you may want to ask about how they are going to support entrance exams for other schools going forward (up to now they have always done prep in Yr6 as the kids were going to a wide range of secondary schools).
One thing to think about is where you live in relation to the schools. Saffron Walden is fairly 'self-contained' so although there are more kids coming into the school from Cambridge (SPF run a bus between the schools) the bulk of the kids are still 'local'. Although local means a wide area of surrounding villages if you're living in the North bit of Cambridge it will be a long journey to school (traffic in SW is no better than in Cambridge at rush hour to be honest) and you'll find parties, play dates etc could be 20 plus miles away if your kid pals up with someone living South of Dame B's.
I agree with Perilla on much of their assessment although I would be more positive. I have children in the older end of dame bradburys and have found the changes really positive. They've upped their game academically but also brought a lot of excitement and new ideas into all areas of teaching. On the question of how well they are doing as a prep for other senior schools than SPF - have a look at the results they've got for their current year six, it must be amongst the best years ever.
The other thing I'd say is to go and have a look, that's the best way to find out if you think it's a good fit.
Thank you, Perilla and Gardner30. Really helpful comments. We have now looked around Dame B's and we liked it a lot. I think as parents coming into the school afresh, it seems to have a nice balance of warm/ nurturing and being quite progressive. The Head's knowledge of their maths and literacy schemes, amongst other things, was impressive compared with other places we've looked at! We liked her a lot - she came across as being pragmatic and energetic but kind. We're considering our options now. Thanks again!
Glad you liked it, I think your impression probably does sum it up, especially to parents coming in with fresh eyes. The Head has worked hard to get it back on track after the upheavals of the merger period. I should add as well that whatever my view as a parent has been since SPF took over, DC has loved it pretty consistently.
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