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Claires Court or Pipers Corner over GS??

(60 Posts)
Mumto2two Wed 27-Mar-19 10:37:23

We are currently looking at potential secondary schools for our year 5 daughter. She is very able and have been told is highly suitable for GS, assuming she passes the test of course! The school have also suggested she should try out for scholarship to some of the independent schools, of which St. Helen's school has been recommended. However, our daughter has a long term health condition, and we feel aside from the journey being that bit too far, feel that maybe the pressure of an ultra pushy academic environment might be a little too much for her, so are questioning whether somewhere like Claires Court or Pipers corner might be a better fit. Does anyone have any experience of these schools? I hear good things in terms of the schools being nurturing and supportive, but are they likely to stretch the academically able, to the same extent as schools such as St. Helen's or Grammar? Would appreciate any feedback on either of these schools. Thank you.

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AliceLutherNeeMorgan Wed 27-Mar-19 11:34:27

Whereabouts are you based? Neither CC nor Piper’s are renowned for being particularly stretching, although Piper’s reputation seems to be going up. It was always the option for those who didn’t make it through the Bucks 11+

AliceLutherNeeMorgan Wed 27-Mar-19 11:38:18

Sorry - I posted a bit too soon. Piper’s is a lovely environment though and the pastoral is supposed to be good.

jonesmachine Wed 27-Mar-19 12:38:23

It was always the option for those who didn’t make it through the Bucks 11+

I thought that was Hatters lane ! Sorry the 'High Crest Academy...

Mumto2two Wed 27-Mar-19 12:46:24

We are based in South Bucks, currently within easy reach of St. Helens, but are due to move further north, so will be closer to Maidenhead & Pipers, which is why they were on my radar. I know that Pipers has become quite popular recently, and know of a couple of girls who didn't get a year 7 place. However, they were both lower/middle sets, so not sure if that's reflective of overall standards. It would be interesting to understand how effective a broad ability school like Claire's Court is, at stretching their most able. Having looked at their scholarship criteria, it is indicated that an ability profile based on scores such as CATs or similar will be obtained from the current school, and should be an minimum average of 120+, which is similar to GS suitability indicators, and our daughter has consistently measured 139-141, so it would be interesting to know how scholarship children fare at the school. Thank you smile

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Hersetta427 Wed 27-Mar-19 13:48:37

Most scholarships are honorary only and don't lead to a huge reduction in fees (maybe 10 or 20%) unless combined with a bursary. Are you able and prepared to pay for the rest of the fees? Sorry if this seems an obvious question however most scholarships aren't worth huge amounts.

Mustbetimeforachange Wed 27-Mar-19 14:13:31

People that I know with children at both schools have been very happy with them However, none of those children were particularly academic (in that they didn't qualify for grammar schools, if that is a valid criterion!), so I don't know about pushing the more able.

anniehm Wed 27-Mar-19 14:20:20

Independent schools vary a lot in their willingness and ability to support those with long term health conditions. They won't say outright that they won't take your dd because that could lead to discrimination cases but I do know our local independent squeezing kids out that missed school due to health reasons and not being willing or able to be flexible (conversely some are brilliant of course). Be aware that not meeting attendance targets can mean a loss of scholarships and bursaries too. As you haven't said what the health condition I have no idea how much it affects attendance but because independents are no reliant on grades to attract new customers they are not as understanding

Mumto2two Wed 27-Mar-19 15:21:18

Thank you for your posts, I know most scholarship values are not substantial, but every little helps!
And thank you anniehm, I had no idea that attendance could be an issue like this. It was certainly an issue at her state school, which was absolutely infuriating, as they did nothing to help us or ensure she was working at an appropriate level, all they cared about was ticking boxes for absence data and ofsted. Which was why we left in the end. Her current prep has no issue with this, and although her absence varies each term depending on her health, she still manages to come top or near top in school exams..of which they have quite a few! This term her attendance will be around 85% as she has been in hospital, but last term it was around 92%. I would have hoped that performance was a better measure than attendance, so that does surprise me. Thank you for pointing it out!

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Zodlebud Wed 27-Mar-19 18:14:12

It always amazes me that people think that because a school is not academic in terms of intake, that it cannot stretch the very able. Very bright girls do go to these schools and Pipers in particular is now, for some, a first choice school over grammars due to the value add.

Pipers always used to have a reputation for being for lovely girls who failed the 11+ but things have changed and it’s very much on the up.

If you haven’t already been then please do go and have a look. The overwhelming feeling there is that the girls are very happy. Happy girls will do well.

underneaththeash Wed 27-Mar-19 20:06:05

I don't know OP - my daughter is at Pipers and they (by their own admission) do not cater for super bright children. Does your daughter have any physical issues? It's also very sporty (inclusively so - which again I love, but the girls are expected to join in).

I love the school, but if my other two children were girls, I wouldn't have considered Pipers for them as they are very academically able.

Zodlebud Wed 27-Mar-19 21:50:00

Underneath - this is rather interesting as it’s a very different message to the one I have been getting from the admissions department.

I acknowledge it’s not like St Paul’s in London, but even if I ignore the sales pitch, I struggle to see how a bright girl would not be catered for there. I don’t expect my children to be taking A-levels at age 14, but through setting and the gifted and talented programme I think my girls would get exactly what they need. I would be interested in hearing why you think otherwise.

I love the fact that sport is inclusive - shouldn’t every teenage girl have a positive experience of fitness? So many girls don’t do any exercise at all these days.

They consistently have girls getting a full set of A* and A at GCSE. I would agree that perhaps the sixth form is weaker for the non-arty subjects but many girls go elsewhere for sixth form.

It’s a refreshing breath of fresh air in a highly competitive grammar area. With possibly the exception of Beaconsfield High I would chose it over any other girls school in the area.

SwanValleyuser77 Wed 27-Mar-19 22:26:47

Zodlebud - I think the problem for very bright girls is that I don't know anyone who would send a very bright girl to Piper's if she could pass the 11 plus, so there is presumably a lack of a peer group of very able girls. I can recall one girl years ago who did go to a private such as Piper''s (it was St Mary's in GX I think) who did go on to read physics at a top uni and I remember being so surprised as she didn't fit the usual girl who went to a school like that, i.e. 11 plus "failures", it's a rotten system. I am sure if the teaching is good they should be able to help all girls reach their potential but please don't kid yourself that may very bright girls would go their over a grammar.

Zodlebud Thu 28-Mar-19 06:40:17

Interesting. I think my GS capable daughter would thrive there. She’s very bright but motivated heavily by sport and the arts. I can’t imagine she would do as well in a grammar to be honest - the focus on academia and results would not be right for her.

I don’t expect her to be surrounded by girls who chat about molecular biology and particle physics for fun there, don’t get me wrong, but I think they can 100% meet her needs.

Mumto2two Thu 28-Mar-19 10:00:42

Thank you all for input, it is interesting that people's perceptions of this, are generally to question whether brighter cohorts of students would thrive, when not surrounded by the equally bright. I honestly don't know if a homogenised approach is better or not. In one sense, I can't see why a bright child would not thrive just as well, in a good broad ability setting, where the teaching is good and the pastoral support is such that children are happy and emotionally well adjusted. My elder child attended a broader ability independent school, and although her ability profile was low to mid 120s, so borderline GS, she thrived at the school and was extremely happy. All As at A level and the course she wanted at a good RG. Hard to see why we should want more than this..yet everyone tells us that our youngest needs to be in an 'academic school', surrounded by children who are academically ambitious beyond the confines of a decent set of grades. I can see where it 'might' be a problem; in my eldest child's previous school, maths & science at A level, had very little uptake, and this might deter some children along the way, especially if they were the only one interested in doing a subject, as was the case with one of my daughter's friends, so it is things like this that concern me. On the other hand however, emotional well being and encouragement without undue amounts of pressure, are equally important.
In terms of the positive comments about Beaconsfield High, I am really intrigued as to why this school has such a great reputation? I've visited the school, seemed chaotic and a bit run down, and I know lots of people who have had children there, not always entirely well adjusted and happy I have to add. The ones that fared better, were quite the precocious, cliquey type, so it had somewhat put me off! Would be great to hear why this would be a superior option to a good independent school, apart from the fees of course! Thank you smile

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jonesmachine Thu 28-Mar-19 10:52:13

In terms of the positive comments about Beaconsfield High, I am really intrigued as to why this school has such a great reputation?

Probably because Beaconsfield High has a FSM of 0.7% and no major social problems to deal with that evolve due to social exclusion or poverty.

I have two DDs there in year 10 and year 8 and it is a great school but the reality is when the cohort is respectively so middle class what do
you expect.

A borderline grammar school girl needs can easily be met by either the Beaconsfield School or The Highcrest Academy . The OP obviously views either of those schools as desperate .

Zodlebud Thu 28-Mar-19 11:00:09

My personal opinion of Beaconsfield High is that it is a state school that offers a really decent and well supported programme of extra-curricular activities. I don’t agree with it, but with parental contributions to the school being, on average, £1,000 per year, the school is much better funded than most others. They continue to offer GCSEs in dance where other schools are cutting it (like Challoners), and they seem to not just concentrate entirely on the EBAC. I am only looking at girls schools though so not sure how co-Eds in the area compare.

It is still a state school though. Buildings are shabby and class sizes are large. It suffers from funding issues like all schools. It’s just when you compare everything it offers versus other schools, is a private school offering £20k a year of extra stuff above and beyond it? If money is tight then the honest answer is no. If money isn’t a problem then of course having small class sizes, nice buildings, a pool and endless extracurricular activities is probably where you’ll end up.

Ultimately though, only you and your daughter can work out where she will be most happy. It’s easy to get caught up in league tables, results, local reputation. We chose a local prep for our daughters which is non- selective and raised a few eyebrows amongst my friends as to why on earth we would choose it over the top rated prep on our doorstep. We made 100% the right choice. Our eldest is on track for GS and scholarships at independent schools but she is also deliriously happy and usually covered from head to toe in mud. I know what makes her tick and sending her somewhere like Habs Girls, Challoners or St Albans would really crush her confidence.

Pipers is actually our second choice school as we live more east than you, but don’t be put off by the “not academic” thing. 55% A*/A and 99% A*-C at a school which is only supposed to take girls who fail the 11+? Girls are certainly doing exceptionally well there.

jonesmachine Thu 28-Mar-19 11:01:40

Yes a cut price private school ....

Mumto2two Thu 28-Mar-19 11:30:30

'A borderline grammar school girl needs can easily be met by either the Beaconsfield School or The Highcrest Academy . The OP obviously views either of those schools as desperate'

I honestly don't know anything about these schools, other than querying the virtues of independent over GS, it certainly doesn't convey any other opinion of mine in that regards. I am sure there are many children who do well in these schools. The large comp not too far from us, was never a choice for our eldest, not because the school didn't have perfectly decent facilities or dedicated teaching staff that strived hard for their pupils, but because we knew it wasn't right for her at that time. Like any choice we make I'm sure. I had a friend who chose to send her bright child there, narrowly missed the 11plus, and was sure that she had the sensible determination to succeed regardless of where she went. Which all went well until she got in with the wrong crowd, and things went quickly downhill from there. Grades slipped, a lot of the class were disruptive, and in the end she took her out. All we can hope is that whatever choices we make, turn out to be for the better of our children.

Thank you for the feedback on Beaconsfield High, I think I will have to pay the school another visit. Pipers open day also in the diary, looking forward to seeing it. Thank you all smile

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BubblesBuddy Thu 28-Mar-19 13:38:14

Quite a few Grammars are a bit shabby round the edges in Bucks! However they are all extremely popular due to results and excellent teaching and the fact they are free!
Beac High fits this pattern and is certainly well supported by parents who definitely could pay but prefer not to.

As for Pipers, it has changed. I have lived in the area for 45 years and I do know it quite well and I know quite a few girls who have been there. It definitely was exclusively populated by the non grammar girls but a few people now actively choose it for their grammar girls. They see Wycombe High as too ethnically mixed (I completely dislike this attitude but it’s true) and Aylesbury High as too big. Some parents don’t want boarding so a decent girls’ day school fits the bill. My neighbour’s DDs went there and one went to Oxford to do Medicine and the other to UCL to do Medicine. Father is a Professor and is a Geriatric Specialist. You get the picture. These girls wouldn’t have coped in a Grammar apparently. Therefore they do have bright children but not in large numbers. Personally I do not think that matters but I would also suggest strong parental nurturing and opportunities which others don’t get can play a big part in success. I would also look at extra curricular and where DD would fit in.

I would not choose Pipers over a grammar but I did choose another independent boarding school over a grammar. They also now have their own prep which means they can be a lot more choosy over intake at 11 than they used to be. They screen out SEN and can ask prep girls to leave if they are not up to standard for the senior school. I think their destinations list gives you the best indication of ambition and achievement but you cannot assume all their girls did not get 121. Some certainly will have done. Also Bucks Grammars do have some excellent value added scores considering the intake. They are certainly not full of the brightest!

KittyMcKitty Thu 28-Mar-19 20:34:32

If I was choosing between Pipers and Claire’s Court Pipers would win hands down - tge enrichment / is extra curricular stuff is far superior (as are the academics from what I know). Claire’s Court is building the brand new sparkly school though so will be interesting to see how that changes things.

As others have said Pipers is the back up school for those who don’t qualify- it was / is for all the girls who go there. That said the 11+ is flawed in many ways and the girls I know there are bright and capable and those that have left have excellent results. It is, however viewed as considerably less academic then The Abbey or Queen Anne’s. That said we did consider it as a back up if dd hadn’t qualified but decided on balance that we would have chosen GMS. My children are at Borlase and they get a number of Pipers Girls who join for 6th form.

I know nothing about Becky High other then dance is strong as is their netball team. Do DCHS not offer GCSE / A level dance anymore? Does that only leave BHS and SWBGS that do?

Re earlier comment about The Beaconsfield School- it’s had a chequered past (as has Highcrest) and is only just out of Requires Improvement after some time.

KittyMcKitty Thu 28-Mar-19 20:37:43

As others have said Pipers is the back up school for those who don’t qualify- it was / is for all the girls who go there

Typing and cooking don’t mix - should read it was / is the back up school for all the girls I know who go there.

ittakes2 Fri 29-Mar-19 16:44:32

My daughter is now in year 7 and was offered a place a Pipers but we turned it down when she passed her grammar school exam. We sit in the middle of Borlase, Beaconsfield High and Wycombe High and she would have gotten into any of those but we choose Wycombe High due to transport options and she wanted to go to an all girls school. There are times I wished she had failed the 11 plus and she had gone to Pipers. There is much more pressure at Wycombe High - my son goes to Borlase and I think that's a fantastic school but in maidenhead you daughter would not get in.
I have heard mixed reports about Claire's court in terms of its academics but yet I am still thinking of moving my daughter there for year 9. To me a child's mental health is the most important part of their education.

ittakes2 Fri 29-Mar-19 16:46:21

sorry can I just add - if your daughter has a long term health condition - Claire's Court would be much closer to you plus they are known for being fantastic with children with issues.

Mumto2two Fri 29-Mar-19 20:08:25

Some very interesting feedback, thank you all. It's such a tricky decision to make. Part of me also felt relieved that our eldest narrowly missed out years ago, and she went on to do very well, free from the pressure of a grade factory, and free to explore her interests in a way I'm sure would have been more difficult elsewhere.
Why is WHS so pressured compared with Borlase? I guess all the grammars are keen to keep their foot on the gas, but without the pastoral input, things can very easily go wrong.
If our youngest daughter had a profile like her sister, I don't think we would be giving it this much thought, as the independent we chose, was brilliant for her. It's this seemingly popular assumption, that very bright children need to be with other bright children, that is prompting all this thought! There seems to be a lot of great feedback on Pipers, but also Claire's Court sounds great in terms of catering for different needs, so that definitely appeals too. There are times when she is not on par health-wise, hence the worry about a pressured environment.
Thanks so much for all this feedback, it is all so helpful.

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