Piper's Corner School, High Wycombe(32 Posts)
We visited Piper's Corner recently and loved it. It had so much to offer, particularly in terms of enrichment, and we could really see our girls there. My only slight niggle is that it didn't seem as academic as others we have seen and was wondering if anyone could reassure me. The school is within two miles of a grammar school and Wycombe Abbey so acknowledge many of the cleverest girls from the area may be going to these other schools. I just want to make sure my girls achieve their potential, be that a million A-levels at Grade A* and on to Oxbridge or a solid set of GCSEs before starting an apprenticeship. I got the impressed that the pastoral side is superb and they would really work with the girls. Their list of leavers though veers towards the more arty subjects with few Russell Group universities. I know a significant proportion of girls leave to go to co-ed schools for sixth form (which is fine by me and something we would consider), but I was just wondering if the school cuts the mustard for the high fliers?
I know someone who left to go to the nearby grammar for sixth form because it was more likely to help them achieve good A level grades.
My neighbours children went there and one went to Oxford and one went to UCL both to do medicine. They would be highly unusual though and they came from a medically connected family where first class work experience was on offer. I do think bright girls will be fine but there will not be many of them and therefore completely different to Wycombe Abbey or the local grammar schools. This was always the school of choice for the girls that failed to get into the grammar schools and did attract arty and theatre types. Very few go there from Godstowe Prep in High Wycombe for example but it has worked hard to up its educational profile which at one time was similar to a good Bucks Secondary modern. Pipers now has its own prep school and it is more difficult to get in at 11 plus than it used to be and plenty do not get in. I know of parents of mildly SEN girls being disappointed.
What age are your girls? It also caused a big stir when they did not automatically take all their own prep school children into the senior school so you may want to know what the current position is. It is a very popular school but obviously not stellar educationally.
My eldest is in Year 3 but we are currently considering a house move, hence why we are looking at secondary schools right now. We want single sex for at least 11 to 16 but live in a bit of a funny area for schools. We are just outside the catchment areas for two of the Bucks girls grammar schools, and have no state girls school nearby. Independent options are Berkhamsted, Pipers Corner, Abbots Hill, Royal Masonic, St Albans Girls and (at a push) Habs Girls, but all but one of those are at least half an hour away. We haven't seen all of these yet so don't know if they offer the same sort of vibe.
Pipers is sounding like what we were feeling - there is no reason why a clever child shouldn't do very well there, but it's perhaps not the first choice for the higher achievers. I think we are veering away from the academic "power houses", having already discounted Wycombe Abbey as it just didn't feel like "us". They are at a prep school that we love and we chose it on the basis of gut reaction. I'm hoping we'll have the same enlightenment next time around!
Pipers did say that places are offered in priority of date registered and the entrance test requirement was to ensure all girls are meeting an average level of achievement. Like I said, it was all the enrichment stuff that really appealed - the girls giving the tours just buzzed about it and we got a really good vibe.
A lot can change in the next few years but if we move even a few miles from our current location then our list of potential schools is reduced due to the commute. We just want to make sure that if we decide to move that we are happy with the options in that area.
Some girls go to Pipers because they haven't got a place in a Grammar school, following the 11+ exam or because their parents don't think they will get the place.
However, many others go because the Grammar school (and by that, I'm assuming you mean Wycombe High) just isn't the right school for them. There is very little in terms of provision for girls so it's Wycombe High or nothing! A large, girls only grammar isn't right for all children.
Pipers has an excellent reputation and I've seen many, bright girls go here and achieve extremely well. I don't think they would have achieved as well at the High School.
What I'm saying is, it depends on your DDs. Pipers really is a lovely school and if your children are inclined to be academic then I think it would support them well.
(Primary school teacher in the local area).
Thank you LooksLikeImStuckHere
The two grammars we have so close but just out of bounds are Dr Challoners and Aylesbury High.
My DD is at Aylesbury High, and they do take girls from a wide area, as far away as Milton Keynes. I think Challoners don't usually have places for out of catchment. Aylesbury High have more places in sixth form, so you could choose Pipers up to year 11 and then AHS for A levels
I don't know as much about Challoners but Aylesbury High has a good reputation for pastoral care.
Wycombe High you have to be pretty tough.
If money isn't an issue than I would probably opt for Pipers, see how they go and do as GRW suggests, consider Aylesbury for sixth form.
My nieces went there - the youngest is now 21 so this is possibly a little out of date, but they absolutely loved it. My sister chose it for DN1 originally, as she was a reasonably high-achieving girl but very quiet and shy in primary school and my sister was worried she'd be lost in a larger more 'academic' school. All three girls then ended up going there as DN1 was so happy and thriving. My sister felt that her eldest got the opportunities she wouldn't have had in a larger school - she got to be in the shows and sports teams, whereas she may well have been overlooked in another environment. She eventually went to Cambridge, the youngest went to Edinburgh, and the middle one didn't go to university at all but probably wouldn't have no matter which school she'd attended. And they all emerged as delightful, caring young women, quietly confident in their own ways. I went to a couple of school open days with them, and recognise the vibe as you've described it. It felt like a lovely place to be (and I speak as someone with reservations about the independent sector).
I think it might depend a bit on your daughter's disposition. If she's very extravert and confident then one of the larger schools might be more exciting for her, with more competition if that's what she likes. But my sister and all my nieces were more than happy with Pipers and the girls speak of their school experiences with real affection.
Would you travel to Queenswood at Potters Bar? This is better than Pipers in my view. The Pipers Head is ex Queenswood. Lots and lots going on and generally more academic because there are not grammar schools in the area. I tend to agree that smaller schools can give opportunities to a lot more girls; sport, drama, dance, music etc but they can be very competitive, especially the sports teams.
Aylesbury High is very different to Wycombe High. I dont think you have to be tough at Wycombe High - no more so than any other grammar school. Aylesbury High takes from a wide area and catchment area largely means you get in before anyone else. I think fewer come from outside catchment at Dr Challoners High because more in that area "pass" the 11 plus. Aylesbury children do less well so the grammar schools in Aylesbury Vale fill up with out of catchment chlidren. I would, in general, choose Aylesury High over Pipers, but it would depend on the child. Most girls are very happy at Aylesbury High even though it is a large school. It is consistently outstanding.
Luckily, I don't think the OP has to choose between Wycombe or Aylesbury High.
I worked in a school where we had a mix of girls going to both. Those who went to Aylesbury were different to those who went to Wycombe. I think you do have to be tough to go to Wycombe. It's just not a nurturing kind of school, which the OP wanted.
Either way, I agree with you. Aylesbury is a fantastic school.
There are a few girls from my town who go to Aylesbury High and are very happy (I only know through friends of friends though). If we move further north then we would be in the catchment area, or at least closer to the boundary, but we would not have Habs or Royal Masonic as possibilities as the commute would be too much. We have discounted Queenswood as it really is too far away and not in the direction we were thinking of moving. We are not considering moving FOR a school, just want to make sure we don't cut ourselves off from a school we love in doing so. I think it's definitely worth going to have a look at Aylesbury in the next round of open days.
We did very much love Pipers Corner in that it seemed such a happy school and the girls genuinely loved being there. I am a great believer that happiness leads to confidence and in turn, success. Your comments have all backed up what we are feeling and it's a definite contender. I am happy with moving for sixth form if we feel it appropriate, maybe move to co-ed and / or boarding (we can't afford boarding for all seven years). I feel like we have some great options available to us. Just a shame we are complicating things by thinking about getting a bigger house......
OP DCHS is adding an extra class this year so went out of catchment for September's intake by over 5 miles, first time for a few years so don't completely discount it!
Equally, remember that an extra class this year means extra sibling places in future years.
I'm watching this thread with interest. I went to Wycombe High in the late 90s-early 00s. Pipers Corner very much had a reputation then as a destination for wealthy girls who were too dim to get into a grammar and too delicate for the secondary moderns. I'm pleased to hear that it has clearly moved on since then.
Some go to Pipers because they are too delicate for the grammar schools!
That is very exciting news about DCHS as we would be "in" if the same happened in a few years time (subject to her passing the 11+ of course). Looks like we would also have a good chance at Aylesbury High even if we don't move.
I think there are always people who send their children to private school because they are too "delicate" for state schools (I.e. they do better in the smaller class sizes). There are some at my daughter's prep school and they are turning into happy, confident little people because they are given that little bit extra attention and nurturing. Pipers most definitely did not come across as full of wallflowers though, there's a lovely mix of personalities and abilities. My eldest is very competitive and extremely confident, but hates coming second and loses the plot a but if she's not queen bee. I think she puts too much pressure on herself though and whilst there's a few years to go before she moves, and I hope she'll grow out of it, a hot house type environment might not be the best for her.
We still have St Albans and both grammar schools to see so who knows? Having Pipers as an option though is making me feel quite relieved about the whole thing.
I have personal experience of the prep dept at Pipers. It has really suited our daughter who has blossomed since being there. They have given her extra maths lessons to get her up to speed as she was a bit behind when she joined and they aim on really making all the girls enjoy and thrive in core subjects like maths. The smaller classes do allow quieter girls to shine, and the new head of prep who joins in January comes from Chesham Prep and is expected to raise not only the academic profile but also the sports to another level. Our daughter will stay for senior school as long as she continues to grow (but possible head off somewhere else for 6th form to spread her wings pre-university). Lots of investment, a new theatre being built and additional astro pitches, mean that the facilities really cannot be rivalled. Exciting times ahead at Pipers.
P.S I have also heard that they are being more selective and we know from friends that the days of girls drifting into the senior school from the prep dept are long gone. They are looking to up their grades and rightly or wrongly will make no exceptions.
Thanks Toofewshoes. The investment was extremely evident as we walked around and you can see the Girls are rightly very proud of their school. I think perhaps the school suffers a bit from past reputation as opposed to what is actually going on here and now. The more we think about it, the more we love the school and I do get a very strong sense that each girl is pushed to achieve the best grades for their ability. To me that's far more important than everybody in the class getting an A. I think as places at Berkhamsted at 11+ are getting to be few and far between, that Pipers may well become a true player in the independent sector in that area. Needless to say the Girls have been registered at Pipers - couldn't't help ourselves!!!!!
Pipers is a truly amazing place! I went there, your girls will love it!
Well this is extremely reassuring. Rather brilliant considering the selection process does not skim off the top academic girls only.
Pipers Corner is now number one choice for us. Feeling radical and shunning the "go to" academic schools in our area and following our gut reaction.
Both DH & I wanted our DD to go to an academically enriched school (me = Ex-teacher & DH = mathematician)
After absorbing the information on the Piper's website, we had several visits with and without DD. Spoke with Mrs Ness-Gifford and students from year 4 & year 6. Attended their open days & Christmas fair. Immersed ourselves as much as we could prior to making the decision to move our DD.
We took DD out of Godstowe and moved her to Pipers (I must say that we were not the only family to do so..)
DD started at Pipers on Tuesday & absolutely loves it!
Pipers is about a 30 - 45 min drive compared to the 15 min drive to Godstowe but to see my daughter extremely happy to wake up early (6:30am) with a spring because as she puts it "I'm a Pipers Girl" fills me with joy!
Our daughter was at Godstowe for 3+ years and did well academically, was very popular but over the years we felt that Godstowe had lacked:
- in overall academia
- class sizes (extremely large)
- in communication between students, teachers & parents
We asked the Head at Godstowe if he could provide us with a general over view of their girls academic grades / achievements only to be told
"We are not at liberty to disclose this information."
Now, I wasn't asking for info on a specific child, simply an approximate figure for all their students. Well, that was the tipping point for us!
The mere fact that Pipers disclose the academic achievements of their girls on their website - year on year - was so very refreshing & impressive!
Piper's girls are happy & proud to be there, contribute & learn. It is a great choice for our DD and I'm sure it will be for yours too @Zodlebud
I am so excited to hear such positive things about the school. I have come across some negativity amongst peer groups as to why we would consider it when Habs Girls and St Albans are viable options. It's simple, the girls at Pipers were happy and motivated, which is invariably leading to some great results. I'd rather my child was happy and got an A* than miserable and get an A* (all highly presumptive but you know what I mean!!)
We've just received a letter from Pipers today regarding the Independent Schools Inspectorate - Inspection Report.
The inspection took place in Oct 2015.
Pipers were graded an "Excellent" in all areas.
You can read the full report from the ISI site here
Most importantly, DD continues to thrive at Pipers and is learning at a phenomenal rate.
Yup - all ISI reports are excellent! They are NOT Ofsted but cheerleaders for Independent schools! Don't believe all you read in it. At our school, large chunks of the report appeared to be written by the Head and bore no relation to reality!
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